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How the Theatre Artists Fund has helped: Tess Letham

Published 26 August 2020

In today’s Theatre Artists Fund interview, we’re talking to Tess Letham, a contemporary dance artist based in Edinburgh. Check out our interview below to find out how the pandemic has affected her and what receiving the Theatre Artists Fund grant means to her.

What is your role within the theatre industry?

I am a contemporary dance artist based in Edinburgh. I work mainly as a performer for choreographers and other independent artists on a freelance basis. I am also just emerging into the choreographic world myself. I’ve had one piece shown a couple of years ago and I’m about the embark on the second piece of work.

How has the pandemic affected you?

Personally, I lost a whole bunch of work, some of those contracts were honoured and some weren’t. I lost about five months of work within a space of a week. It was pretty saddening. Financially, it was really difficult because I didn’t get any government support at all. Luckily, I was able to sign onto Universal Credit but that’s not very much. It was hard. No one knew what was going to happen and even though there were ideas of projects in the future, rescheduling wasn’t able to take place, so it was sitting, waiting, everything up in the air and the unknown.

It was very strange for the first few months then when things started to come back with guidelines and possibilities that they may have to be rescheduled again, it all feels tense and unknown.

Why did you apply for the Theatre Artists Fund grant? 

I was in a really difficult financial situation. I wasn’t eligible for any government help at all. Luckily, I got a little fund from Creative Scotland at the beginning and then with not knowing when I was going to work, I saw that the Theatre Artists Fund came up and decided I should apply as I was one of the people who had been left off the schemes. I know a lot of other people in the same position, especially independent artists who have been struggling, trying to understand what to do and how to survive.

What does getting this grant mean to you?

I actually got the email on the day of my birthday – what an amazing birthday present, I was so pleased. It means I am able to relax a little while things start to pick up again. A lot of money, just for living, has gone out in the past five months so being able to have some money in my account to stay safe during this time in case something else happens has been so helpful.

What will theatres re-opening mean to you?

When they do reopen it’s going to be amazing. Theatre is the light at the end of the creative tunnel. I also miss the social aspect of going to theatre so much; meeting people at the theatre, seeing a really good show and being able to talk about that. I think live performances are so necessary. There are many new opportunities to perform online but it’s never going to reach people in the same way, so it’ll mean a lot to all of us working in the arts.

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