English National Opera and Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust announce national rollout of ENO Breathe programme for people recovering from COVID-19

English National Opera

English National Opera and Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust announce national rollout of ENO Breathe programme for people recovering from COVID-19.

Following the success of an initial six week pilot, English National Opera (ENO) today announces that ENO Breathe is to be rolled out nationally, beginning today.

A partnership between ENO and Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust, ENO Breathe is an integrated social prescribing programme of singing, breathing and wellbeing, breaking new ground as the first of its kind created to provide crucial support to people recovering from COVID-19.

The programme’s combined approach brings together musical and medical expertise to combat the increasing need for support for those experiencing long-COVID symptoms. Building on techniques used by singers, the holistic online programme offers self-management tools for patients experiencing breathlessness, and the anxiety that this can produce.

Following an initial six week trial with 12 participants from September – November 2020, the programme will now be rolled out to up to 1,000 patients by participating healthcare networks across London and the North of England with a view to continuing to work with more post-COVID services across the country over the coming months.

The initial six week pilot proved to be successful following independent evaluation, with the participants reporting definite improvements in symptoms and wellbeing, indicating that ENO Breathe has had positive impacts for them both emotionally and physically.

Led by Baylis, ENO’s learning and participation programme, ENO Breathe uses weekly group online sessions and digital resources to empower participants with tools and techniques to help them focus constructively on their breathing. The programme focuses on breathing retraining through singing, using lullabies as its musical starting point. Traditional lullabies cross boundaries of culture, are accessible to all and their very purpose is to calm. Led by professional singing specialists, participants learn breathing and singing exercises, using an approach that mirrors techniques employed by opera singers who achieve the physical coordination required for singing via emotional connection and imagery, rather than by giving their bodies explicit physiological instructions. Participants are then equipped with exercises to practice these techniques in their own time, aided by online resources specifically designed to support their progress.

Jenny Mollica, Director of ENO Baylis said: “The ENO are committed to making a difference to the lives of people and communities recovering from COVID-19, using our unique skills and resources in ways that are relevant and useful – and that matter to people. Following our successful pilot programme, we are hugely proud to be able to roll out ENO Breathe nationally, enabling us to support many more patients in their recovery from COVID and journey back to wellness. Combining cutting edge musical and medical expertise, we look forward to continuing our partnership with Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust, and to working with post-COVID assessment clinics across the country in this next phase of the programme.”

Dr Sarah Elkin, Consultant in Respiratory Medicine & Clinical Director Integrated Care at Imperial Healthcare NHS Trust said: “It has been a pleasure to work with ENO Baylis on this programme. As we continue to respond to the latest surge in COVID-19 cases in the UK, we must also remember those patients who are still suffering with COVID symptoms long after their initial disease. Ongoing breathlessness is debilitating and can be frightening. We hope this programme will support people to improve and help reduce their symptoms. We look forward to widening participation as the programme rolls out across the country.”

Health and Social Care Secretary Matt Hancock said: “I am very grateful for the work of the ENO and Imperial College Healthcare Trust in helping those suffering from the impact of this terrible virus.

“For many of those who have had the disease, the effects are felt months after the original infection and often acutely.

“I’m sure this programme will help long-COVID sufferers both physically and emotionally.”

Culture Minister Caroline Dinenage said: “The success of the ENO pilot has clearly shown how breathing through singing can help those suffering with breathlessness. I am grateful to ENO for partnering with the Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust to deliver this important programme which provides crucial support to people recovering from COVID-19.”

Tonya Nelson, Area Director, London, Arts Council England, said: “The results shown to date by ENO Breathe are very impressive, providing important physical and emotional support to those experiencing the effects of long-COVID. ENO’s partnership with Imperial College Healthcare is very welcome, illustrating what is possible when creative organisations partner with healthcare settings. I hope the national rollout brings support to many more people across the country.”

About the ENO Breathe pilot

Patients for the six week pilot were referred onto the programme by Imperial College Healthcare. They all had ongoing symptoms of breathlessness and anxiety 8-12 weeks after initial infection with COVID-19. The make-up of the group of participants was diverse. Participant ages ranged from early 30s to late 70s, 41% were ethnically diverse (including 25% Black/Black British and 8% Asian/Asian British), and 25% had English as a second language. There was a high participant retention rate – only one from the original 13 participants had to withdraw (for health reasons).

ENO commissioned an independent evaluation to assess the efficacy and impact of the programme for participants. The evaluation methodology included participant focus groups and patient self-assessments pre and post programme, using validated metrics including RAND-36 General Wellbeing index, GAD-7 Anxiety Index and Breathlessness scores.

By the end of the pilot programme, participants reported definite improvements in symptoms and wellbeing. 90% reported positive improvement in their breathlessness and 91% of participants felt their levels of anxiety had dropped. Prior to the programme, the group’s mean Generalised Anxiety Disorder Assessment score was 6.7. By the end of the six weeks, this had dropped to 3.2. Notable improvements were also seen in areas such as fatigue.

Participant Richard says: “My experience with ENO Breathe has been fantastic, it has really aided me enormously with my breathlessness and also my anxiety a little around re-integrating myself back into society.”

The programme also positively impacted other areas of their life. An overall increase in general wellbeing and confidence was reported across the group, with many overcoming previous uncertainty about singing. Participant Ludmila comments: “I never before had an experience like this. I didn’t think things like singing could help me with my breathing and improve my recovery from COVID and it has really helped me emotionally and physically.”

