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Time to Act photographer Simon Annand: “This country’s main strength is culture.”

The cast of Hairspray, Shaftesbury Theatre, 2009

Theatre photographer Simon Annand has been capturing actors backstage for almost forty years. His latest book, Time to Act, is a collection of 234 portrait photographs, taken over the last 10 years, of some of the world’s greatest performers.

All the emotions from the theatre are captured within these pages and remind us what we have all been missing.

Annand’s point of view remains constant, his camera capturing the slightest shifts in mood and expression from dressing room to dressing room.

Speaking on Zoom from his home Annand tells me where the idea for Time To Act came from. “This book is out there to support artists and to encourage people to remember what it was like, and what we hope it will continue to be like again in the future,” he says.

Cate Blanchett, The Present, Ethel Barrymore theater, New York, 2017

He is chatty and philosophical company, some of these photos make up a virtual exhibition. This will be re-hung to show a changing selection of photographs from the collection together with a commentary on the images.

“I have three strands of my work, one is production photography, one is dressing room stuff and the other is headshots,” he says.

“The headshots are very different as they are a tool to give the actor to get the attention of casting directors, which reflect the allowance of key scenes and good scripts. So, they have to have the authority in their face to tell the story.”

With Time to Act, Annand explores the fascinating notion of vulnerability. An intimate and meditative, but never intrusive series of portraits of stars backstage.

“Each actor has their own unique way of spending time before curtain-up. It varies from inhabiting the character at all times, to the opposite, holding the fictional character back and releasing it at the last minute before entering the stage.”

A deceptively simple photobook that comprises of over 200 performers, Annand’s portraits have a sense of suspended time, as if the subtext of the subjects remain somehow elusive despite the deep fascination, he feels for them.

James Earl Jones, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, Novello Theatre, 2010

“I’m not trying to catch them out. A photographer only finds what he or she is looking for,” Annand explains.

One close-up snap in Time to Act sees James Earl Jones before taking to the stage in the 2010 revival of Cat on a Hot Tin Roof at the Novello Theatre.

“I walked into that dressing room and that is what he was doing. He has size 16 feet, so when I came through the door, all I saw was those feet and he was flat out with a big fat cigar between his teeth and he said to me, “Whatever you do, don’t tell my doctor.”

In another close-up picture, David Suchet checks the mirror as he prepares to mesmerise audiences as Lady Bracknell in The Importance of Being Earnest at the Vaudeville Theatre in 2015.

“You know, it was a bold and brave choice for David to go from Poirot to Lady Bracknell,” he says, smiling.

David Suchet, The Importance of Being Earnest, Vaudeville Theatre, 2015

“That role was completely on his level. The photo really conveys him in his own terms; it is his agenda – I waited until he had his makeup and costume almost complete but he’s still in the dressing room so there’s still this unique element of him being David Suchet.”

“I suppose I am looking for the relationship that performers have with themselves, and their fictional characters,” Annand says.

Theatres from Shetland to the West End closed in March to slow the spread of Covid-19 with no date set for when venues can fully reopen as England continues to endure a second national lockdown.

“This country’s main strength is culture,” he says, exasperated.

Simon Annand, (credit: Snežana Popović)

“The problem is that the government is not sufficiently helping the thousands and thousands of freelance workers that our precious creative culture depends on,” says Annand, who is making a donation from the sale of every book in the UK to The Theatre Artists Fund.

What does he feel makes a great photograph? “It goes back to being strong and open – what I’m trying to avoid is fancy lenses or a fancy composition. A good photograph allows the viewer to hang their own story onto it.”

Time to Act is out now and the Time to Act: a virtual exhibition will run until Christmas. 

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Shakespeare’s Globe, Royal Exchange in Manchester, the Lady Boys of Bangkok are among the latest recipients of emergency government arts funding.

The Royal Exchange theatre in Manchester, The Mayflower in Southampton and Fabric nightclub in London are among the cultural institutions to receive at least £1m in the latest round of grants from the government’s £1.57bn cultural recovery fund.

In total, £75m will be given to 35 organisations, including theatres, museums, music venues and dance companies, among them Rambert (£1.28m), Sadler’s Wells (£2.9m) and the English National Ballet (£3m).

The arts sector has suffered significantly due to COVID-19 restrictions, with many venues closed and many creatives unable to work.

Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden said the “vital funding” would secure the recipients’ futures and “protect jobs right away”.

