An open letter to theatre and performance makers

This is a letter to self-employed and freelance theatre and performance makers in the UK. To the actors, playwrights, directors, choreographers, stage managers, designers, stage crews and set-builders to name just a few.

We really miss being with you during this period of lockdown. Making theatre and performance is a collaborative endeavour, so we are particularly affected by having to be apart from one another right now. We’re not able to come together, in the same space, to share the experience of a live performance. We’re not able to practise and enjoy our artform in its most basic form.

It’s now looking increasingly likely that won’t be possible for months to come, and we recognise that many freelancers face real uncertainty about if and how they will be able to continue to work in theatre. 70% of people who work in theatre and performance in the UK are freelance or self-employed, and it’s for this workforce, in all its diversity and complexity, that the impact of the current situation is most acute.

During these past weeks we have had conversations with many of you to understand your needs and the ways you have been affected. We are writing to express our support for you, and to lay out some practical steps we are taking to improve the situation based on these conversations.

As well as exploring ways of producing work with freelancers during lockdown, and using this time to develop new projects with freelancers for the future, we are also are working together to coordinate our response to the government, to articulate clearly what we can offer and what we need.

Most urgently, we are calling for the Self-Employment Income Support Scheme to be extended in line with furloughing, for all self-employed workers, and in the specific case of theatre and performance workers, until theatres are able to safely reopen. We also want to see criteria removed from the scheme which are stopping legitimate and much-needed claims.

Some of you are already involved in these conversations. We welcome your voices and need to hear from more of you in the conversations to come. Your unique networks, skillsets, perspectives, and ideas are vital to the entire sector, and we need to work with you in our response to this crisis.

Each of the organisations who’ve signed this letter are committed to reaching out to their family of self-employed and freelance theatre makers; listening to how this is affecting your work and lives, and to your needs and ideas for the future.

More than that, we want to facilitate the establishment of a national task force of self-employed theatre and performance makers. The purpose of the task force is to strengthen the influence of the self-employed theatre and performance community. It would create ongoing points of connection between freelancers and organisations, and amplify the voice of the self-employed in the conversations to come. To help establish the task force, each of the organisations signing this letter will support a freelancer to join the group, ensuring they are paid for their time.

We want to offer a message of hope and solidarity. Our well-practised ability to work together, to form connections, and build relationships will help us through this. One day, hopefully soon, we will all be able to meet together, as people have done for centuries, in a shared space, for a shared experience. In the meantime, we remain committed to working for you and with you towards a sustainable future for theatre and performance.


Access All Areas

Action for Children’s Arts

The Almeida Theatre


The Actors Touring Company

Battersea Arts Centre

Birmingham Repertory Theatre

Boundless Theatre

Brighton Festival

Bristol Old Vic

Brixton House

The Bush Theatre

Chichester Festival Theatre

China Plate


Dance Umbrella

Derby Theatre

Eden Court Highlands

English Touring Theatre



Gate Theatre




Kiln Theatre

Leeds Playhouse

Leicester Curve

The National Theatre

National Theatre of Scotland

National Theatre Wales

National Youth Theatre of Great Britain

The New Wolsey Theatre

Northern Stage

Nottingham Playhouse

One Dance UK

Paines Plough

Rose Theatre Kingston

Royal & Derngate

The Royal Court Theatre

The Royal Shakespeare Company

Sadler’s Wells

Sheffield Theatres

Spare Tyre


Tangled Feet

The Yard

Theatre Peckham

Theatre Royal Plymouth

Tiata Fahodzi

Yellow Earth


Notes on the open letter to theatre and performance makers of 21 May 2020:

Why is this needed?

70% of our performing arts companies will be out of business before the end of this year. More than 1,000 theatres around the country will be insolvent and have to shut down this year, unless government intervenes with a rescue package.

More than 70% of the theatre and performance workforce is self-employed (SOLT, March 2020). 70% of freelance workers were already worried in March 2020 that they wouldn’t be able to pay bills (BECTU survey). A survey revealed that 60% of creative freelances predict their income will more than halve in 2020, and more than 50% of freelancers who responded to a snap poll have already had 100% of their work cancelled (Creative Industries Federation).