Many participants felt that the group aspect of the programme was an important part of their positive experience, often lessening the isolation they had felt before by feeling part of a supportive community. Participant Wayne says: “You are not in it alone, there is a supportive community out there – those who can relate to your experiences and a supportive team who also form part of the community and make you feel comfortable.”

The results of the pilot indicate that the programme gives participants tools and techniques that they will be able to use beyond the duration of the sessions, helping them to continue on their path to recovery. Participant Jen says: “I definitely know that during my day to day life, I’m calling upon things that I’ve done in the course. I’ve no doubt that ENO has been one of the causes of my progress over the last six weeks.”

When asked if they will continue to use the breathing exercises after the pilot finished, 100% of participants responded ‘yes definitely’. 91% felt that taking part in ENO Breathe sessions has given them increased confidence in managing their symptoms. All participants stated they would “definitely recommend” the programme to others experiencing long-COVID symptoms, and many endorsed the idea of wider roll out of the programme. Sheeba comments: “I would recommend this programme to anyone who is suffering the way some post-COVID patients are suffering. It’s something we really need to have access to.”

ENO Breathe will be offered to up to 1,000 patients and 25+ post-COVID clinics in this next phase, including London and the North of England. ENO are expanding the online material available to participants during the programme, along with making dedicated groups available to NHS Healthcare staff recovering from COVID.

Additionally, support continues for those who complete the ENO Breathe six-week programme. A dedicated post programme site of digital resources will be available to support participants to continue to self-manage their ongoing recovery, along with a chance to join a drop-in virtual singing group in order to continue to benefit from ENO Breathe’s community and support.

Strict monitoring and evaluation of the programme will continue in this next phase, with plans for a more in-depth research trial currently underway.

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Guest Blog – Laptops For Vulnerable Children – Emma Baggott: ‘Every day that passes is yet another day when the inequality gap is widening.’

Emma Baggott is a theatre-maker, theatre director and teacher originally from Wales now based in London. She has launched an inspiring appeal to buy laptops for children struggling to do their lessons at home during the pandemic.

On January 4th like many people I’m sat, with my family, waiting for Boris Johnson to grace us with his presence. To hear his briefing. I had given up on the press briefings. Initially, they felt like events, when the vernacular was new, but I had grown tired of the incessant drivel.

Emma Baggott

But January 4th felt different. It felt big and heavy. We waited, we watched, we listened and then we cried. This time around, although devastated for the theatre industry, Johnson had dropped a bomb that hit me to my core. He cancelled the summer 2021 GCSEs. I have a child who has spent her whole school career working towards this seminal milestone.

I was angry and full of rage on behalf of all the young people, not just those no longer sitting their GCSEs. I started to think about all the other young people trying to weather this storm in very different boats.

Ofcom estimates that there are up to 1.7 million children in the UK who do not have home access to a laptop, desktop or a tablet. Through my research it has become apparent that even if families do have the required devices there might not be enough money to pay for all the extra data / Wi-Fi that is needed to be on a Zoom call or access the online lessons.

The government promised one million laptops for remote learning

The government is holding Schools accountable to get all pupils online. Those who can afford devices can stay at home. Those who cannot have to sacrifice their health and go to school.

Forcing children whose parents do not have the disposable income to buy a laptop / tablet to attend school during a pandemic is hideous.

It became very evident that this was not a time for talking but for action. Right now, the government is facing a legal challenge at its lack of action. It has “continually failed” to ensure that disadvantaged students can continue with their education. We all knew that there would be a second wave.

We’ve been in this state for almost a year now there has been such little decisive action from our government. 

On the 4thJanuary I vowed to do something. To make it all a little bit better. Last Thursday I set up a GoFundMe page to raise money to buy laptops / tablets / data for London’s disadvantaged young people and started tweeting. Twitter really has been a fantastic tool for fundraising.

With wonderful support from Lou Lou Mason and some glorious Tweets from Anna Jordan the fundraiser has really taken off.

We’ve been bowled over by the generosity of the theatre industry and from people far and wide. We’ve had some large donations and have been helped by Tweets and Instagram posts from those with large followings.

Within 36 hours we had reached our initial target of £10,000. With this triumph we raised the target to £20,000.

We have identified the three poorest boroughs in London and will work with two schools from each borough to get them the tech that will be the most useful for their students.

Time is precious. Every day that passes is yet another day when the inequality gap is widening.

Emma Baggott  

You can make a donation here: 

if  you have an old laptop / desktop or tablet you can donate that here: 

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Stop Charging Students For Virtual Drama School Auditions

WELL that didn’t take long, did it? Twelve days, 20 hours and a couple of minutes into the New Year and I think we already have a strong contender for the most absurd theatre related thing of the month.

It is ten months since theatres across Britain closed their doors – and most are still completely dark. Last year, final-year drama school students were unable to graduate.

Back in the dystopian present, I was disappointed to learn on Twitter that nearly all of our drama schools are still charging £35.00 for a zoom audition or self-tape, and some are charging as much as £55 in total.

A pox on everyone involved.

This puts unnecessary financial strain on young people from working-class backgrounds. In the last decade – and during this pandemic in particular – young people have been let down or forgotten. While many students acknowledge their institutions efforts to continue delivering their education, others are angry they are not getting the vocational experience they were promised.

