With the enforced closures brought about by last March’s Covid-19 pandemic, theatres across the UK found themselves out on a limb. Unable to welcome the public to present shows, theatres (and those working in, around and with them) found that they had to think creatively to support their local communities, work to produce online alternatives and generally completely reinvent the way they operated. For some it was easier than others. But for smaller theatres particularly, the box office income was their lifeblood. Their already delicately-balanced finances and small, often underpaid, often volunteer teams were decimated by a lack of Arts Council funding support. Over six months later, the majority of the UK’s large and mid-sized venues and organisation finally received some cash. But hundreds of theatre and organisations were left out in the cold.
Ignored by government, they did the only thing they could – they turned to their audiences. Supported by organisations like The Theatres Trust and Crowdfunder, they set up funding appeals to their audiences and the general UK public. In essence they asked all of us to support them – or lose them.
The Theatres Trust set up their own #SaveOurTheatres campaign, where donors can give to a central pot distributed to theatres most in need.
But they also brought together 60 individual fundraising campaigns from theatres and arts venues to make it easy for donors could look for the venue nearest to them and help to keep them going.
And the great British public certainly came through! At the close of the year many fundraisers had smashed their targets and reached even more ambitious stretch targets.
To date, almost 23,000 supporters have contributed over £1.6 million (including Gift Aid’s tax scheme).
Here’s just one example – my oft-mentioned favourite the tiny Finborough Theatre in West London. This tiny, 50-seat room above a pub runs on a shoestring and still produces work which is world-class. Their fundraiser campaign’s initial target was £25,000 but thanks to a very generous matching funds pledge, as of today they have smashed that target and raised over £35,000 (when Gift Aid is factored in).
These individual and collective appeals, originally due to close at the end of December, are carrying on so that all of us still have a chance to support your local theatres as they – like us, face an uncertain immediate future.
It’s incredible to witness the love and support the public are showing – but we cannot afford to let up in our support for them- we can’t have come all this way to stop the support too early and revive the risk of loss yet again.
So if you haven’t yet supported, or even if you have, please see if you can spare a few quid to help keep our small, local theatres going. Because when this is over we will need them even more!
You can find the details of the Theatres Trust campaign featuring all 60 local campaigns, here