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Julian Bird, Sam Mendes, Amanda Parker & Kenny Wax among those recognised in The Stage 100 list

Kitty Underwood

By Kitty Underwood Published 7 January 2021

The Stage have deviated from their usual annual list ranking theatre’s most influential people this year for the first time since its inception in 1997. The 2021 edition of The Stage 100 instead recognises those who have gone above and beyond during the Covid-19 pandemic. We are delighted that our CEO Julian Bird has been recognised, alongside Amanda Parker and Sam Mendes, who we have worked closely with to support the theatre industry.

The list has recognised individuals and groups from all around the UK for continuing to create theatre and supporting their communities throughout the pandemic, despite widespread closures and financial hardships.

Instead of being ranked by influence, this year’s list is divided into five categories; Putting on Shows, Lobbying and Campaigning, Fundraising, Serving the Community and Support and Development.

We are delighted that SOLT and UK Theatre’s CEO Julian Bird has been recognised as one of the entries this year, as well as Sam Mendes for his work on the Theatre Artists Fund; Amanda Parker for founding Inc Arts, who teamed up with us on some vital diversity and inclusion work last year; and outgoing SOLT President Kenny Wax for his tireless work in bringing live theatre to the West End.

Julian Bird enjoying #InspiringFutureTheatre Day (Photo: Ewa Ferdynus)Julian Bird enjoying #InspiringFutureTheatre Day in 2019. Photo by Ewa Ferdynus

Julian Bird was recognised for his leadership of SOLT and UK Theatre and our central role in theatre’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic. Especially noted were our advocacy of our sector to the government and our work in keeping the sector informed and working together to champion the importance of UK Theatre.

Julian said:

“I am honoured to be included in TheStage100 list alongside so many other brilliant people – my thanks as ever to the brilliant team at UK Theatre and SOLT.

“This year, I hope to see our industry being able to open in full with our theatres packed with audiences across the country – and for us to come together to look at ways to ensure everyone working in our industry (whether employed or freelancers) feel supported and financially secure.”

Sam Mendes backstage at the 2018 Olivier Awards

Director Sam Mendes has also been recognised by The Stage for his spearheading of the Theatre Artists Fund to provide much-needed financial support to freelancers who are going through financial hardship as a result of Covid-19. Set up in July with a £500,000 donation from Netflix, we have raised upwards of £4.8 million and been able to send out over 4,600 grants.

Sam has said of the Theatre Artists Fund:

“Hearing the individual stories of those for whom we have managed to provide short-term financial relief is a stark and moving reminder about why we created this fund in the first place.

“Their passion and refusal to give up have made us want to continue to push for more support from the public and the industry alike. So for all those out there, who are on the verge of giving up, we have one message: Don’t.”

You can donate to the Theatre Artists Fund here.

Amanda Parker

Amanda Parker appeared in the ‘support and development’ section of this year’s list, recognised for her big impact in 2020 for her charity Inc Arts, which campaigns for greater inclusion in the arts. We teamed up with Amanda and Inc Arts to carry out some vital research and to set up the Speak – Listen – Reset – Heal anti-racism conference we hosted last year.

Amanda Parker thanked The Stage for thinking of her and said:

“In 2021 I’d like to see the theatre industry get the public recognition and practical support from government that is desperately needed – not just through words but with continued and augmented funding support.

“Theatre’s positive impact on lives has been so clearly demonstrated online and in physical spaces: the response to theatre’s brief return made clear just how much theatre means to all of us – and that’s before any consideration of its contribution to the wider tourism and hospitality sector.

“I want to see a sector treat everyone with it with kindness, care and confidence to take radical change to make our sector inclusive and allow us all to do our best and thrive irrespective of who we are, where we come from or who we love.”

Kenny Wax and Bendy Ashfield at the Olivier Awards 2019 with Mastercard nominees celebration (Photo: Pamela Raith)Kenny Wax and Bendy Ashfield at the Olivier Awards 2019 with Mastercard nominees celebration. Photo by Pamela Raith.

Outgoing Society Of London Theatre President, Kenny Wax, was praised for his role as a voice for the sector over the past year, and for his enormous efforts in restarting performances of Six, which he produces.

Despite many hurdles and setbacks, with restrictions and changing rules scuppering both West End openings and plans for a drive-in tour, Six made an incredible return on stage this autumn – a testament to the hard work and resilience of the West End and all who work in it.


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