Writer Ben Weatherill touched on this class divide in his terrific blog highlighting how these audition fees are shutting those with low-incomes out of the profession.

Like so much else in this current crisis, all UK drama schools had to migrate auditions online overnight. Reinventing entire courses that relied on physical contact was a significant challenge. Drama schools including Mountview and Guilford School of Acting responded by creating online showcases.

This week, PPA Academy’s spring term, which had been due to start on 11 January, will now run from February 15 to May 7 for BA acting and musical theatre courses,  to give their students as much face-to-face learning as possible, which is great and the right thing to do.

Now, I am not disputing that Drama Schools still have to pay for buildings, for teachers, insurance and accreditation and more.  I am also very well aware that many offer fee waivers for those from low-socio economic backgrounds.

But listen, young people have suffered enough during the COVID-19 crisis – the deepest recession in 300 years – and we are all aware that pandemic-hit businesses are scaling back graduate recruitment, leading to fears of a lost generation.

Added to this pressure are the anti-immigration messages coming from the wider debates around Brexit; the government allegedly recently dismissed an exemption for performers because it had not wanted to offer reciprocal benefits for EU artists working in the UK. Well done everyone.

Will there be jobs for drama school graduates when they graduate? Maybe. This is the same answer before the pandemic. Some will enter the industry and others will pursue other careers.

There has been a huge rise in online theatre and we have seen that theatre doesn’t have to be confined to the kind of people who can afford to go to see shows in the West End.

Now, though, UK Drama Schools must help show the way that the industry must operate in the 21st century not just for the benefit of a few but the many.

Scrap these colossal and unnecessary audition fees, or at least radically lower the cost of auditioning immediately to ensure those poorer students have an equal chance of success.

If these institutions don’t, we risk losing the next generation of talented performers and technicians and all that they contribute to our society and sector.

In fact, if performing arts schools do get rid of these financial barriers during this third lockdown, they can build a better and fairer future as we all recover from this crisis.

Update: I have set up a ‘Drama School Covid Relief Fund’ Crowdfunder for those in the sector who are able to pay it forward to those who are in need.  Every donation will help. Cheers!


Fuel announces autumn season of work

  • Fuel announces a programme of work for Autumn 2020, #ComeWhatMay
  • Bringing work to housing estates, bathtubs, venues and screens, the programme represents a range of creative reponses to producing work during the Covid-19 pandemic
  • 30 new commissions focussing on artists from under-represented demographics, and creatively adapted work from Inua Ellams, Encounter, Uninvited Guests, Gyre & Gimble and more, all form part of the season of work

Fuel Director Kate McGrath has today announced a programme of work planned for autumn 2020. All the work will be presented with Covid-secure protocols in place and will range from performances in socially distanced venues, to outdoor spaces in housing estates and round bonfires, from digital tours to performances that can be enjoyed from the luxury of your own bathtub.

McGrath and the Fuel team have spent the last months working with a range of artists to come up with ways to present work in a safe way despite the restrictions under which the country has been placed. Their desire to work with a wide range of artists and companies reflects the ongoing work that Fuel has been undertaking during the pandemic to reflect and improve on working practices and inclusivity.

Having lost over £1million in earned income this year, Fuel is in acute need of support from the government’s Cultural Recovery Fund. These projects are part of Fuel’s recovery plan, which lies in a combination of increasing earned income through activity and vital support from the CRF.

Kate McGrath said “As summer ends, cases increase and restrictions tighten, we know the coming months will be challenging for us all. The team at Fuel have been working hard behind the scenes to find safe ways to keep connecting with each other, sharing stories and ideas, sharing space – real and virtual. The extraordinary artists in this season will help us understand each other and the changing world around us with insights into our common humanity. This is a time for empathy and care – we hope this season will bring people together in that spirit. Come what may, we will connect.”

Inua Ellams and Fuel present

An Evening with an Immigrant

Bridge Theatre

New dates added: 2,3,4,7 November

Fuel has co-presented with The Bridge Theatre a series of socially distanced performances of Inua Ellams celebrated one-person show An Evening with an Immigrant. Performances will now be extended until November 7th. For more information on how to book please visit

Inua Ellams is an award-wining poet, performer, playwright, graphic artist and designer.  He started performing in cafes in 2003 and has since worked in venues including the Royal Albert Hall, Sydney Opera House, Nuyorican Poets Cafe and Glastonbury Music Festival.  He is the recipient of an Edinburgh Fringe First Award for his autobiographical winning play The 14th Tale.  He has also undertaken several commissions, including those for Louis Vuitton and Soho Theatre. Following two sell-out runs at the National Theatre and a world tour, his play Barber Shop Chronicles (A Fuel, National Theatre and Leeds Playhouse co-production) also ran at the Roundhouse in 2019. His adaptation of Three Sisters was co-produced by the National Theatre and Fuel in 2019-2020 and has been nominated for Best Production in the Black British Theatre Awards.

Uninvited Guests and Fuel present

Love Letters at Home


Stephen Joseph Theatre

Thursday 1 October, 7.30pm

Derby Theatre

Thursday 15 October, 7pm

Ashcroft Arts Centre, Forest Arts Centre and West End Centre (Hampshire Cultural Trust)

Friday 16 October, 7.30pm

Oxford Playhouse

Thursday 22 October, 7pm

Friday 23 October, 7pm

Digital tour, ticketed

Following the earlier, hugely successful digital tour of Love Letters at Home, the re-imagined version of its acclaimed show Love Letters Straight From Your Heart, Uninvited Guests have added further dates for which audiences can book tickets through the associated venues’ websites.