Who is the letter to?

It is to everyone who works in the theatre and performance industry in the UK who is self-employed or freelance. The self-employed are in an urgent and acute situation right now, and the situation will only get worse unless they are provided with much needed financial security and representation in conversations about the survival and future of our theatre and performance industry. We also recognise that structural inequalities in our sector and in our society, and the specific implications of COVID-19 itself for individuals within our industry, both contribute to a situation where this crisis is and will continue to be more acute for some than others. For example, but not limited to, D/deaf and disabled freelancers in our industry who face even greater challenges, of long-term shielding, managing their social care and navigating complex benefits issues such as Access to Work. Whether you have been a freelancer for a number of years or are just starting out (and therefore unable to access government support) we are addressing this letter to all those who are self-employed and freelance in our sector.

Who is it from?

So far, it is from all the organisations signed up at the bottom: these range from the large-scale to the small-scale, from producing companies to venues, from Cornwall to Inverness. Other theatre and performance organisations who would like to sign up to the letter, and commit to helping the freelancers’ task force, are still welcome to join. They can email to sign up or with any questions.

What will the task force do?

The idea is that each freelancer will be able to use their time to co-ordinate wider conversations with freelancers in their area and/or specialism, join regular meetings with the rest of the task force, work on ideas with and for the task force, and to attend other meetings and events on behalf of the task force.  We imagine that the task force will quickly establish its own agenda, set its own mission and undertake its own discussions, listening to an even wider group of freelancers. We hope all of this will then feed in to other sector conversations, including with producing and touring companies and venues.

How will this group feed into the wider work in the theatre sector?

As well as connecting with wider networks of freelancers, and with organisations across the sector, this group of freelancers will form a working group for Society of London Theatre and UK Theatre, so information, ideas and needs can be fed directly in to discussions with government, and the 25 charities being co-ordinated by SOLT and UK Theatre to support everyone in the industry.  SOLT and UK Theatre has also opened up its information webinars to all freelancers, and the next series will be publicised through this group as well.

How will the task force be set up?

Each organisation has committed to paying one self-employed theatre/performance maker for one day per week for 3 months – June, July and August. The idea is that this freelancer will be able to use that time to co-ordinate wider conversations with freelancers in their area and/or specialism, to join regular meetings with the rest of the task force, to work on ideas with and for the task force, and to attend other meetings and events on behalf of the task force. Engagement, contracting and payment of each member of the task force will be undertaken by the organisation supporting them. They will be paid a day rate in line with that organisation’s standard policy for a freelancer, in accordance with union guidelines. Selection processes will differ from one organisation to another, and we will work together to strive for representation, in all its forms, across the group. This work is underway: the task force will start work in June.

Why now?

The situation for the self-employed in the theatre and performance sector is acute. We need to increase the flow of information and ideas and amplify the voices of the self-employed in urgent conversations about the survival and future of theatre and performance in the UK now. This means we will almost certainly make mistakes in this process, and we will learn from them, and keep evolving. The situation is not static, and so our response is also a developing process.

How do I find out more / get involved?

If you’re an organisation who wants to get involved, your first point of contact is Kate on It is not too late to sign up.

If you’re self-employed and want to get involved, contact one of the organisations who have signed the letter to find out how to connect with them as a freelancer, by checking their website and social media channels for more information.

If you’re a funder or donor who would like to support this initiative, your first point of contact is Kate on

How can these organisations afford to pay for a freelancer at a time like this?

Many can’t, and all are facing severe financial challenges, but it’s important so we have all committed to doing so. Our organisations and our industry cannot exist without its freelancers. We have to work together, as we always have done, and even more so now: we need each other’s energy in the fight we have on our hands to survive and we need each other’s creative ideas to build back better.

Why is it only one paid freelancer per organisation?

We would all like to do more, but this is where we are right now. Paying just one freelancer now is, we hope, a stepping stone to a bigger vision of inclusivity, equality and empowerment.

