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Sam Mendes and Netflix team up to help London’s struggling theatre workers

You can donate to the Theatre Artists Fund to keep Theatreland’s finest afloat

By Phil de Semlyen

The plight of London’s – and the UK’s – theatre scene is precarious at best, dire at worst, but there are two bits of good news to encourage the thousands of people employed in the sector and the many, many more passionate theatregoers praying for it to ride out its current woes. 

Alongside today’s commitment from the chancellor, Rishi Sunak, of a £1.57 billion emergency funding package to support the arts, comes a new fund specifically targeting the theatre scene’s struggling workers. It’s the brainchild of West End maven and ex-Donmar Warehouse artistic director Sam Mendes and Netflix, with the involvement of the Society of London Theatre (SOLT) and UK Theatre.

The Theatre Artists Fund has been launched with the help of a £500k donation from Netflix. It will allow freelance theatre workers to apply for a grant of up to £1,000 from 12pm today (Monday July 6). To apply, you need to be ineligible for government financial aid and have worked in theatre between January 2019 and March 31 2020.

SOLT & UK Theatre today announces a Theatre Artists Fund to assist individuals in need of emergency financial support. The fund has been established with a £500k donation from Netflix and is spearheaded by director Sam Mendes. Click here to find out more.

‘Thousands of theatre professionals in the UK are struggling,’ says Mendes. ‘We have created a fund to which the most vulnerable freelance theatre practitioners can now apply. 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.’

Mendes is encouraging public donations too: ‘Although the money is initially limited, I hope that it will encourage other individual donors and charitable organisations. Please do consider a donation. I promise it will make a difference.’

‘Playwrights and directors, theatre artists and performers, composers and comedians, are the lifeblood of our industry,’ adds Anne Mensah, vice president, original series at Netflix. ‘In the end we are only as strong as the people we work with.’

London’s theatres have been shut since mid-March. With some productions already being pushed back until 2021, the landscape remains parlous. Mega-producer Cameron Mackintosh has pointed out that even once those measures are eased, it will take months for productions to get up and running again. Theatreland will be examining the government’s rescue measures with a keen eye.

Head to the Theatre Artists Fund website for more info and to apply for a grant. And if you’re a theatre lover and are keen to contribute, you can make a donation to the fund here.

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