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Theatre Artists Fund raises £1.6m to support out of work theatre practitioners

Kitty Underwood

By Kitty Underwood First Published 23 July 2020, Last Updated 24 July 2020

The Theatre Artists Fund has raised an incredible £1.6m to support out of work theatre practitioners around the UK. Since opening applications to theatre professionals struggling as a result of the coronavirus crisis, it has received almost 4,000 applications in just a week.

The new fund, spearheaded by Sam Mendes, started with a £500k donation from streaming giant Netflix and aims to give quick, efficient and easy grants of £1000 per applicant.

The fund has been designed to support some of the most under-represented groups as well as regional performers and craftspeople who have been disproportionately affected by the coronavirus crisis and theatre shutdown. The top three professions asking for help were actor, director and writer and 55% of applicants were from outside of London.

The fund has gown significantly over the last few weeks as The Estate Of Sir Peter and Lady Saunders have joined Netflix as headline supporter. There have also been generous donations from The Mackintosh Foundation, Eileen Davidson Productions, Andrew Lloyd Webber Foundation, Linbury Trust, Benedict Cumberbatch and Sophie Hunter, Imelda Staunton, Eddie Redmayne, Sonia Friedman, Caro Newling, Colin Firth, Hugh Bonneville, Tom Hiddleston.

To date, nearly £85,000 has also come from members of the public and donors across the performing arts industry through online donations, including Michaela Coel, Michael Frayn, David Hare, Nicholas Hytner, Armando Iannucci, Thea Sharrock, Mark Strong, Emma Thompson, Laura Wade, David Walliams and Edgar Wright.

Despite this generous level of support thus far, the fund can still only provide grants to a fraction of those in urgent need of financial support. These professionals have been unable to receive Government support and have little to no idea as to when they will be back at work, despite the news that indoor performances can resume with socially distanced audiences from 1 August.

Until details of how the welcomed £1.57b investment package from the Government will be shared and until the industry has a date that theatres can reopen again without social distancing in place, thousands of talented workers remain with no income stream.

Sam Mendes said:

“The theatre industry is 70% freelance. So we know that literally thousands more actors, writers, directors, stage managers, costume designers and many more urgently need our help. We have raised £1.6 million in this first round of fundraising, so we are able to help 1,600 people. Now we want to help many more.

This fund has enabled us to move fast in response to the urgent need that is out there. We owe huge gratitude to Netflix for kick starting this campaign, along with some fantastically generous high profile donors. However, I urge other studios, streaming platforms, business owners, philanthropists and theatre lovers to come forward and show their support in order to help more of those in need.”

Julian Bird said:

“This fund is an industry initiative designed to provide a short-term lifeline to the core workforce of the theatre sector’s ecosystem. To see so many key industry figures writing cheques to support talent in great need is hugely encouraging. However, in lieu of details on how the welcome £1.57b investment package will be disseminated, we need to raise a lot more money and we need to do it fast, if we are to encourage people to stay in their professions and not abandon this wonderful sector.

We need every one of these workers to be ready and waiting as we work towards firstly, outdoor performances commencing again and secondly, indoor shows resuming on 1st August with socially distanced audiences, subject to pilots. Unfortunately a proposed review in November of social distancing for the whole economy almost certainly means that it will be too late for the major Christmas pantos and shows – we need a “no earlier than” date now to allow theatres and producers to plan properly.”

You can donate to the fund yourself through the link below.

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We are now cancelling all performances up until and including 31 May 2020 to help us process existing bookings whilst we wait for further clarity from the government in terms of when we will be able to reopen.

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