What about freelancers who aren’t connected to any of these organisations?

We appreciate that this is only one initiative, and it cannot solve all of the challenges we face today. We need more routes for freelancers to be able to access information and have their voices heard. There are many organisations working on this, including unions like BECTU and Equity, and organisations like SOLT and UK Theatre and IPSE, who freelancers can also connect with, and many brilliant initiatives set up by freelancers all across the country.

Why is it only for theatre and performance makers?

Because the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on theatre and performance in the UK is catastrophic, due to the nature of the process of making work and the process of sharing it with an audience in proximity. Without significant and immediate investment from government, 70% of performing arts companies will go out of business this year and more than 1,000 theatres will be insolvent. Already, self-employed theatre makers have lost all their work and income for this year. The organisations cannot survive, and neither can the individuals.

How was this letter written?

We listened to the self-employed theatre makers in our communities and they told us they needed three things: access to information and support, financial security and advocacy, and inclusion in conversations about survival and the future. This letter seeks to work towards addressing those three needs.

‘Theatre Means Business’ website launched to help industry prepare for post-lockdown fightback

Society of London Theatre and UK Theatre have created, an online platform highlighting a range of live and recorded webinars to equip the theatre industry with the tools to begin rebuilding after the COVID-19 lockdown ends.

Created by SOLT, UK Theatre and partner organisations and hosted by experts in their field, the webinars will cover topics currently front-of-mind to many theatre industry professionals, including business interruption planning, audience development for recovery, and professional and personal resilience.

Sebastian Cater, Head of UK Theatre & Workforce Development, said:

‘Our members are having to take some tough decisions about their organisations at present, and we wanted to help them and the wider sector by creating this website. We’ve curated these webinars to provide the resources and support our workforce needs to plan for the future. We are extremely grateful to all the consultants and agencies we are working with on this project, many of whom have donated their time to help the industry as it rebuilds itself.’

The webinars have been designed to appeal to a range of experience levels. Most do not require SOLT or UK Theatre membership to join, as the aim is to provide advice and support to as many offstage industry professionals as possible – whether someone is working from home on business planning, furloughed and needing inspiration, or new to the industry and wanting professional development.

To make them more accessible, many of the webinars will be free of charge – with some SOLT and UK Theatre sessions giving the option to make a contribution, to be split between the two organisations and the invited speaker. Some partner webinars may have a cost attached. has been created by SOLT and UK Theatre’s digital team over the past three weeks as a direct response to the extraordinary events of recent times. More webinars will be programmed in the coming weeks based on feedback and suggestions from the theatre sector.

Full information about each webinar can be found on on the webinar event pages.


Theatre industry statement on government aid for self-employed


Yesterday (Thursday 26 March), Chancellor Rishi Sunak announced government aid for self-employed workers, who can now apply for a grant worth 80% of their average monthly profits over three months, made as a single payment from the beginning of June.

Commenting on behalf of the theatre industry, Julian Bird (Chief Executive of SOLT and UK Theatre) said:

‘We welcome the financial support announced by the government for self-employed and freelance people in our industry – this is very welcome and much needed.  We remain concerned by the ability of people to access adequate funds through the welfare system until payments start to be made under the new scheme in June, and urge a rethink of whether some form of interim payment can be granted to self-employed people.  Many thousands of people who graduated last summer will also not be eligible for the scheme, and will need rapid support.’

Theatre closures – SOLT and UK Theatre press statement

Following official government advice issued today (Monday 16 March), which stipulates that people should avoid public buildings including theatres, it has been announced that SOLT and UK Theatre member venues will be closed from tonight, to help slow the spread of coronavirus.

The theatres will remain closed until further notice and will re-open as soon as possible, following government recommendations.

Audience members for a show that has been cancelled will be contacted by their ticket providers and are entitled to a refund. Ticketholders are asked to bear in mind that customer service teams are currently extremely busy.