Love Letters at Home is an intimate participatory piece of theatre, performed live via Zoom, in which the audience and performers offer dedications and declarations of love, past and present. It is collaboratively authored with its audience, who temporarily become a community of close friends across the performance.

Before the show, people who book tickets are invited to send in music requests, to write dedications to those they love or care about, and these are worked into the event each night. We try, with care, to only speak the words written by those in the audience – each performance is unique to that group of people, their memories, their current and past loves or friendships, their emotions, laid bare for everyone to witness, acknowledge and support.

Love Letters at Home is a joyful and open-hearted show that brings people together in a time of physical distance from friends and family. It shifts between theatre and feeling like a real social event; dedications are spoken, toasts are made, speeches are given, songs are sung and dances danced, on behalf of the audience and with them.

Love Letters at Home has been commissioned by First Art, a Creative People and Places project, as part of its Go the Distance remote festival for audiences in Ashfield, Mansfield, Bolsover and North East Derbyshire.

Fuel, Coombe Farm Studios and Eden Court Highlands present

Signal Fires

in collaboration with The Woodlands Presents

Written by Kiki Katese, Alice Oswald, Hema Palani, Will Power, Kim Scott and Sara Sharaawi

Directed by Adura Onashile

Dartington, Devon

28-30 October, 7.30pm


2-7 November, by phone

For full details please visit

On sale from 14 October

Signal Fire (n): a fire or light set up in a prominent position as a warning, signal, or celebration.

In the week of the 26th October, fires will light up across the UK with storytellers and audiences sharing in one of the original forms of theatre. From spectacular bonfires to digital blazes; the nation’s leading touring theatre companies will present a series of theatrical events at locations across the UK in celebration of our fundamental need to tell stories.

Fuel’s Signal Fires project will reach audiences in South Devon and in the Highlands. From 28-30 October, audiences can hear stories from around the world, around campfires in the beautiful woods at Dartington. Performed by actors around socially distanced fires, audiences will be taken on a journey around the world from the safety and warmth of a blanket and a hot drink. From 2-7 November, audiences in the Highlands and Islands of Scotland, where live outdoor performances are not currently permitted under Covid-19 guidelines, can hear stories told to them over the phone, live and in person.

Fuel have commissioned international and local writers – Devon’s Alice Oswald alongside  Kim Scott from Australia, Kiki Katese from Rwanda, Hema Palani from India and Will Power from the USA – to respond to the duality of fire, creating warmth and community as well as danger and destruction, as a symbol for this time.

Other companies involved include: English Touring Theatre, Fen in association with Out of Joint, Graeae, Headlong, Kneehigh, National Youth Theatre of Great Britain, Paines Plough, Slung Low, Yellow Earth Theatre and many more. The companies will be working with hundreds of UK freelancers. All fires will be presented outdoors in front of socially distanced live audiences, or digitally for those who are shielding or currently unable to travel.

Supported by CVC.

Fuel presents

The Kids Are Alright

Writer – Lee Mattison

Director & Choreographer – Jen Malarkey

Associate Director – Temitope Ajose-Cutting

Performers – Carl Harrison, Janet Etuk

Outdoor live performance, socially distanced audience, outside housing estates in London & Newcastle with Northern Stage, the Albany, CPT and further dates TBA

Deptford, in partnership with the Albany and Lewisham Homes

3 November, 5pm

4 November, 5pm (also livestreamed)

Camden, in partnership with Camden People’s Theatre

5 November, 5pm

6 November, 5pm (also livestreamed)

Byker, in partnership with the Northern Stage

9 November, 5pm and 8pm

10 November, 5pm (also livestreamed) and 8pm

The Kids Are Alright explores the extraordinary grief of losing a child.

When a day trip to the Natural History Museum turns to tragedy, Karen and Keith return home alone.  Behind their four walls they attempt to make sense of the unimaginable in ways as unpredictable as the incident itself.

But how do you rebuild a family when a whole life has been sucked out of it? Dismantle a dog? Cruise the Algarve? Or fight to the death yourselves?

The Kids Are Alright will be performed for residents of local housing estates at the same time as being streamed digitally.

Filmed with mobile phones and broadcast directly through Facebook this is a uniquely intimate performance, which invites you to watch one broken couple explode from their home. And they couldn’t care less who’s watching.

Co-created by director/choreographer Jen Malarkey and writer Lee Mattinson

Co-commissioned by Fuel and The Place. Supported by The Albany, Camden People’s Theatre, and Northern Stage. The project is funded by Arts Council England, Wellcome Trust and the Peggy Ramsay Foundation.

Fuel and Gyre & Gimble present

The Hartlepool Monkey: Homecoming

October – November

The Hartlepool Monkey is a legend that has survived the test of time and captured people’s imaginations for over 200 years, as well as inspiring 2017’s hit stage show of the same name. And in 2020, Fuel and Gyre & Gimble will return the project home to Hartlepool to reimagine this incredible story.

