facebook play-alt chevron-thin-right chevron-thin-left cancel location info chevron-thin-down star-full help-with-circle calendar images whatsapp directions_car directions_bike train directions_walk directions_bus close home newspaper-o perm_device_information restaurant school stay_current_landscape ticket train
Our best moments of 2020

Our best moments of 2020

Hira Desai

By Hira Desai First Published 21 December 2020, Last Updated 19 January 2021

2020 has undoubtedly been a challenging year for us all as individuals and as an industry. With theatres closed for the majority of the year, industry professionals have had to work harder than ever to keep theatre fans connected virtually and to keep the spirit of our world-leading industry alive.

As we wrap up on 2020, we at Official London Theatre are taking a moment to look back on the year and to celebrate some of the things that we are most proud of. We’d also like to say a huge thank you to our theatre fans, our sponsors and everyone who has supported us along the way.

Please join us as we take a journey through some of our best moments of 2020.

Olivier Awards 2020 with Mastercard

Jason Manford, Olivier Awards 2020 with Mastercard

The Olivier Awards were established back in 1976 and are the most prestigious stage honours. It’s a celebration of the world-class status of London theatre and is an annual highlight in the industry’s calendar for both professionals and fans alike. 

The 2020 Royal Albert Hall awards ceremony was sadly cancelled due to the pandemic but we didn’t want the date to pass without marking the event so on Sunday 5 April, ITV broadcast a special hour-long Olivier Awards – Greatest Moments programme with Mastercard in place of the ceremony. Hosted by Jason Manford, it looked back at the Olivier Awards ceremonies from the past ten years. The show included everything from archive footage of performances and speeches to a celebration of some of the many Olivier Award-winning productions including Dreamgirls, Hamilton, The Book Of Mormon, Disney’s The Lion King and more!

Official radio partner Magic Radio broadcast a special programme on the same evening, also celebrating the best Olivier Awards moments, alongside a weekend of shows on Magic’s new musical theatre station Magic at the Musicals.


To see this content you’ll need to allow us to set some additional cookies!

With so many restrictions still in place, by Autumn we knew that we’d need to prepare something different to celebrate the 2020 winners and so we planned an innovative programme which broadcast on ITV and Magic Radio on Sunday 25 October. Hosted by Jason Manford and filmed at The London Palladium, the event enabled us to celebrate our globally renowned artists.

Ian McKellen was honoured with his seventh Olivier Award for his 80th Birthday tour, lyricist Don Black received his Special Award from Lord Lloyd Webber and HRH The Duchess of Cornwall gave an impassioned speech about the importance and resilience of theatre.

Following some extremely difficult months, it felt great to take this moment to honour and celebrate the winners. If you missed either of the events or would like to learn more about this year’s winners, click here

Listing and Content Coordinator Kitty shares why this was one of her favourite moments of 2020:

“It was such a blow to theatre fans, the industry and our team to have to cancel the Olivier Awards this year. It would have been my first year at the event, and you wouldn’t believe the amount of work and excitement that goes on behind the scenes to create this celebration of British theatre every year. Thankfully, we managed to turn lemons in to lemonade and while the Olivier Awards – Greatest Moments was running on ITV, the whole team was on a zoom call scrubbed up in their best outfits with a glass of bubbly – reminiscing and celebrating everything Olivier’s. To be able to award the creatives and performers who had worked so hard on their productions and performances this October was also really special. Although it wasn’t the Oliviers we were expecting, I think we championed theatre in style, and reminded ourselves and everyone watching what the magic of live theatre can really do.”


Virtual West End Live 2020

Six The Musical at West End LIVE 2019 (Photo: Pamela Raith)Six The Musical at West End LIVE 2019 (Photo: Pamela Raith)

Theatre fans have been enjoying West End LIVE every summer since 2005. The 2-day event sees the cast of London’s best shows showcasing the finest talent with free performances in Trafalgar Square. From singing along to the West End’s leading musicals to discovering new London shows, the stagey weekend is a highlight of the theatrical year.

Due to the pandemic, we were sadly unable to host our annual event in the same way. However, we realised that our theatre fans needed the magic of theatre now more than ever, so decided to take the much anticipated event online with Virtual West End LIVE 2020. This allowed everyone to enjoy it safely from the comfort of their homes.


To see this content you’ll need to allow us to set some additional cookies!

On the weekend of 20 – 21 June, theatre fans across the world enjoyed two specially commissioned highlights programmes featuring performances from the last 5 years, looking back on some truly fantastic memories. And, the fun didn’t end there! Alongside the highlights shows, there was also a whole host of online activities including a West End LIVE sing-a-long with Ben Stock, West End LIVE quizzes, playlists and even live musical theatre piano requests with the one and only Dominic Ferris.