Julian Bird, Chief Executive of SOLT and UK Theatre, said:

‘We are extremely grateful to all of our audiences who have continued to support us for as long as they can, and to theatre staff across the country who have worked so hard in recent weeks to ensure the safety and enjoyment of audiences. Closing venues is not a decision that is taken lightly, and we know that this will have a severe impact on many of the 290,000 individuals working in our industry. In these uncertain times, SOLT and UK Theatre remain committed to helping provide vital support for those in need, and hope we are able to welcome audiences back to our theatres before too long.’

Many theatres that have been forced to cancel performances are charitable enterprises, and while ticketholders are all entitled to a refund for cancelled performances, those who can afford to do so are encouraged to donate the cost of their ticket to show support for the theatre industry.

Over the coming weeks, SOLT and UK Theatre will continue provide updates to the industry and the public as the situation changes, sharing current government and NHS advice.


Top 5 Shows Of 2019 (according to me)

Top 5 Shows

To get a sense of how many great shows played UK theatres in 2019, look at some of the outstanding productions that didn’t make my top 5.

The Boy in the Dress

The Boy in the Dress

From the RSC’s Robbie Williams powered The Boy in the Dress (brilliantly adapted from David Walliams’ book), the first actor-musician staging of Kiss Me, Kate at Watermill Theatre in Newbury, Ian McKellen’s herculean 80 date one man evening of autobiography that was a love letter to theatre, a reinvigorated West Side Story at Manchester’s Royal Exchange and, of course, Chichester Festival Theatre’s dazzling Oklahoma!

There was a dizzying array of delights on offer.

Let’s get the bad out the way, shall we?

Waitress. Oh Waitress…

Based on Adrienne Shelly’s film and scored by Sara Bareilles, the New York hit arrived in London in a flat, laboured, commercially driven production. It lingered on and on and on with haphazard marketing, repellent casting & the worst set in town.

Joe Sugg in Waitress

Joe Sugg in Waitress ( i can’t)

States of denial vary, obviously. But casting vlogger Joe Sugg and Pussycat Doll Ashley Roberts was a desperate attempt to keep the doors open that made me shudder.

A move which was either an act of open warfare on its own audiences or a demonstration of supreme charity towards superior broadway imports peppered across town.

Elsewhere, Sean Foley’s musical staging of The Man in The White Suit featured Stephen Mangan and Kara Tointon. Both performers were trapped in “what the hell’s going on” territory, and up against some hum-drum stage effects, while Sue Johnston phoned it in as a washer-woman.

The Man in the White Suit

The Man in the White Suit ( hellish)

Bizarre and ghastly, it left audiences in theatre hell and closed 6 weeks early.

Best we can say about The Man In The White Suit is at least it was brief.

I don’t think I have the energy to give Big – The Musical an autopsy – suffice to say it was totally terrible.

Anyway, my top 5 shows of 2019:

1. Life of Pi 

If I were picking a theatre of the year, it would undoubtedly be Sheffield’s Crucible Theatre.

Life of Pi

Life of Pi

With one compelling show after another in Guys and Dolls, Reasons To Stay Alive and then this remarkable reimagining of Yann Martel’s book. Everything was stunningly brought to life in a production of theatrical genius, cunningly adapted for the stage by Lolita Chakrabarti.

The puppetry was terrific and the stage design by Tim Hatley was gorgeous. The entire cast, led by Hiran Abeysekera were remarkable by any standards.

In case you missed this five-star spectacle, fear not; Crucible Theatre’s acclaimed production will come to the London stage next year.

The Wyndham’s’ auditorium will be reconfigured for the first time in order to accommodate the production, with seating levels altered and the stage extended out into the stalls. Unmissable.

Come from Away

Come from Away ( very good)

2. Come From Away

This feel-good musical comes straight from the heart and it is solid gold, winning the best new musical Olivier award, as well as best sound design and outstanding achievement in music.

Irene Sankoff and David Hein’s folksy show tells the tale of 7,000 stranded air passengers amid the chaos of 9/11 and the small town  that took them in.

A uniformly excellent cast captivate audiences for 100 storming minutes: you’ll laugh, tap your foot, cry happy tears, and leave feeling good about civilisation. A must see.