Through the distribution of over 1,000 DIY puppetry kits and letters from the Monkey himself, the community of Hartlepool are invited to consider myth, identity and what it means to live in the town today with a host of analogue and digital experiences. The programme will culminate at Wintertide Festival with the launch of a series of original puppetry films created in response to the community’s contributions by students at the Northern School of Art.

Supported by Arts Council England, Great Place Tees Valley, Hartlepool Town Council, County Durham Community Fund, The Wellcome Trust, The Royal Victoria Hall Foundation and The Stanley Thomas Johnson Foundation.  Great Place Tees Valley is funded by The National Lottery Heritage Fund and Arts Council England and delivered via the Tees Valley Mayor and Combined Authority.

Fuel presents

The Body Remembers

Heather Agyepong – Creator / Performer

Gail Babb – Co-Creator (dramaturgy)

Imogen Knight – Co-Creator (movement)

Premieres January 2021, on sale November 2020

The Body Remembers is a solo performance that uses movement, projection and a series of audio testimonies created and performed by Heather Agyepong, co-created by Imogen Knight (movement) and Gail Babb (dramaturgy). It will be performed indoors for socially distanced audiences.

The technique of Authentic Movement has allowed Heather to process what her body has been trying to communicate for years and most importantly brought gentle attention to the self. Authentic Movement consists of the mover and the witness. The mover without restriction, through impulse reclaims space. The witness observes, reflects and notes what is happening in their own bodies.

The Body Remembers creates a space for audience and artist to attend to themselves and each other through authentic movement, testimonies from 20 Black women living in the UK, soundscapes and projections. The piece focuses on the six parts of her body that speak the loudest; head, throat, heart, stomach, womb and hands.

The Body Remembers is produced by Fuel, with support of Arts Council England, Wellcome Trust and the Jerwood New Work Fund.

Fuel presents


Created by Rachael Young

Music and sound by Alicia Jane Tuner

Dramaturgy by Season Butler

On sale November 2020, previews December, public performances from January 2021

THIRST TRAP  is a collaboration between Rachael Young, composer Alicia Jane Turner, dramaturg Season Butler, a cohort of researchers and real people who are affected by climate change in 2020.

Part-narrative and part-meditation, THIRST TRAP will be a 30 min sound piece for audiences listen to in the bath along with an experience pack of resources to change their physical environment, connecting closely with their personal environment and relationship with their bodies.

THIRST TRAP delves into our fear surrounding the possible outcomes of rising temperatures and our feelings of powerlessness against a capitalist government who continually fail to act quick enough on matters concerning climate. Rachael is exploring our relationship to water, its peaceful and calming property and its ability to destroy and wipe out, and draw parallels with man’s ability to do the same.

THIRST TRAP’s production is being supported by Help Musicians’ Fusion Fund and Sura Medura.

Fly The Flag

10 December 2020

Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article 25:

“Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services, and the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond his control. 

Motherhood and childhood are entitled to special care and assistance. All children, whether born in or out of wedlock, shall enjoy the same social protection.”
To mark the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 2019, artist Ai Weiwei created a flag to celebrate universal human rights. From the Highlands of Scotland to the coast of Cornwall via cities, towns and villages across the UK, in galleries and theatres, shopping centres and offices, schools and libraries, both physically and online, people came together to celebrate that human rights are for everyone, every day.

Fuel is lead producer of this 5 year project inviting people to Fly The Flag for human rights, alongside arts organisations and human rights charities from right across the UK. This year, on 10 December, newly commissioned films created by spoken word artists and poets will be released, all in response to Article 25 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Full details, including partners and commissioned artists to be announced in November on and

Supported by CVC.

New Commissions

Fuel is today announcing commissions for 30 artists, as part of a new commissions programme supported by CVC (see below for full details). 10 artists – Khalid Abdalla, Heather Agyepong, Rachel Bagshaw, Inua Ellams, Pauline Mayers, Lucian Msamati, Racheal Ofori, Tom Stuart, Keisha Thompson, and Rachael Young – will all be commissioned to create new projects with Fuel –  Heather Agyepong’s piece The Body Remembers and Rachael Young’s project THIRST TRAP will both premiere in January 2021.

Signal Fires is also part of this programme, as well as The Lab, which sees three artists and three scientists collaborate on new public engagement commissions in the field of global and public health. Full details of The Lab commissions yet to be announced. Fuel will also commission 10 poets/spoken word artists for Fly The Flag – full list to be announced.

For more information on #ComeWhatMay, visit


Throughout the autumn, Fuel is also be producing new projects in development behind the scenes, including for example:

  • Peaceophobia, co-created by Common Wealth, Speakers Corner and Bradford Modified Car Club, developing in an open air car park in Bradford;
  • A Dead Body in Taos written by David Farr and directed by Rachel Bagshaw, developing on Zoom and in socially-distanced workshops.


Southbank Centre details ‘closure risk’ until at least April 2021 and calls on the government for further urgent support

  • The Southbank Centre today announces it is at risk of closure until at least April 2021, detailing crippling financial pressure as its reserves run dry as a result of the economic impact of COVID-19.

  • The venue today calls on the Government to support the cultural sector through a number of key recommendations.

  • The announcement comes with initial findings of a new report into the arts charity’s social and economic impact.

  • Since announcing its closure on 17 March, the organisation has furloughed the majority of its staff but is nevertheless facing a £5.1 million deficit in FY20/21.