“These places and organisations are irreplaceable parts of our heritage and what make us the cultural superpower we are,” he said.

The culture secretary visited the Design Museum, another recipient, earlier this week

The government said the grants were being awarded “to places that define culture in all corners of the country”.

Grant recipients in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland will be announced separately by their devolved administrations.

More than £500m has now been allocated from the Culture Recovery Fund to almost 2,500 cultural organisations and venues.

But the £1.57bn emergency arts fund has come too late to save hundreds of talented people from losing their jobs.

Full list of performing arts organisations 

Birmingham Hippodrome Theatre Trust – £3,000,000
English National Ballet – £3,000,000
Newcastle Theatre Royal Trust – £3,000,000
Norwich Theatre – £3,000,000
The Mayflower Theatre Trust – £3,000,000
The Old Vic Theatre Trust – £3,000,000
Shakespeare’s Globe – £2,985,707
Sadler’s Wells – £2,975,000
The ACC Liverpool Group Limited – £2,972,659
Royal Exchange Theatre Company Ltd – £2,854,444
Performances Birmingham Limited – £2,534,675
BH Live – £2,499,531
Leeds Theatre Trust Limited (Playhouse) – £2,381,547
Sheffield Theatres Trust Ltd – £2,246,000
Northampton Theatres Trust (Royal and Derngate) – £2,112,891
Theatre Royal (Plymouth) Ltd – £1,896,000
North Music Trust (Sage Gateshead) – £1,800,000
Adlib Audio Limited – £1,650,356
Hull City Council – £1,615,725
Leeds Grand Theatre and Opera House Ltd – £1,545,163
Bill Kenwright Limited – £1,526,028
Fabric Life Ltd – £1,514,262
Birmingham Repertory Theatre – £1,380,023
Rambert – £1,283,835
Wolverhampton Grand Theatre 1982 Ltd – £1,187,530
Exchange Events Ltd (Gandey Productions) – £1,092,503
Lights Control Rigging Productions Ltd – £1,076,179
The Octagon Theatre Trust – £620,232

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An Open Letter to Cameron Mackintosh

Dear Cameron,

I was disappointed to read your comments in The Times that the commercial, large-scale west end is more deserving of government support than subsidised theatres in light of the ongoing Covid-19 crisis.

Your claims that theatres receiving financial aid were ones “that were going to fail”, and were those that were “vaguely solvent or been able to look after their money” were harmful. Indeed, stupid.

Furthermore, I, like many of my colleagues was saddened to read that you felt the need to lay off 850 casual and freelance staff.

Global recession aside, you could have taken the hit to support workers until the end of October and still protected your significant wealth.

Needless to say, your recent article for the Evening Standard told me only two things: where you are at, and just how out of touch you are.

It would be cynical, of course, for one to suggest you are saying things to distract attention from less flattering areas of your business – the complaints about alleged working conditions at Delfont Mackintosh, your grotty stance on Brexit or the recent debacle with The Phantom of the Opera in London.

So, can I encourage you to dismount the high horse, admit your political bias and adjust your perspective? I understand it is hard for a creative spirit like yours to lie low for too long.

What you should be doing, of course, is dreaming up bold and imaginative new ways to see us through these difficult times. God knows we need that.

Regrettably, what you are actually doing at the moment, is undermining an industry on its knees. And that is wrong. And it’s disappointing.

Regional theatres may not be at the top or your agenda but they are the bedrock of our culture – dismiss that civic role at your peril.

Arts centres and theatres outside the M25 in villages, towns and cities lend UK theatre its authentic diversity and richness. Much of their success comes from the provenance to a particular community. Everything is interlocked.

One sentiment that we can both agree on is that it is good business to do good business; I know that you pride yourself on your acumen.

For some of us, away from the glittering west end it’s choosing, if able, to shop with local businesses over big supermarket chains.

For other’s it’s seeing sense in taking a short-term hit on that pricier but more robust hoover because you really don’t want to buy more than one between now and death. There’s a lot to be said for consumer choice, ethics and brand reputation.

Theatre is hard work. It’s also an industry that’s now harder than ever to access if you’re working class. If you’re born outside of London.

With this in mind, theatres across England have had no choice to respond to the difficult challenges posed by prolonged austerity and a decade of funding cuts; their increased reliance on income from box offices, cafes and bars has made them uniquely vulnerable.