3. Death of a Salesman 

Originally staged at the Young Vic and transferring to the west end in the autumn, a beautiful piece of theatre which was and there are no two ways about this, amazing.

Death of a Salesman

Death of a Salesman ( stunning)

Wendell Pierce and Sharon D Clarke probably nailed some Olivier Award nominations with their outstanding and dusted down performances as Willy and Linda Loman too.

Arthur Miller’s timeless play – staged with clear-eyed precision by Marianne Elliott & Miranda Cromwell – was something special, while Wendell Pierce delivered a shattering portrait of a man adrift.

Dream team Elliott and Cromwell carved something new and utterly contemporary out of an old play, with the dislocating quality of a dream.

Broadway beckons, surely.

4. Standing at The Sky’s Edge

An astonishing musical, with new and old songs by pop star Richard Hawley and a snappy book by Chris Bush, possessed the rarest things in modern British musicals, a beginning, a middle, an end, and a sense of humour.

Standing at the Sky's Edge

Standing at the Sky’s Edge

The portrayal of high-rise communities in the iconic concrete housing estate could hardly be bettered. Sky’s Edge delicately told the story of three very different families through generations in the 1960s, 80s, and 2000s on Sheffield’s most notorious estate.

What moved me and others to tears, in this across-the decades wonder, also offerered one of the richest and most profound audience experiences of the year. Robert Hastie’s heartfelt production delighted in being visceral. Ben Stone’s concrete multi-level design both stunningly simple and enchanting; it all added up to something greater than the sum of its parts.

It was damn near perfect. I hope it has another life.

5.  Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat 

Look, 2019 marked 50 years since the original Joseph concept album was released. This summer, the eccentric show was back at the London Palladium.

Laurence Connor directed a cast including Sheridan Smith and Jason Donovan, who brought  charisma to a gleeful revival – but neither could match the professional debut of Arts Ed graduate Jac Yarrow. This was a shimmering summer pantomime.

Joseph at the Palladium

Joseph at the Palladium

At its centre, Yarrow elevated Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber’s silly musical to new heights; it was almost as if he was born to sing Close Every Door on that Palladium stage. I didn’t always know what was happening, but it didn’t matter – everyone left with a smile on their face after an entertaining and vibrant 100 minutes.


And that brings our list to a close. Not great news for 9 to 5 The Musical, but pretty good news for theatre’s best people.

The end.

Theatre Helpline running throughout Christmas period to support industry workers

As Christmas approaches, the Theatre Helpline will be running throughout the festive period, providing support and advice for everyone working in the theatre industry, whether in-house or freelance.

Launched in 2018 by Society of London Theatre (SOLT) and UK Theatre and run by Connect Assist, the free, independent and confidential 24-hour phone and email service is available 365 days a year for a range of personal and professional support.

Callers can talk to friendly, knowledgeable, trained staff about everything from bullying, harassment, mental health and wellbeing to debt and financial issues. Theatre Helpline staff can also signpost a range of useful external resources and support services if necessary.

This week, theatre venues and production offices across the UK will receive posters and flyers about the Theatre Helpline to put up around their workplaces.

Julian Bird, Chief Executive of SOLT and UK Theatre, said:

‘Christmas can be a difficult time for some, and we want to remind our industry that the Theatre Helpline is on hand as a vital resource for anyone struggling with a personal or professional issue – big or small – and unsure where to turn. One of SOLT and UK Theatre’s core missions is to ensure the theatre sector is a safe, supportive working environment, and the Theatre Helpline is central to this. Please spread the word about the Helpline among colleagues and friends.’

Theatre Helpline FAQs

Who can contact Theatre Helpline?

The Helpline can be used by anyone who works in the theatre industry. You can be employed, self- employed, a student or a volunteer, for example. It doesn’t matter what job you do. You do not have to be a member of UK Theatre, SOLT or any other membership body or organisation to use Theatre Helpline.

When is the Helpline open?

The Helpline is open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, all year round.

Is the Helpline free to call?

Yes, the Helpline is free to call from both a landline and a mobile.

Who is at the end of the phone?