Looking back on the first-ever Virtual West End LIVE weekend, Listing and Content Coordinator Hira said:

“Over the course of the weekend, we were able to reach thousands of theatre fans from around the globe, with our highlights programme alone reaching over 198,000 views! It was both emotional and heart warming to receive such an outpouring of messages from near and far, especially in what was such a difficult time. The magic of theatre was once again able to create a community and to bring some happiness, cheer and song into many lives, and that was truly special.”


West End Warm Up

Back in April when the pandemic was still very new to us all, we wanted to do something on our channels to bring some theatrical magic to our audiences in the form of exercise and *drum roll* please… the West End Warm Up was born!

Taking part twice a week live on Instagram and YouTube, our social media series encouraged people to get up and get active during lockdown by warming up the West End way.

Hundreds of fans tuned into the live sessions hosted by leading cast and crew members including musical director of Six, Katy Richardson, Steve Moss of Les Misérables, Gregory Haney from Hamilton, Yolanda Burke from The Lion King tour and many, many more!

If you missed out on these special one-off’s, don’t fret! Nuno Silva, Resident Movement Director from Harry Potter and the Cursed Child continues to offer his wizardy themed yoga on his YouTube channel.

Marketing Coordinator Frankie tells us why the West End Warm Up was a 2020 highlight:

“The West End Warm Up was a real highlight of my year – although it’s hardly difficult to make the cut with the year we’ve had!

“During the original lockdown, we asked some wonderful industry professionals to host a live, West End themed warm up on our Instagram and honestly, it really helped me stay motivated and focussed while working from home.

“The Warm Up gave me a reason to get out of bed during that uncertain and let’s face it, pretty miserable time! The choreographers and dance captains we worked with had so much energy, and by the end of the classes I was raring to go. Plus, working out to the Mamma Mia soundtrack makes exercise far more bearable than usual! It was lovely to see how many people tuned in every session, and where abouts in the world they were from. We even had people from the US joining in at 5am!”


Theatre Artists Fund


With theatres across the UK closed for the majority of this year, thousands of theatre workers and freelancers have been unable to work for long periods. Unable to claim through Government support schemes, many are in need of urgent and critical financial support.

In July, Sam Mendes, the Society of London Theatre and UK Theatre joined forces to launch the Theatre Artists Fund to help theatre professionals in need of emergency financial support. The fund was established with a £500k donation from Netflix and has since raised over £4.8 million with both industry professionals and public members donating towards the fund. 

We surveyed some of the people who have already received £1000 grants from the Theatre Artists Fund, and 85% of participants said the grant helped them pay their bills, mortgage or rent, with 62% saying it helped them put food on the table. 

We’d like to take a moment to extend a huge thank you to everyone that has taken the time to donate. We have been able to award 4,631 grants so far and this would not have been possible without your help, so thank you.

Reflecting on the work that’s been done since the launch of the fund, our Commercial Manager Richard said:

“I was part of a team of people who processed the applications for Theatre Artists Fund. It was a real reminder of just how many talented, skilled people are involved in the theatre industry in a huge variety of jobs. It was very humbling to hear from recipients who said how much the fund had helped them during this incredibly difficult time.”

With tier 3 and 4 restrictions placed across England and with Wales, Scotland and Ireland also impacted by restrictions, many theatres are still unable to open. We will continue to work hard so that we can support those in need and kindly ask that if you’re able to, that you please consider making a donation. No matter the size, it is all so appreciated and every penny goes directly to those in need. Click here to donate or to find out more.


West End barriers

With certain restrictions lifted in August, businesses in the West End were able to reopen and people were flocking to enjoy theatreland. We took this opportunity to spread our love of theatre with our fans by working with Heart of London Business Alliance and West End shows to create a number of theatrical themed barrier boards.

Our Commercial Manager Richard looks back at the moment:

“In the summer, I cycled into central London to share these fantastic show barriers with you all on social media. They were a brilliant visual reminder of all the exciting theatre we have to look forward to in 2021. I can’t wait to for us all to be back in theatres and for cast and creatives to be back doing what they love the best!”


To see this content you’ll need to allow us to set some additional cookies!

We were so delighted to see theatre fans popping down to St Martin’s Lane to take a photo with their favourite show-themed barrier and encouraged everyone to support restaurants, cafes, bars or shops while they were there so that the West End could take this moment to thrive after months of closures.

If you didn’t get a chance to visit, click here to check out a selection of snaps we took!