The Southbank Centre today announces it is at risk of closure until at least April 2021, as a result of the economic impact of COVID-19, disclosing details of crippling financial pressure as its reserves run dry. 

The charity states that it is forecasting a best case scenario of a £5m loss at the end of 2020/21 financial year. However, in arriving at this position, the organisation will have used up all its reserves and be in deficit, will have needed £4m support from the Government furlough scheme and will have used the remainder of its annual grant from Arts Council England to effectively mothball the buildings. There will be a need to make some staff redundant and the organisation will cease to be a going concern before the end of the year if further urgent support is not secured.

Despite being the UK’s largest arts and cultural organisation, the Southbank Centre confirms that there will be hardly any artistic activity throughout 2020/21 as to present anything like a normal range of events would have seen the losses rise to around £11m (after furlough support and ACE grant), given the restrictions that social distancing impose on the ability to realise workable ticket revenue.

Today’s announcement comes as the Southbank Centre releases the initial findings of a new report by Hatch Regeneris, a leading, independent economics consultancy which illustrates the cultural and economic value of the Southbank Centre to the cultural sector.

The Southbank Centre presents over 3,500 events a year – of which over 40% are free – and welcomes enough visitors to fill Wembley Stadium 50 times over.  At its heart is the Royal Festival Hall – the iconic and only remaining building from the 1951 Festival of Britain, a Festival designed to be “a tonic for the nation” following the country’s endurance of the second world war. 

As a key arts hub, the Centre works with international artists, gives a home to eight orchestras and supports grassroots cultural activity. An extensive creative learning programme reaches young people and families, the socially isolated, and those affected by homelessness, dementia and addiction. All of this work is now under significant threat. 

The Southbank Centre’s annual Arts Council England grant represents just 37% of its income. While the arts charity has been extremely successful at replacing its declining public funding with earned income from ticket sales, bars, restaurants and other commercial activity that takes place across its site, this success now makes the Southbank Centre highly vulnerable. The mandatory closure of the venues, bars and restaurants has led to the immediate and catastrophic loss of 60% of its income. With the likelihood of social-distancing measures remaining in place for many months to come, the venues are unlikely to be able to re-open until April 2021, as to do so on restricted capacities (30%) means the organisation would lose more money by opening than it would generate. 

 The Southbank Centre now calls on the Government to:

  • Extend the furlough scheme beyond October for the cultural sector;

  • Develop a large scale intervention to support the arts sector as it navigates this crisis and which helps it survive and plan for the future;

  • Support those self-employed artists and musicians who do not qualify under the current financial support schemes.

 Alongside supporting over 7,000 FTE jobs in London’s cultural visitor economy, the Southbank Centre is an important cultural tourism asset. Around 1 in 10 of all London’s international visitors went to the Southbank Centre, along with 1 in 3 cultural tourists. The report notes that four out of five tourists to London cite “culture” as the major reason for their visit, and these visits support 80,000 jobs and £3.2 billion in Gross Value Added in the capital. This is supported by the Association of Leading Visitor Attractions (ALVA) who note that the Centre is the UK’s fifth most visited attraction. 

 In addition, there is a growing body of evidence on wellbeing effects from engaging with the arts: the report estimates that given its local reach, the Southbank Centre supports in excess of £150 million in wellbeing value per annum for the UK.

 Today’s announcement comes as the Southbank Centre makes preparations to cancel events from September – November 2020. The organisation is also considering the option of broadcasting concerts from behind closed-doors through Autumn 2020 and Spring 2021.

 Elaine Bedell, Chief Executive, Southbank Centre, says:

“It is with an incredibly heavy heart that we today share further details about the future of the Southbank Centre. We know we are not alone in this and stand with our friends, partners, and colleagues – both here in the UK and abroad – during this time of unprecedented challenge.

 With eight orchestras, the National Poetry Library, and Arts Council Collection all calling us home, and playing host to over 4.45 million visitors each year, we’re doing all we can to safeguard the Southbank Centre we currently know and love for the years ahead. However, this crisis has hit hard, and we join a number of other organisations and venues in sounding the alarm about the long-term health of UK arts and culture.

 The Southbank Centre’s own history is traced directly to the 1951 Festival of Britain. Here, the post-war government recognised how vital arts and culture were to the health and well-being of a traumatised nation. Just as the South Bank was a focal point of social and economic recovery then, we hope that we’ll emerge from this crisis to an even brighter future, throwing our doors wide open once more.”



In this climate, how does ATG not melt with shame?

You’ll probably have seen — how could you have missed — Sunday in the Park with George, starring Jake Gyllenhaal, has postponed opening to 2021 as Theatreland’s closure continues.

Theatre has always been a cash-flow positive business; audiences typically pay months in advance for a show experience.

Sunday in the Park with George

Sunday in the Park with George

I had two tickets for a preview to Sunday in the Park with George.

This email arrived in my inbox.

“You do not need to do anything right now. We will be contacting all affected customers shortly with a full credit voucher worth the entire cost of your original booking, including all fees.”

Credit voucher?!

“You will be the first to be notified with the new season dates and will be able to redeem your voucher against tickets for any future performance of Sunday In The Park With George, as soon as the new booking period for 2021 has been finalised.”


“The demand for this production has been unprecedented’ ATG’s appeal for our sympathy continues, “and as a valued ticket holder for this production, please stay tuned for exclusive content, behind the scenes looks, and casting news.”