UK Theatre and SOLT have commissioned Connect Assist to provide the Helpline. Connect Assist is based in Wales and provide Helpline support for a number of UK charities, including Film and Television Support and Help for Musicians.

The people at the end of the phone are professional, friendly, approachable and knowledgeable. If they can’t help you, they will refer you on to a person or source who can.

How is the Theatre Helpline funded?

The Theatre Helpline is funded by the Theatre Development Trust.

What sort of thing can I ring the helpline about?

It is a support line that offers anyone working in the theatre and performing arts industry a resource to help them deal with any issues affecting their health and wellbeing. The person at the end of the phone can offer advice, guidance and signposting.

For instance, you might be calling because you are going through a bereavement and want to know where you could receive emotional support, or because you have an employment issue and don’t know where best to turn to help you sort it.

Is my call confidential? Do I have to give my name or other personal details?

Your call is confidential. You can give as many details as you are comfortable providing.

The person on the helpline will ask you for some basic details such as the region you are in, or the sort of role you have in the theatre industry. They will feed back anonymous data, such as the types of issues people are calling with, to help UK Theatre and SOLT to continually improve the service and understand what may need to be developed in the future.

All calls are recorded for quality and staff training. All recordings are deleted after 3 months.

I am deaf / can’t hear very well on the phone / have a speech impairment – are there other ways I can contact Theatre Helpline?

Yes, you can email the Helpline on this email address:

I have some feedback on my experience on the helpline, who can I give this to?

They welcome your feedback on your experience using the Helpline. You can give us this feedback through emailing UK Theatre and SOLT on or the Connect Assist team on Please only share feedback on the service itself.

Theatre industry comes together to inspire young people about offstage jobs at biggest ever TheatreCraft

Theatre Craft

The UK theatre industry came together yesterday (Monday 11 November) for the 14th annual TheatreCraft, the largest free offstage theatre careers event for 16 to 30-year-olds. Hosted by the Royal Opera House, over 1,300 young people attended – making it the biggest ever TheatreCraft – with more than 85 industry professionals running nearly 60 workshops, talks and backstage tours.

Sessions ranged from tips on producing, writing, directing and marketing, to insights into technical theatre, armoury, scenic art, video design and costume, as well as expert advice on networking and getting a foot on the ladder of an arts career. The Royal Opera House offered tours and insight into its different backstage departments, and the nearby Lyceum, Novello and Cambridge theatres also hosted sessions.

A ‘careers marketplace’ in the Royal Opera House’s Paul Hamlyn Hall featured stalls from over 60 top theatre organisations and arts education providers, including the National Theatre, RADA, Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, the Royal Shakespeare Company, the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama, Delfont Mackintosh, LW Theatres, Ambassadors Theatre Group and the Lir National Academy of Dramatic Art at Trinity College Dublin.

The day culminated in a special Ambassadors Panel with leading Artistic Directors Yamin Choudury (Hackney Empire), Michelle Terry (Shakespeare’s Globe) and Matthew Xia (Actors Touring Company), who were interviewed by members of Mousetrap Theatre Projects’ Youth Forum and discussed the question ‘why choose a career in theatre?’. The Ambassadors opened the floor to the young audience for questions, challenging them to rewrite the rules and not be afraid to fail or change their minds as they find their feet in the industry.

TheatreCraft aims to inspire a new generation of offstage talent from all backgrounds, ensuring the UK’s theatre industry remains world-leading. The event, organised in partnership with the Theatre Royal Haymarket Masterclass Trust, the Royal Opera House, the Society of London Theatre and Mousetrap Theatre Projects, is one of several the theatre sector is involved in, as part of a drive to encourage new workforce talent for the country’s fast-growing creative industries. | @TheatreCraft | #TheatreCraft19

UK Theatre and The Audience Agency join forces to provide the next generation of theatre sales reporting

UK Theatre

UK Theatre has commissioned The Audience Agency to provide a new and enhanced sales reporting service through Audience Finder, the largest database of ticketed cultural engagement of its kind.