I’ve always admired your dedication to refurbishing your theatre buildings; investing significant money in making them fit for 21st century audiences.

Quite simply, though, theatre is about the people and the talent, not just the bricks and mortar.

Yours sincerely,

Carl Woodward

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Nimax Theatres to open West End theatres in sequence from 22 Oct with social distancing

Good news everyone: after the worst year in modern history, the owner of the Apollo, Duchess, Garrick, Lyric, Palace and Vaudeville theatres will welcome audiences back to London after seven-months of closure, starting with the Apollo in October.

Nimax Chief Executive Nica Burns said: “I am delighted to announce we will be switching on all our lights and presenting a special season of fantastic entertainment.  First up at the Apollo Theatre, Shaftesbury Ave is This is Going to Hurt written and performed by ex-NHS doctor Adam Kay who will open his run with a free performance for NHS staff on 22 October.  Tickets will soon be on sale at www.nimaxtheatres.com as is registration for NHS staff to enter the ballot for their free performance.

Nica Burns

Our full programme of special shows will reopen each of our six venues prior to the return of our brilliant long running shows: Harry Potter and the Cursed Child (Palace theatre), Everybody’s Talking About Jamie (Apollo theatre), Magic Goes Wrong (Vaudeville theatre), The Play That Goes Wrong (Duchess theatre). Details on this special season of shows will be announced over the next fortnight.

All our venues will open with social distancing plus robust risk mitigation to comply with government COVID-19 Secure guidelines. Although with reduced capacities it is not possible to make a profit, we are determined retain Nimax’s highly skilled, experienced workforce alongside the huge, talented tapestry of freelancers onstage and backstage, plus the many teams and businesses which together give our audiences a night to remember. Our theatre community cannot wait to get back to work safely.

As culture secretary Oliver Dowden wrote this week, ‘…theatre is a lynchpin of London’s West End and its absence is painfully reflected in its deserted streets.’  Even with reduced capacities at our theatres, we can entertain over 20,000 customers a week who we hope will re-energise the beating heart of our city, particularly the cafes, bars and restaurants that are an essential part of the fabric of the West End. Ticket sales for those venues that have managed to open so far, both outdoor and indoor, have been strong and we look to the future with confidence.”


Adam Kay says:
“It’s extremely heartening that Theatreland is starting to gear up again. The people you see on stage are the very tip of the theatre iceberg – behind the scenes are hundreds of hard-working staff – from electricians to stage managers to lighting techs to box office to carpenters – huge numbers of whom fell between the gaps of government support. I’m very proud to return to the West End, following the extraordinary efforts of Nimax to do so in a way that’s safe for staff and theatregoers alike, and doubly proud to open the run with a free show for NHS staff, who can clearly do with a night out more than anyone.“


Why is Nimax opening at a loss?
Like all businesses, Nimax looked at their business strategy post 31 October when the furlough scheme ends.  As part of this, they looked at the financial and human cost of large-scale redundancies.  They preferred to put the potential redundancy monies towards employment rather than unemployment. When they then fully open, they will have their fantastic workforce in place saving the cost of recruiting again. With this plan Nimax will not be making a profit but will be earning a contribution to their costs post-furlough which will enable them to achieve 4 key aims:-

  • Jobs:  Save the jobs of Nimax’s experienced, highly skilled and valued full time theatre staff teams as well as central management staff teams. They will also be hiring front of house and performance staff. Total jobs 355 plus.In addition, a significant number of freelancers will benefit and freelance jobs will be created or reactivated: actors, musicians, creative teams, stage management, wardrobe plus affiliated sector businesses such as marketing, press and technical hire companies.Everyone in the theatre community is desperate to get back to work. Nimax Theatres would like to thank their fantastic staff team and all our freelancers who were working in their theatres. They would also like to thank the three theatre unions BECTU, Equity and the MU who are working collaboratively across our industry to help us reopen.
  • Assist the stimulation of London economy: Even at a reduced capacity, Nimax will be attracting a significant number of customers into the West End stimulating the local economy in our area, particularly cafes, bars and restaurants.
  • Fulfilling audience demand: Nimax will be helping to fulfil a pent up demand of audiences who wish to return to theatres as demonstrated by our (SOLT/UK Theatre) latest audience survey  from Morris Hargreaves and McIntyre,  where 72% of audiences surveyed said they were looking forward to the thrill of seeing something live. Nimax can’t wait to welcome audiences back to experience a fantastic night out.
  • Consumer confidence: Nimax want to help build up consumer confidence with a return to central London and indoor entertainment spaces. They are proud to display the new industry See it Safely mark to show that our venues are compliant with the latest government guidelines.

