The crisis facing theatres - and how students are trying to save them


Theatres are in a state of crisis. The Creative Industries Federation estimates that there will be a combined revenue drop of £74 billion in 2020 for creative industries with an estimated 400,000 jobs at risk of redundancy as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. Indeed, as the CIF points out, the country faces a "cultural catastrophe." Yet so far the government has done very little, if anything, to help, with no promise of an emergency bail out fund. Whilst the culture secretary Oliver Dowden has allowed theatres to re-open but without live performances, it rings hollow in an industry built around live performances. This has prompted widespread outcry from leading theatre professionals who put together an open letter demanding governmental support for the arts. Prominent signatories include Phoebe Waller-Bridge, Sharon D Clarke and Toby Jones.

The crisis faced by theatre is unprecedented and is not just limited to London’s West End. Regional theatres across the country have all been seriously affected by the pandemic, losing their major source of income - an audience! The Theatre Royal Plymouth has made its entire artistic team redundant, Manchester's Royal Exchange has said that 65% of their workforce could be redundant and perhaps most strikingly, Nuffield Southampton Theatres are closing their doors for good. Indeed, many more will follow if nothing is done. Support is vital, for theatre contributes so much to this country. Indeed, as of 2014 nearly twice as many people visit the theatre in London alone than attend Premier League football matches. In order to help support theatres affected by this crisis, three students from Warwick University Drama Society (Joshua Baumring-Gledhill, Lucy Chamberlain and Sophie Ling) have organised a national campaign called ‘Students Saving Our Theatres.’ The campaign involves 22 different universities including Oxford, Edinburgh, Leeds and UCL with each university’s drama societies sponsoring a different theatre or theatre charity in their area. The campaign aims to raise £10,000 with the money split equally between all the theatres that are being supported. People can donate to the campaign via this crowdfunder: https://www.crowdfunder.co.uk/students-saving-our-theatres-1/backers#start.

The campaign constitutes five weeks of challenges including making a TikTok go viral, helping local communities and learning a language in a week. On the 19th July, an online scratch night showcasing talent from across the country’s many universities will be premiered on Youtube as the culmination of the campaign. To keep up to date with the challenges check out Facebook, Instagram and Twitter by searching up Students Saving Our Theatres.

Theatre is an integral part of British culture. It is the root of our thriving film and TV industries, providing talented directors, writers, producers, actors and artists. Theatre is also an important part of the British economy, providing a significant amount of revenue for the restaurant and food industries. However, theatre’s most significant strength is its ability to tell incredibly powerful stories that can change the way we see each other and our society. If Britain truly sees itself as a cultural leader in the world of theatre, it must act to save the industry.

Image - Unsplash.

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