Partnerships with Sky & Mastercard

Stars from The Lion King in our virtual Behind The Scenes with Sky VIP

Sky VIP was due to partner with West End LIVE 2020 and while the event was unable to take place in the way it normally would, we were so pleased to continue working together to create various digital treats for our audiences.

In addition to our partnership with Sky VIP, we’re also delighted to have continued working with Mastercard who have been the official sponsor for the Olivier Awards over the past decade.

Having worked on these partnerships and projects first-hand, our Video and Social Media Coordinator Milly said:

“Throughout the year I’ve had the pleasure of bringing West End Shows right to your homes with our partnerships with Mastercard and Sky VIP. Since June we teamed up with  Sky VIP to bring you exclusive performances and Q&As in our Behind The Curtain with.. series. Most of the West End’s biggest shows took part and saw  the cast of Six, The Prince Of Egypt and even Harry Potter & The Cursed Child performing just for you. You can see these all on our YouTube channel. Most recently we’ve been working with Mastercard UK to bring you closer to West End stars themselves with live virtual Q&As. Hosted by our team audiences have been able to ask their own questions via Zoom!”

We’d like to extend a heartfelt thanks to both partners. Thanks to them, we were able to offer some amazing content to our audiences and in turn, support shows and theatre workers in a time when it’s almost impossible for them to work.


Dominic Ferris’ live piano requests

Back in June, Dominic Ferris did a live musical piano request to close out the Virtual West End weekend and the response was incredible. People from all over the world tuned in to request their favourite musical songs and sang-along to Dominic’s tunes. We realised we needed more of this – more singing, more happiness and 100% more music in our lives!

Social Media Coordinator Jess tells us why this is her favourite memory of 2020:

“Throughout the year Dominic Ferris has been injecting some musical theatre medicine into our lockdowns with his live Musical Theatre Request Show. His insane musical talent has been watched by thousands of you, but the most memorable moment for me was his most recent live request show in aid of the Theatre Artists Fund. An hour of festive and musical tunes resulted in £814 (and counting) being raised for the charity which offers emergency funds to those in the industry who have fallen through the gaps. You are still able to donate to the fund via the video, so if you need a theatre fix you can watch it by clicking here!”


See It Safely campaign

See It Safely mark

Over the past few months, the Society of London Theatre and UK Theatre have been working tirelessly with industry professionals to ensure that theatres could reopen safely, offering training advice and practical support.

We launched our See It Safely mark in collaboration with the sector and it was welcomed by The Department of Culture, Media and Sport in order to reassure theatregoers that venues are following the latest government and performing arts guidelines. A number of strict safety measures have been implemented in venues including social distancing, temperature checks and one-way systems as well as an in-built Track And Trace system so we know exactly who is in the theatres and where they are seated.


To see this content you’ll need to allow us to set some additional cookies!

Events and Partnerships Coordinator Kayley shared what it was like to work on the campaign:

Reopening a theatre in 2020 is a tough job to say the least, so in September we launched the See it Safely campaign to help venues navigate these challenges. I’ve been managing the applications for the scheme – so far, over 300 venues across the country have signed up – and I’ve been providing them with access to our See it Safely toolkit. From my experience, theatres have been going above and beyond to make everyone’s visit as safe as possible, and we hope that the See it Safely mark provides you with confidence to visit the theatre too. When you see the mark, you’ll know that the venue will be following the latest Government guidelines and you can expect a consistent and high standard of safety.”


The #BackOnStage campaign


To see this content you’ll need to allow us to set some additional cookies!

To celebrate the shows that were able to reopen, we introduced the #BackOnStage campaign. We encouraged our audiences, venues and theatre professionals to share their experiences by using the hashtag and will continue to do so as soon as theatres are able to reopen.

Senior Media and Marketing Manager Megan was able to see a show earlier this month and shares her experience:

“It may have been short lived for London and other areas who moved into Tier 3 and 4, but for a brief moment we celebrated theatre being #BackOnStage and it was wonderful. I had the joyous job of helping to collate what was on across the country to share with you all and, before it had to turn it’s lights off, I even managed to see Death Drop at the Garrick. I was delighted to be back in the red velvet seat, sharing the experience (very safely) with other fans! We’ll continue to keep you up-to-date with what you can see in-person, so look out for the hashtag #BackOnStage. I hope to see you back in the theatre in 2021 and if you happen to see me or any of the team, give us a socially distanced wave!”


This year, more than ever, has proved that theatre brings people together and because theatre really is nothing without its audiences, we want to say a big THANK YOU to every single one of you for supporting us and cheering along the industry during one of its most challenging times.

We can’t wait to welcome you back into theatres as soon as we are able to. Until then we are wishing you and your loved ones a happy and safe New Year!

Official London Theatre



Sign up

Related articles