Why can Nimax Theatres open when other theatres cannot?

The economics of their business model: they are the smallest of the 4 large West End theatre owning companies.  The smaller the theatre and the shows it presents, the lower the costs.  Hamilton, The Lion King, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, Andrew Lloyd Webber’s new musical Cinderella are very expensive to run (both show and theatre) on a weekly basis.  Conversely, costs for The Play That Goes Wrong in Nimax’s smallest theatre, the 500 seat Duchess, are substantially lower.

Special reopening programming: Nimax will be presenting special programming to be announced separately prior to the re-opening of our long running shows.

These shows are:

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child (Palace theatre) – performances are currently suspended until Sunday 21 February 2021

Everybody’s Talking About Jamie (Apollo theatre) – performances are currently suspended until 11 November 2020

Magic Goes Wrong (Vaudeville theatre) – performances are currently suspended until Sunday 15 November 2020

The Play That Goes Wrong (Duchess theatre) – performances are currently suspended until Sunday 18 October 2020

What help does the theatre sector need from the government?

For the theatre to survive, we need the following:

  • End of social distancing: to reopen as quickly and safely as possible without social distancing and at full capacity. As the larger shows take time to remount, we need a date as soon as possible.
  • Extension of the JRS and self-employed support schemes:  for theatres, businesses and freelancers who cannot open with social distancing.
  • Insurance: a scheme on the same lines as that already agreed with cinema and TV sector.

Asked about the return of pantomimes, Nica says: “We won’t be putting on a pantomime. [But] I know Andrew Lloyd Webber and Michael Harrison, our greatest panto producer, and I’m really hopeful that, oh yes, we will be going to the London Palladium at Christmas.”

There we have it.

 

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What the hell is going on with The Phantom of the Opera?

The West End’s second longest running show, is to end after more than 30 years.

Cameron Mackintosh & Andrew Lloyd Webber

It reached crescendo, yesterday, when producer Cameron Mackintosh confirmed in an article for the Evening Standard that the London production has been “permanently shut down” as a result of the coronavirus.

The decision to end the Andrew Lloyd Webber musical was said to have been reached after the surprise £1.5bn rescue package for the arts “failed to materialise”.

A knee-jerk move that told us one of two things.

Either Mackintosh thinks the public are so dangerously stupid they wouldn’t notice a 1,500lb Chandelier prop on the pavement, or there’s nothing the superproducer won’t do for publicity.

This is, after all, Cameron Mackintosh: a relentless, formula-driven, and shrewd producer where spontaneity is rarely on the menu.

It is probably worth mentioning that Mackintosh (whose shows include Les Misérables and Hamilton) came in at 119th place on the Sunday Times Rich List, with an estimated wealth of £1.24bn.

Anyway, Lloyd Webber recently tweeted that he would try to preserve the “brilliant original” version of the long-running musical, when it does return.

Although, I’m not 100 per cent sure that the the old show is ever coming back. 

“On top of this,” Mackintosh continued, “Andrew and I have had to sadly permanently shut down our London and UK touring productions of The Phantom of the Opera, but are determined to bring it back to London in the future.”

What still slightly surprised me, however, was how casually and confusingly this was announced, and that all touring productions of Phantom will also cease to operate.

The musical’s world tour, recently in Seoul,  survived the pandemic, weathered a cast outbreak to become perhaps the only large-scale show running, and playing eight shows a week.

Her Majesty’s Theatre

Has Cam Mack contrived a way of automating the show, slicing production costs, and cutting royalties by installing the UK touring production in 2021?

Interestingly, Delfont Mackintosh HQ were not aware that the producer had written the Standard article until they saw the front page tweeted by George Osborne. 

Apart from the bungled announcement, though, I don’t bear Mackintosh too much resentment, The musical has had an outstandingly good 33 year run globally.

Maybe a new musical could take up residence once the overdue refurbishment is complete.

That said, what long-term business lesson will actually be learned from this? There are no signs that the producer is intending to shut down Les Miserables, for example.

But Mackintosh had ‘updated’ that original production and plonked the inferior 2010 tour staging in the recently refurbished Sondheim Theatre, minus the revolve.