‘Valued ticket holder’. Christ alive.

Ultimately, it is hard to see ATG’s handling of refund requests as anything less than misrepresenting their legal obligation to refund their customers.

For hard-up customers trying to get their hard-earned money back from ATG is the equivalent of wrestling a pig.

Instead of the coronavirus crisis bringing some kind of reckoning, certain parts of the industry are simply now suffering from their own virus and their very survival.

It comes as little surprise, then, that ATG, as with many other ticketing operators are offering credit vouchers as an alternative in the hope audiences will want to see a show when normal life resumes.

Credit vouchers will be worthless in the event that ATG collapses – this affects your legal rights, comrades.

So, I suggest people state explicitly that they want their money back in full and ask when they can expect the cash to be returned.

Something like this:

“I understand that my show [order number] on [date] has been cancelled postponed indefinitely and I therefore request a full refund. Please advise when I can expect to receive my money. For the avoidance of doubt, I do not accept a credit voucher.”
You are absolutely entitled to a cash refund by law, so for now continue to turn down any offers of an ATG credit voucher and insist on a refund.

Trustworthiness is at stake here and for ATG, the days of being able to just style it out with drinks vouchers and ‘priority booking’ may be numbered.

Useful contacts
ATG Customer services



Theatre is facing its biggest peacetime threat

I could cry. I have.

Broadway is dark for a month, a closure that is much longer than the few days that shows shut after Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. Analysts say that this could cost anywhere from $250 to $500 million – depending on when officials allow for public gatherings again.

Of course, regional theatres are closed “until further notice,” and the number of advance tickets and income has dropped by 92%. Last month one medium scale venue shifted £4,000. This week the total box office takings were £30.

The theatre world shifted overnight.

BECTU have stated that more than 70% of freelance workers are worried that they will not be able to pay bills. Furthermore, a staggering 47% of freelancers have confirmed that 100% of their work has been cancelled.

Thankfully, today the Government announced that they are setting up a back-of-a-fag-packet coronavirus job retention scheme. Grants will cover 80% of the salary or retained workers, up to a total of £2,500 a month,

The West End shut down has now been extended to April 26, “whilst we wait for further clarity from government,” says the Society of London Theatre.

As venues across the nation cancelled performances and locked the doors in the wake of coronavirus, organisations have asked audiences to donate and book advance tickets, following the government’s warning this week to avoid theatres and public gatherings.

Ticket holders should wait to be contacted by their point of purchase, rather than attempt to contact customer service teams, who are systematically working to contact all affected customers.

The size of this is staggering.

Elsewhere, Lambert Jackson productions have come up with a way to keep theatre lovers entertained as coronavirus brings things to a halt. They have teamed up with Theatre Café for a live-streamed series of concerts, Leave a Light On beginning on March 23, with 3, 45-minute concerts performed each day. Viewers will be charged £7.50 per performance.

Surely those with little to no income should be able to access a free concert?

Theatre Cafe’s Chief Operating Officer, Ryan Woods assures me that as soon as they have got a few under their belt they will look at implementing this.

What irks me about Leave a Light On, though, is that even if compassion fatigue has never been more of a problem, why are organisers prepared to break social distancing recommendations to earn money? I’m not sure west end stars need the exposure or income; it seems like a quick buck for everyone.

Which I hope doesn’t sound like I’m diminishing the efforts of all involved.

Bryony Kimmings - I’m a Pheonix ... Bitch!

Bryony Kimmings – I’m a Pheonix … Bitch!

There are moments when generosity and humanity from the industry simply overwhelms me. See: Bryony Kimmings, who has called on fellow theatre-makers to donate money to those who are in need and playwright Luke Barnes who has set up the Liverpool Artists Coronavirus Fund.

So, in circumstances as bleak as these, we need laughter, compassion and entertainment. It’s become clear to me that we must make fundamental changes to absolutely everything we do.

Mind you, theatre’s greatest strength is also its biggest medium; the emphasis is as much on evocation as experience. And, of course, a communal experience.

What can I personally do to make this all more bearable?

I have written to Rufus Norris to ask him to consider unlocking the National Theatre Collection so we can all safely watch the watch the very best of British theatre during this difficult time.

I’ve included some links and theatre resources below. (you’re welcome).

Listen, we will find a way through this ongoing crisis.

Stay well.

Theatre Helpline: 0800 915


Theatre Resources For Isolation

Compiled by Ollie Jones ( – with thanks to too many people to mention for suggestions and links!

*starred items require institutional log in – usually there is a log in [by institution] option which takes you to the York Shibboleth system (or equivalent if at another institution)

Comment permissions are set to open for all. Please feel free to add suggestions!



