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One year on: How the theatre industry has shown solidarity to support those in need

Hira Desai

By Hira Desai Published 16 March 2021

During the past year, the theatre industry has rallied together to support one another, its community and those who have been most impacted by the pandemic.

On the one year anniversary of theatre closures across the UK, we are highlighting a few of the ways in which our industry has shown solidarity for those in need.

Theatre Support Fund+  –  The Show Must Go On! campaign

Volunteer team

Theatre Support Fund+ was set up by theatre industry workers Chris Marcus and Damien Stanton to help theatre workers across the UK who have been affected by the pandemic by providing financial support.

On the one-year anniversary of theatre closures, renowned theatre, film, and TV actress Dame Judi Dench has praised their ‘The Show Must Go On!’ merchandise, the Theatre Support Fund+ for raising £800,000 for charities Acting For Others, The Fleabag Support Fund and NHS COVID-19 Urgent Appeal.

If you’ve not already had a peek at their incredibly stagey website (we’re loving it!), run, don’t walk! The online shop is packed with an array of limited editions items that any theatre fan would the proud owner of AND they’re all bedazzled with the iconic Show Must Go On! design.

Bringing together the world-famous artwork of 16 of the West End’s biggest musicals, the shop offers everything from t-shirts and tote bags to face masks and mugs.

Treat yourself or a loved one to a stagey gift, all while supporting the industry. It’s a win, win!


Make A Difference (MAD) Trust’s charity single – I Dare You

To mark the one-year anniversary of the day UK theatres went dark, The Make A Difference Trust today have today released the charity single I Dare You featuring a host of West End stars.

Singing together for the first time is: Aimie Atkinson Samantha Barks Sharon D Clarke Kerry Ellis, Shaun Escoffery, Shanay Holmes, Francesca Jackson Cassidy Janson, Aisha Jawando, Tosh Wanogho-Maud, Jamie Muscato, Eva Noblezada, Natalie Paris, Jay Perry, Louise Redknapp, Oliver Tompsett, Faye Tozer, Sally Ann Triplett, Rachel Tucker, Marisha Wallace, Layton Williams.

Every musical that was open in the West End when the theatres closed, together with some that should have premiered in 2020, is represented on the track with artists from: 9 to 5, &Juliet, Back To The Future The Musical, The Book of Mormon, Come From Away, Dear Evan Hanson, Disney’s The Lion King, Everybody’s Talking About Jamie, Frozen, Hairspray, Hamilton, Hello Dolly, Mamma Mia, Mary Poppins, Matilda The Musical, Les Misérables, Only Fools and Horses the Musical, The Phantom of the Opera, The Prince of Egypt, Pretty Woman, Six, Thriller Live, Tina – The Tina Turner Musical, Waitress and Wicked.

Bringing the indomitable spirit of the West End together in one glorious celebration, the cover of the hit Kelly Clarkson track is the perfect anthem for a community who may not have the stage, but still have a voice.

Over 200 members of the theatre community have come together from their own homes to be a part of this very unique single. Produced by Steve Anderson, best known for his work with Kylie Minogue, Westlife, Steps and Leona Lewis, the track is paired with a stunning music video, available to view on the MAD Trust’s YouTube channel.

The track is available on all streaming platforms, and is available to view at: www.youtube.com/user/MADTrustTV

To mark the one year anniversary of the day the West End Theatres went dark, you can purchase a limited edition CD of I Dare You along with a poster and I Dare You T-shirt at just £15. This stunning CD and poster package is limited to 200 copies. Each poster is numbered, and the CD features the incredible new arrangement of I Dare You. Bringing the indomitable spirit of the West End together in one glorious celebration, it includes every musical that was open in the West End when the theatres went dark. The song was first played on Radio 2 on the Zoe Ball breakfast show on Tuesday 16th March.

    Click the button below to support our theatre community and to enjoy some beautiful stagey gifts.


    English National Opera – Breathe Programme


    When the pandemic struck, the English National Opera company decided to use their creativity to support those in the NHS frontline.

    Several members of the English National Opera’s costume department, who would normally spend their time creating costumes and stage props, put their incredible skills towards crafting face masks, medical scrubs and hats to support thousands of key workers caring for Covid-19 patients.

    Now, the English National Opera are continuing to show solidarity for those affected by the pandemic by offering a free breathing and wellbeing programme. ENO Breathe Programme has been developed specifically for people recovering from COVID-19, who are still suffering from breathlessness and associated anxiety.

    The programme, delivered by ENO in collaboration with the Imperial College Healthcare team, will be hosted entirely online with resources and a weekly one-hour session focusing on breathing re-training through singing. The aim of the programme is to empower patients in the management of breathlessness by equipping them with the tools they need for self-management and is completely free of charge!