Furthermore, Mackintosh went on to raise concerns about the validity of employing social distancing in theatres. 

“My loyal production and theatre management staff have been cut by 60 per cent reduced to a dedicated team who will look after these priceless historic buildings so they are ready to ramp up back into production the moment the Government accepts that social distancing, which I have been totally opposed to from the outset, is no longer a requirement.”

Twenty four house of chin stroking later and echoing what Mackintosh said in his article Lloyd Webber tweeted: “As far as I’m concerned, Phantom will re-open as soon as is possible.

Repeat ’til fade.

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Guest Blog: ‘I went along to The London Palladium test event and here is what happened.’

Theatres, concert halls and other music venues have been closed due to lockdown measures since the end of March.

When British theatres shut their doors, few could have predicted the devastation caused by coronavirus.

Despite the government’s recent surprise  £1.57bn support package, which many feel came too late, theatres across the UK are being forced to make redundancies – or even to close for good.

 In recent weeks, though, Andrew Lloyd Webber announced plans to open the London Palladium for a test pilot to see how audiences and performers could be welcomed back to the theatre, and get audience members safely back into auditoriums.

It’s no small feat with social-distancing rules in play for the foreseeable future to get any kind of show back on the road. But if anyone can, it’s the one that made a mega-musical about dancing and singing cats: Lord Andrew Lloyd Webber. 

This week I went along to the socially-distanced pilot concert featuring Beverley Knight at The London Palladium, as part of the pilot shows initiative spearheaded by the UK government and Lloyd Webber. 

The process to get these tickets was fairly straightforward: they were free and via the LW Theatre mailing list. I had to wait 24 hours for E-tickets to come through with an allocated time slot for a staggered arrival arrive. There was compulsory mask-wearing and a contactless bag check.  

The COVID-era event opened at 30% capacity, to an audience including the public and industry figures, and to demonstrate strict hygiene methods that can be used to enable UK theatres to reopen.

After E-tickets were scanned, we had our temperatures checked before being welcomed inside – if we were under 38C.

Stepping inside the subdued auditorium and with every second row empty and, seeing every other row of seating entirely marked off, as various other seats to allow for one-metre distancing between each group or “bubble” was heartbreaking at first.

Audiences from the same household could sit together.

However, the atmosphere soon became electric; you could tell that the audience were theatregoers who were emphatic to be back inside a theatre building witnessing live performance.

The Palladium has been kitted out with door handles that use silver ions to kill 99.9% of bacteria. One-way systems were in place throughout the venue, which had been cleaned with antiviral chemical fogging, too.

When the lights went down Lloyd Webber took to the stage.

“I think this amply proves why social distancing in theatre really doesn’t work,” Lloyd Webber said, adding, “It’s a misery for the performers.”

He reinforced the message that theatres cannot operate under current government guidelines. Lloyd Webber stated that Oliver Dowden (Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport) was doing his ‘best’ and talked about the importance of pantomimes for regional theatres.

He went on to reassure us that people are safer in the venue than they would be on Oxford Street. It became clear that the day wasn’t just about west end theatres, but every theatre across the country.

In this regard, The Palladium – where Knight starred in Lloyd Webber’s Cats in 2015 – is the biggest of the seven London venues in the composer’s LW Theatres group. For this special pilot performance, it held 640 people rather than its usual 2,297 capacity.

After his plea to Boris of ‘give us a date mate’ for theatres to have some idea of when they can open, the lights went down again and Backed by a six-piece band, Beverly Knight took to the stage.

Knight sang ‘Memory’ from the Lloyd Webber musical Cats and things got emotional.

Memory, all alone in the moonlight.

I can dream of the old days, life was beautiful then.

I remember, the time I knew what happiness was.

Let the memory live again.

It was as if the song was written today – and about the current situation we all find ourselves in, and many (including myself) shed a tear. 

Anyway, it was incredible to be back in a theatre and Beverly Knight put on a wonderful concert. I’m not 100% sure that this pilot will make any significant  difference in relation to theatres and their future. But it is step in the right direction.

It was poignant to see first-hand the impact of what it would mean to re-open under the current government guidelines, and to that I say, it would be more of a risk of financial ruin than remaining closed. 

Lloyd Webber called on the Prime Minister Boris Johnson to give a more specific indication of when performing arts venues can reopen. “Give us a date,” he urged.

I hope that with the success of this pilot performance the government will start taking the industry seriously and provide a date for when theatres can finally open their doors to full houses.

