London’s famed West End district, as well as regional theater companies around the country, have been closed since March 16 due to the pandemic.
Netflix has donated $625,000 (£500,000) to a new fund established by Sam Mendes, the Society of London Theatre and U.K. Theatre to help the U.K.’s pandemic-affected theater workers.
London’s famed West End theater district as well as regional companies around the country employ hundreds of thousands of workers who have been hit hard by the COVID-19-related lockdown in the U.K which began on March 16 and is still in place as theaters are considered a higher risk business in the phased reopening of the country.
The new fund will provide small grants of $1,250 (£1,000) to struggling theatre workers who are ineligible for government aid and have been unable to work since the shutdown. The focus of the fund is to immediately provide short-term relief to hundreds of theater workers and freelancers across the U.K., particularly people from underrepresented groups that have been disproportionately affected by the lockdowns.
In a statement, 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.”
He added: “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.”
Anne Mensah, vp of 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.
She added: “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.”
Full details on applications for grants can be found on the Theatre Artists Fund website.