Full shows:

  • The Show Must Go Online – The actor Robert Myles has set up a reading group for professional and amateur actors to perform Shakespeare’s complete plays in the order they’re believed to have been written. The first livestreamed reading, on YouTube, will be The Two Gentleman of Verona on Thursday (19 March).
  • Showstopper! The Improvised Musical – After more than 1,000 productions, the Showstoppers improv crew are some of the quickest wits in the biz. So it’s no surprise that when they were faced with a West End closure they live-streamed a performance. Watch their custom-made, never-to-be-repeated impro musical on Facebook.
  • Viral Monologues – Twenty actors perform new monologues written just for them in this initiative. The performances will be shared online every 15 minutes on Tuesday night (17 March) and there’s some top talent involved, including comedian David Cross, actors Rachel Dratch and Andre Royo, and writers David Lindsay-Abaire, Stephen Adly Guirgis and Monique Moses.
  • Since U Been Gone – Teddy Lamb was due to present a Trans Take Over at London’s Bunker theatre this week as part of its now suspended Power Share season. So they have uploaded a version of their musical fringe hit about losing loved ones and finding your own voice.
  • Bubble – Is this the short-term future of theatremaking? Bubble, a play set entirely on Facebook, uses a cast of European actors who never met in person, rehearsed over Skype and filmed on their cameras. Theatre Uncut release the production, written by Beats playwright Kieran Hurley, on 23 March. Theatre Uncut — Events
  • 5 Soldiers – Rosie Kay’s extraordinary 5 Soldiers: The Body is the Frontline was staged in army drill halls around the UK but since its live stream is still available online you can watch it from the comfort of your own sofa. Performing in close quarters to a score that mixes punk and opera, Kay’s phenomenal company bring home the horror of combat and disarm audiences.
  • Girls Like That – London’s Unicorn theatre has a world-class reputation for theatre for young audiences and its production of Evan Placey’s Girls Like That gripped the roomful of teenagers I watched it with in 2014. It’s online in full and offers a raw account of adolescent anxiety, slut-shaming and self-belief. In-your-face theatre that stays in your mind.
  • Le Patin Libre – Think dance on ice and you’d imagine sequins and staggering TV celebrities but the Canadian troupe Le Patin Libre has taken the artform into a new dimension. In their double bill Vertical Influences, the skaters turned the rink into a mesmerising stage slowly decorated by the patterns cut by their blades.
  • Woke – LIVR is a subscription service that enables you to catch up on theatre in 360-degree virtual reality. Pop your smartphone into the headset they send you and experience a range of shows including Apphia Campbell’s Fringe First award-winning show Woke, which interweaves the stories of Black Panther Assata Shakur and the 2014 Ferguson riots.
  • John Leguizamo’s Latin History for Morons – Self-isolation may mean that many of us will use living rooms to both teach children and watch theatre. An opportunity to combine the two can be found courtesy of the super-charismatic John Leguizamo – an inspirational tutor if ever there was – whose one-man Broadway show Latin History for Morons is on Netflix.
  • My Left Nut – This is cheating as it’s a TV series but BBC3’s superb comedy drama is based on one ofthe most uproarious and affecting fringe theatre shows of recent years. It’s based on Michael Patrick’s own teenage experience of a medical condition that left his testicle “so big you could play it like a bongo”. Wince.
  • Rosas Danst Rosas – Love dance? Need to exercise at home? Then join the queen of Belgian avant-garde performance Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker as she talks you through how to perform her 1983 classic Rosas Danst Rosas. All you need is a chair, a bit of legroom and enough space to swing your hair.
  • Dead Centre have released the recording of ‘Lippy’ (2013ish) – link here: and password is context
  • For Katie Mitchell/opera fans, the Bayerische Staatsoper in Munich is streaming her recent production of ‘Judith’ until 26 March. Link here:

Other video resources:

Theatre-related programmes and features on streaming services:


Search for podcasts using your favourite app…

  • Beyond Shakespeare is broadcasting a series of lunchtime readthroughs of non-Shakespeare early modern plays. Check out their twitter page for updates:
  • Pursued by a Bear – by Exeunt Magazine
  • AdLib – York Theatre Royal’s podcast
  • Pod4Ham –  a song by song examination of Hamilton
  • Hamiltcast – a no-stone-left-unturned exploration of the groundbreaking show Hamilton, its multilayered musical treats and its cultural impact.
  • Royal Court Playwright’s Podcast – Simon Stephens interviews 40 playwrights
  • David Tennant Does a Podcast With…
  • NT Talks – 10 years of talks with actors, directors and more recorded at the National Theatre
  • Curtain Call Theatre Podcast – spotlights current shows through wide-ranging interviews, which give listeners a detailed sense of what it takes for a show to come together.
  • “Variety’s Stagecraft” – a deep gold mine of searching interviews with actors and other theater professionals about their Broadway and off-Broadway endeavors.
  • Playing On Air – contemporary one-act play performed by actors like Adam Driver, Audra McDonald and Michael C. Hall, followed by a conversation with the creative team.
  • ‘Off Book: The Black Theatre Podcast’ – features conversations between the hosts and a selection of guests from all walks of theatrical life, including actors, costume designers and writers.
  • BBC podcasts: In Our Time, The Life Scientific, Infinite Monkey Cage, Desert Island Discs, From Our Own Correspondent, Friday Night Comedy, You’re Dead to Me, Forest 404
  • Other non-theatre recommendations: Guilty Feminist, Global Pillage, The Best Pick, 99% Invisible, Ologies, Reply All
  • RTE Radio Drama. Radio plays from Ireland’s national broadcaster
  • BBC 4 Radio Drama

Exeunt’s list of Distractions, inspirations, projects and more (

Other resources

For any teachers of drama who have had to hastily convert their teaching to online platforms, this Google Doc has some excellent, drama-specific resources and advice:

Teaching Theatre Online: A Shift in Pedagogy Amidst Coronavirus Outbreak –