By Craig Legg

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Guest Blog — Stella Kanu & Shawab Iqbal: ‘The #AllofUs Redundancy Care Campaign will help those in crisis and prepare workers for their journey back into the workplace.‘

A new initiative has been launched to support Black, Asian and ethnically diverse people in the arts who are facing redundancy. Stella Kanu  and Shawab Iqbal tell us all about #TheAllOfUsCampaign.

Stella Kanu (Executive Director, London International Festival of Theatre LIFT)

It would be extremely easy, and of course relevant, to spend this entire blog only reflecting on the despair and pain which our sector has faced due to COVID-19. We are indeed in unchartered and difficult waters. The things we have uncovered in the last 6 months about the creative and cultural sector has been unsettling – 70% of our workforce working freelance with 86% of all freelance staff engaged by National Portfolio Organisations identifying as Black, Asian or ethnically diverse.

High levels of freelancers have been left high and dry excluded by restrictive eligibility criteria for emergency funds. Work cancellations, event and show postponements, venue closures, restructures, and mass redundancies and still we await fine government detail about the roadmap to recover and most venues reopening. 

We have been reminded that we may still have to wait for the social case for arts to match the economic imperative. In this climate we have been able to remind the public and ourselves of our financial contribution to the British economy and the identity of our nations. But these days have also been filled with direct action coupled with moments of people coming together, collective generosity and displays of practical care comingfrom the ground up.

Shawab Iqbal (Executive Producer, Eclipse Theatre and Senior Artistic Associate, Bush Theatre)

Between us, as both leaders in the industry and members of the Arts Council’s London Area Council, we have sat in endless Zooms of discussion about the role of diversity and inclusion in recovery; we have pushed for the equitable democracy in who is contributing to decision making and most importantly we have been asking what will save our diverse workforce who were being made redundant in record numbers. Urgent, driven action is often challenging to achieve in mega scale governmental or Arts Council bureaucracies. Things take time, channels for decision and check and balances are often counterintuitive to any calls for action now! Now! now!

The sector already employs then than 4% of its senior leaders from a diverse pool and the general workforce ethnically sits a 14%. Our concern is that much of these almost daily redundancies weigh towards staff in public-facing and junior roles, which is further compounded by statistics that Black, Asian, ethnically diverse and migrant arts workers are most likely to be in those roles.

We decided 2 weeks ago to just go ahead and do something ourselves. We could take no more anxious-ladden phone calls, DMs and emails from distressed and worried ethnically diverse colleagues. An early morning simple text between us, snowballed into us calling in the Black Womxn in Theatre team, pulling our networks, and shaping a programme that could prevent an impending talent drain among non-artistic and back end roles that keep community work, organisations and venues running smoothly.

The #AllofUs Redundancy Care Campaign will help those in crisis and prepare workers for their journey back into the workplace. It is built around the concept of the cultural sector helping itself. We raise money through the sector, asking our cultural leaders to lead by example and give the minimum of £100.

Many are having to make heart breaking decisions about people they care about– we are all at the end of the day emotionally feeling our way through this time, despite the number crunching and cash flow reporting. We also want to track how the redundancies and restructuring now taking place may disproportionately affect all ethnically diverse workers across every level from the most junior to the most senior, creating our #AllOfUs Crisis fund.

#AllOfUs will present a series of programmes starting with #HereToStay in August. This will be a 4-week package of practical support to help upskill and empower workers who face employment uncertainty to regain their confidence in the workplace. Recipients will get financial assistance, coaching, mentoring, masterclasses, plus CV and application guidance, delivered by a team of senior arts professionals with a wealth of experience. The programme is open to people working across all art forms, including theatre, music, dance, comedy, museums and galleries.

We just want people to feel valued and motivate everybody to focus on rebuilding the sector and getting back to a new kind of normal.

The #AllOfUs Care Package (inclusive of the crisis fund and #HereToStay programme) will be announced on 27 July 2020.

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£1.5bn lifeline thrown to theatre & arts institutions

£1.57 billion investment to protect Britain’s world-class cultural, arts and heritage institutions

·       Cultural and heritage organisations to be protected with £1.57 billion support package

·       Future of Britain’s museums, galleries, theatres, independent cinemas, heritage sites and music venues will be protected with emergency grants and loans

·       Funding will also be provided to restart construction work at cultural and heritage sites paused as a result of the pandemic

Britain’s globally renowned arts, culture and heritage industries will receive a world-leading £1.57 billion rescue package to help weather the impact of coronavirus, the government announced today.