    In October and November 2020, they ran their first pilot sessions of ENO Breathe with a small cohort of participants. Participants ranged from those in their 30s to their 70s, and were 41% ethnically diverse. For 25% of the group, English was not their first language and 20% expressed concern at the start of the programme that singing was ‘not for them’.

    The outcome of the pilot was overwhelmingly positive, with 90% of participants stating that they perceive ENO Breathe to have had either ‘positive’ or ‘strong positive’ impact on their breathlessness, and 91% stating that the programme had ‘positive’ or ‘strong positive’ impact on their anxiety levels.

    ‘I never before had an experience like this. I didn’t think things like singing could help me with my breathing and improve my recovery from Covid and it has really helped me emotionally and physically.’ – Ludmila

    ‘I’m neither a singer and I’m not a native English speaker. I feel that the content of the programme has been so well thought about for something that appeals to everyone. It’s all inclusive and I think that in itself is amazing and shows that a lot of thought has gone into the content.’ – Sheeba

    If you’d like to find out more about the free programme, or know someone that would benefit from it, please click the button below.


    #WeShallNotBeRemoved campaign

    Disabled artists in the UK will be using #WeShallNotBeRemoved today on social media channels to share their love for the arts and to showcase their wonderful work to ensure that it remains visible and prominent and so that the UK's recovery from the crisis is inclusive.

    In early June 2020, the UK Disability Arts Alliance #WeShallNotBeRemoved was organised. The alliance is a grassroots emergency response led by disabled people for disabled people working across the UK’s creative industries in every capacity and across artforms.

    The campaign is designed to raise awareness of the magnified inequalities for disabled people working in the creative industries caused by the pandemic, as many disabled artists face long term shielding, loss of income and invisibility in wider society. Within a month of forming the alliance had attracted over 400 members and today they have over 700.

    The alliance began its first campaign by sending an open letter to The Secretary of State for Culture Oliver Dowden and devolved UK culture ministers, from 150 disabled artists and cultural leaders, calling on the government to safeguard and protect the future of disability arts in the UK as a consequence of Covid19 and to ensure the renewal and recovery of the cultural sector offers greater access and representation.

    The second campaign was a social media action day on Wednesday 17 June when disabled artists from across the UK celebrated the depth and diversity of inclusive & disability art on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook, using the hashtags #WeShallNotBeRemoved and #EndAbleism

    It was led by artists sharing their artwork online (across all art forms), focussed on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook, using the hashtags #WeShallNotBeRemoved and #EndAbleism and has been supported by theatres and industry professionals far and wide.

    Musician and campaigner John Kelly said: “We want to demonstrate solidarity and support for disabled people who are facing a very challenging future because of the pandemic by sharing the rich tapestry of our artworks to raise our voice, of our talent and our resilience”.

    In September, We Shall Not Be Removed joined forces with Ramps on the Moon, Attitude is Everything, Paraorchestra and What Next? to create a new guide for the arts and entertainment sectors to support disability inclusion.

    They launched Seven Inclusive Principles for Arts & Cultural Organisations working safely through COVID-19 to complement the suite of guidance documents already issued by UK Governments and sector support organisations.

    The focus of this unique initiative, which has been broadly welcomed by the sector, is to ensure deaf, neurodiverse and disabled people are not discriminated against as creative work begins again and as venues re-open. The Seven Principles offer practical guidance to arts and cultural organisations to support disabled artists, audiences, visitors, participants and employees.

    The Principles highlight the importance of: legal obligations, combating ableism in the sector, consulting directly with disabled people, comprehensive public information on Covid measures, remapping the customer journey, engagement of disabled artists and celebrating disability in the workforce.

    The Seven Principles are applicable across all art forms and across all 4 UK nations and come with endorsement from a wide range of leading sector bodies including: British Council, British Film Institute, Arts Council England, Arts Council of Wales, Creative Scotland, Arts Council of Northern Ireland, Museums Association, Royal Philharmonic Society, Equity and UK Theatre.

    Andrew Miller, UK Government Disability Champion for Arts & Culture and co-founder of #WeShallNotBeRemoved said, “Disabled people’s continued participation in culture at all levels has been severely threatened by this pandemic. The Seven Principles offer an essential new resource to promote an inclusive cultural recovery and to ensure the UK remains a global leader in disability and inclusive arts through and after Covid-19”.

    Michèle Taylor, Director for Change at Ramps on the Moon said, “Disabled and deaf people play a vital role in a flourishing theatre industry, both front and back of house, and this has become increasingly evident in the last five years. The Seven Principles will support organisations to ensure that this trajectory continues and that theatre re-emerges even richer and more diverse than before.”

    Membership of #WeShallNotBeRemoved is free, open to all individual D/deaf, neurodivergent and disabled creative practitioners and disability/inclusive focused organisations operating in the UK’s creative industries with over 700 members. If you’d like to join this incredibly worthy cause or to get involved in any of the working groups, click the button below.


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