The Society of London Theatre and UK Theatre today announce a new fund established with a £500k donation from Netflix, to provide small grants for theatre practitioners who find themselves with nowhere else to turn. It is designed to specifically support those who have been ineligible for Government aid and have not been able to work since theatres closed on 16th March due to Covid-19.
Spearheaded by director Sam Mendes, the fund will provide short-term relief to hundreds of theatre workers and freelancers across the UK, and particularly those from underrepresented groups disproportionately affected by the crisis.
The grants will be £1000 each, and the full criteria is available to view on the Theatre Artists Fund website. To be eligible for the fund applicants must have worked in theatre between the 31st March 2020 and the beginning of last year. Applicants will need to provide information of recent work and a reference. For this first round of the fund, applications will be open for one week from 12noon on Monday 6 July.
To continue the fund, the ambition is for industry figures, corporations, charitable trusts and individual theatre goers alike to support the fund in its growth, as more help will be desperately needed by those out of work over coming months.
Sam Mendes said: “Thousands of theatre professionals in the UK are struggling. Many of them haven’t been able to get help from the existing Government schemes, and the situation continues to worsen. They need help now.
“We have created a fund to which the most vulnerable freelance theatre practitioners can now apply. It is specifically designed for theatre workers who find themselves at breaking point, for those unable to put food on the table or to pay bills, or for those considering leaving the profession altogether.
“The Theatre Artists Fund is not for buildings, or regular staff, but for freelance artists who actually make the shows that the public pay to see.
“The fund has been initiated by a donation from Netflix and I am extremely grateful for their remarkable generosity and leadership. Although the money is initially limited, I hope that it will encourage other individual donors and charitable organisations. The more money that is donated to the fund, the more grants we will be able to give out. So please do consider a donation. I promise it will make a difference.
“The fund offers quick, efficient and easy access to individual grants of £1000 per applicant. I am well aware that this is a drop in the ocean in terms of what is required for a full recovery, but I hope it might ensure some form of survival until theatres can reopen again. I would encourage all those who need urgent assistance to please apply.”
Julian Bird, CEO, Society of London Theatre and UK Theatre said: “Whilst uncertainty remains around the date for when theatres can fully reopen, over 290,000 workers remain in limbo. We remain gravely concerned for the thousands of artists who have little or no income, especially those who have slipped through the cracks and missed out on the government schemes. Currently these artists are completely in the dark as to when they might be able to earn money again.
“Our industry is an ecosystem and so this scheme has been designed to provide a short-term lifeline to the core workforce of that ecosystem, with an emphasis on supporting those from underrepresented communities. I would like to thank Sam Mendes for his inspiration in the establishment of this fund and thank Netflix for their enabling donation. While we currently don’t have enough funds to help everyone, we call on those companies and individuals who have thrived in the sector and those who can’t imagine a future without theatre, to give generously to help sustain this fund for a generation of workers that are at genuine risk.”
Anne Mensah, Vice President, Original Series at Netflix, said: “British theatre is a vital cultural force, not least because so many emerging talents and original ideas begin life on the stage. Creativity is all about collaboration, and we are deeply concerned by the challenges our friends in the theatre now face, especially in the regions, and the likely consequences for the diverse voices and stories at the heart of our culture.
“Playwrights and directors, theatre artists and performers, composers and comedians, are the lifeblood of our industry too and, while Netflix has been more fortunate than many, in the end we are only as strong as the people we work with. If we continue to nurture the pipeline of emerging creative talent, cultivate diverse projects and provide opportunity for the most exciting new works to be seen, we remain optimistic that the industry can bloom once again and satisfy audiences’ insatiable appetite for culture, creativity and entertainment.”