Thousands of organisations across a range of sectors including the performing arts and theatres, heritage, historic palaces, museums, galleries, live music and independent cinema will be able to access emergency grants and loans.

The money, which represents the biggest ever one-off investment in UK culture, will provide a lifeline to vital cultural and heritage organisations across the country hit hard by the pandemic. It will help them stay afloat while their doors are closed. Funding to restart paused projects will also help support employment, including freelancers working in these sectors.

Many of Britain’s cultural and heritage institutions have already received unprecedented financial assistance to see them through the pandemic including loans, business rate holidays and participation in the coronavirus job retention scheme. More than 350,000 people in the recreation and leisure sector have been furloughed since the pandemic began.

This new package will be available across the country and ensure the future of these multi billion-pound industries are secured.

 

Prime Minister Boris Johnson said:

“From iconic theatre and musicals, mesmerising exhibitions at our world-class galleries to gigs performed in local basement venues, the UK’s cultural industry is the beating heart of this country.

“This money will help safeguard the sector for future generations, ensuring arts groups and venues across the UK can stay afloat and support their staff whilst their doors remain closed and curtains remain down.”

Oliver Dowden Culture Secretary said

“Our arts and culture are the soul of our nation. They make our country great and are the lynchpin of our world-beating and fast growing creative industries.

“I understand the grave challenges the arts face and we must protect and preserve all we can for future generations. Today we are announcing a huge support package of immediate funding to tackle the funding crisis they face. I said we would not let the arts down, and this massive investment shows our level of commitment.”

Rishi Sunak, Chancellor of the Exchequer said:

“Our world-renowned galleries, museums, heritage sites, music venues and independent cinemas are not only critical to keeping our economy thriving, employing more than 700,000 people, they’re the lifeblood of British culture.

“That’s why we’re giving them the vital cash they need to safeguard their survival, helping to protect jobs and ensuring that they can continue to provide the sights and sounds that Britain is famous for.”

The package announced today includes funding for national cultural institutions in England and investment in cultural and heritage sites to restart construction work paused as a result of the pandemic. This will be a big step forward to help rebuild our cultural infrastructure.

This unprecedented package includes:

£1.15 billion support pot for cultural organisations in England delivered through a mix of grants and loans. This will be made up of £270 million of repayable finance  and £880 million grants.

£100 million of targeted support for the national cultural institutions in England and the English Heritage Trust.

£120 million capital investment to restart construction on cultural infrastructure and for heritage construction projects in England which was paused due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The new funding will also mean an extra £188 million for the devolved administrations in Northern Ireland (£33 million), Scotland (£97 million) and Wales (£59 million).

Decisions on awards will be made working alongside expert independent figures from the sector including the Arts Council England and other specialist bodies such as Historic England, National Lottery Heritage Fund and the British Film Institute.

Repayable finance will be issued on generous terms tailored for cultural institutions to ensure they are affordable. Further details will be set out when the scheme opens for applications in the coming weeks.

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Chickenshed’s Lou Stein: ‘There is a world of actors who are not given opportunities because of perceived disability and we have to continue to open doors because they have so much to offer.’

Don’t know his face? You’ll certainly know the fruits of his labour. Lou Stein, the American director, founded the Gate, Notting Hill in 1979, ran Watford Palace theatre and is now the artistic director of Chickenshed – the inclusive theatre company based in north London.

He is the ultimate unsung hero.

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Lou Stein

Chickenshed are in the middle of a vibrant Spring season. The varied programme of work addresses the issues of man-made climate change, protest and an exciting reimagining of One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest. He is also responsible for 70 full-time staff. Artistic directors face more scrutiny than ever, does he feel the pressure? “As Artistic Director there is a great deal of harnessing and managing the energy of this wonderful company,” he says, smiling.

Stein’s artistic vision is a society that enables everyone to flourish and Chickenshed’s mission is to create high quality theatre that celebrates diversity and inspires positivity and change. What are the biggest challenges in 2018? “I think the biggest challenge for Chickenshed is certainly the social and political atmosphere at the moment,” he explains. “Charities are coming under a certain scrutiny but with Brexit, Trump and cuts to local authority funding, there is less money coming in to all charities and that is a real challenge. One of the things I’m interested in doing is making things sustainable and continuing our important role as an inclusive company with strong social aims.”

