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The Young Vic. Photo by Helen Murray.

The Young Vic. Photo by Helen Murray.

Helen Murray explores Britain’s empty theatres

By Hira Desai First Published 11 August 2020, Last Updated 12 August 2020

Theatre photographer Helen Murray has released a powerful new digital photo exhibition capturing the images of 22 empty theatres.

Helen’s Our Empty Theatres photography series was taken during the lockdown while adhering to the Government’s guidelines. She travelled to theatres across the UK from Leeds and Liverpool to London and Manchester and along the way collected quotes from over 100 members of the theatre community which have also been included in the photo story.

Commenting on the series, Helen Murray said: “Over the course of lockdown I set myself a challenge, to create a photo series that captured this moment in history but that also told a story of its own. I kept coming back to our empty theatres – these spaces that were now without life, without people and without stories.

“I visited and captured a total of 22 theatre spaces in London, Leeds, Manchester and Liverpool. Shooting this series has been sobering. Going back to into these spaces that I know so well and being met with total silence. No background noise, no chitter chatter, no infectious laughs bellowing out of a rehearsal room, just complete silence. The stark opposite of what they should be. In the forefront of my mind throughout shooting was what are these buildings are without all the glorious, wonderful, different kinds of people that inhabit them, from the army of freelancers to the permanent staff, to the ushers, box office, bookshop, stage door, café & bar staff, volunteers, community & audience members? I wanted to contact these people to ask them what do our empty theatres mean to you?

“As the theatre sector continues to face uncertainty I hope the series serves as a reminder of why we must fight to fill these buildings with the people that make them thrive and not forget those who have been underrepresented in the past.

“My photos are a love letter to not just the theatres themselves but to the people, artists and communities who give these buildings life. I invite you to share what #OurEmptyTheatres means to you.”

From undressed mannequins at The Young Vic and empty costume racks at the Battersea Arts Centre to a copy of The Evening Standard “London at centre of UK virus outbreak” flopped over a seat at the Hampstead Theatre, this collection is a striking, powerful tribute to theatre and captures stories untold during these unprecedented times. It is truly a piece of art that will be treasured for years to come.

To see the series in full, please visit Helen Murray’s official photography website here.


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