UK Theatre’s new service, provided by The Audience Agency, will auto-collect UK Theatre members’ sales data from over 200 auditoria across the UK through Audience Finder, generating more accurate reporting and ultimately painting a far richer portrait of theatre and the performing arts sales across the UK.

The reporting service will welcome UK Theatre members into the Audience Finder community, joining over 800 arts organisations already contributing to the overall picture and the thousands more benefiting from state-of-the-art insights into who their audiences are and who they could be. Through this collaboration The Audience Agency and UK Theatre can work to develop real data-driven insights about the resilience of theatre and the performing arts in the UK and the needs of their audiences in practical and applicable ways, for the benefit of our whole community.

Audience Finder ticketing data is powered by Arts Engines technology, jointly developed by Baker Richards and JCA.

Anne Torregianni, The Audience Agency’s CEO said:  “We are delighted to be able to provide the ease and efficiency of data collection and analysis to UK Theatre members that will help them to focus their energies more than ever on their audiences. Moreover, we look forward to working together to harness the power of data in improving reach, resilience and relevance across the arts and culture sector.”

Cassie Chadderton, Head of UK Theatre said: “This exciting new partnership between UK Theatre and the Audience Agency will enable us to report with increased accuracy on the contribution of theatre and the performing arts to the UK’s creative industries. The insight gained through Audience Finder will help UK Theatre further demonstrate the vital importance of theatre and the performing arts to the national economy and cultural life in the UK and we are excited to see the results.”

2018 Box Office figures released by Society of London Theatre and UK Theatre

  • Data jointly released for West End and rest of the UK for the first time
  • Resilience of UK’s theatre industry revealed
  • Strong audience and ticket sales figures from SOLT and UK Theatre members including several new records

Society of London Theatre (SOLT) and UK Theatre have released data for ticket sales across their member venues in 2018. The figures reveal a combined audience of over 34m and ticket revenue of nearly £1.28bn, from a total of 62,945 performances over the course of the year in the West End and across the UK.

London’s West End theatres drew in audiences totaling over 15.5m last year, resulting in box office revenue of over £765m – both record figures, generating over £127m in VAT for the Treasury. The year saw an increase in the number of performances to 18,708, up 2.8% from 2017. Hit shows including Hamilton had an impact on overall ticket sales in a very strong year for musicals, while plays experienced a dip in attendances and revenue.

Audiences for theatre across the rest of the country topped 18.8m, with a box office of over £509m. Theatres reported a slight increase in attendances, and also number of performances (44,237, up 0.2% from 2017), as well as a rise in income and average ticket price. This was largely due to increased yield at the biggest presenting houses, which bounced back after a small dip in 2017. Smaller producing theatres saw the largest dip in attendance and revenue, falling back in line with previous years after an unusually strong 2017.

2018 SOLT Highlights:

  • Attendances of 15,548,154 (up 3.0% compared to 2017)
  • Gross revenue of £765,800,051, (up 8.6% compared to 2017)
  • Average ticket price paid £49.25 (up 5.5% compared to 2017)
  • 77.5% of available seats filled
  • 18,708 performances

2018 UK Theatre Highlights:

  • Attendances of 18,806,659 (up 0.3% compared to 2017)
  • Gross revenue of £509,567,967 (up 8.4% compared to 2017)
  • Average ticket price paid £27.10 (up 8.0% compared to 2017)
  • 61% of available seats filled
  • 44,237 performances

Kenny Wax, President of SOLT, said:

‘As these figures show, London’s world-leading theatre industry is attracting larger audiences than ever after another record year. Increasingly, people seem to want to invest in high quality cultural experiences, and the West End is benefiting from this trend. We must be cautious heading into 2019, however, as the combined effects of some theatres going dark for renovations, major musicals closing and an uncertain political climate might have an impact in the coming months.’

Fiona Allan, President of UK Theatre, said:

‘2018 was generally a good year for the UK’s theatre sector, which proved robust in a difficult economic climate. London’s West End enjoys a symbiotic relationship with the rest of London and across the nations, with fantastic new writing and revivals originating all over the country and ending up in West End theatres, and West End productions touring the UK.’