Born in Brooklyn, Lou moved here in the late 70’s. What on earth does he think of Trump?  “I feel so distant from American politics now,” he replies, dropping his tone, speaking more slowly. “Part of my reason for moving to Britain in the late 70’s was partly political and I didn’t like what was going on in my country at that time. I certainly look at it’s leadership now with disbelief as I think a lot of people do – I don’t think we are in an irreversible downturn – however there is a lot of damage being done.”

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Lou in rehearsals

Chickenshed is effectively a theatre as well as a higher education college. What does he think about English schools cutting the number of pupils taking subjects such as dance and fine art after the introduction of the EBacc? “What is going on is devastating,” he replies. “It’s a time bomb in a lot of ways. Firstly, the role that music, theatre and art plays in the development of individual’s confidence is undervalue by the educational authorities. My son – who enjoys music and arts- may never have the opportunities, except through Chickenshed, that other students have.  There will be a huge drop out of talent without access to a creative curriculum. I think all theatre is political and that the education of theatre in schools is highly political and very important,” says Stein.

What does he think of Chichester Festival Theatre’s aim for a 50:50 gender balance in their 2018 acting company? “I feel like we at Chickenshed are way ahead of the curve because of our inclusive practices,” he says.  “If I take the monolog season: eight plays and seven of them feature female voices and characters. What’s more four of them are directed by women and six out of seven of the plays are written by women. I get worried about subscribing to quotas because it is important that decision makers genuinely believe in the issue of inequality, not because they are made to believe in it.”

Stein believes, too, that the shift in arts journalism; the slicing of word counts and the new wave of theatre bloggers, is a positive thing. “I think that it is not necessarily a bad thing that the newspaper critic is becoming less dominant,” he says. “Now you get a fresher collection of voices. Throughout your career what tends to happen is that there will be critics who like what you do, champion you and there are some that don’t. There are a lot of new voices online and as a director I’ve found that very liberating,” says Stein.

He is sanguine about the future. “I’d like us to open our eyes to those people from the disability world,” he says. “It is time for the theatre world to fully embrace the opportunity to widen their understanding of what diversity means,” he says.  “There is a world of actors who are not given opportunities because of perceived disability and we have to continue to open doors because they have so much to offer.”

One Flew Over The Cuckoos Nest  runs at Chicken Shed, Studio Theatre 17 Apr – 12 May. Box Office: 020 8292 9222

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Critic overlooks moral location of Baz Bamigboye’s scoops.

I was disappointed to read Matt Trueman’s Opinion piece for The Stage: ‘Baz Bamigboye’s envious critics overlook hard journalistic graft.’

In it he disapproves of my recent Open Letter to London Theatre PRs – asking them to address their relationship with The Daily Mail. My open letter was not an attack on Baz’s credentials as a journalist. However, Baz and the Mail are inextricably linked

Trueman writes: “My colleague Mark Shenton regularly tweets his dissatisfaction at what he deems preferential treatment, while blogger Carl Woodward recently called for a boycott of Baz’s column.”

Trueman refers to my blog as a ‘boycott’. It is not a boycott. His use of the term boycott reveals a distinct lack of the understanding of the English vocabulary.

He continues: “To suggest as Woodward does, that he (Baz) has all his “scoops handed over” by obliging press reps is not just naïve, but positively insulting.”

By the end of the last paragraph, however, something unexpected had happened. The article had become so pompous and self-righteous it was making me laugh. Quite a lot.

How so? Well, it’s purely down to the fact that this is not accurate arts journalism, obviously, it’s littered with political propaganda and is a contemptuous way to treat readers. Alan Lane brought some sense to proceedings with his response to Trueman’s article.

I mean, really there’s no point in getting Trueman’s back up any further (for me, or anyone), since the last thing that anyone wants is for his stance on Baz having ‘exclusives’ to harden. I obviously hit a nerve. 

As a result of today’s article Baz even dismissed his sources. The mind boggles.

If one of our leading theatre critics wants to defend a right-wing tabloid that whips up hatred and bigotry, then fine. But I’m really tempted to suggest Trueman can take a run and jump.

Update:

Cheap journalism thrives on whipping up feelings. When we talk about tolerance it is a moving line – then there’s a grey area. In the heat of the moment I referred to Matt Trueman as witless and I was not entitled to do so. I have apologised for that.