Carrie Reiner, Director of Fundraising at The Albert Kennedy Trust: ‘It’s fantastic to see so many West End productions embracing diversity both on stage and off.’

Attention: There’s a special fundraising performance thing of COMPANY on Tuesday 12 February to raise funds for the literally amazing charity the Albert Kennedy Trust (AKT), for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) young people. I decided it would be a good idea to have a chat with Carrie Reiner, Director of Fundraising at AKT, about Sondheim, their 2019 plans & more.

The partnership with Elliott & Harper’s COMPANY is great. How did it come about?
Jonathan Bailey has supported AKT for awhile.  He has gotten to know our work and young people over that last couple of years and he wanted to help promote AKT’s work in a broader way.  Elliott & Harper were very supportive of the idea of a  Benefit Performance and helped to us to create a great evening for our supporters.

Have you noticed how rates of LGBTQ+ homelessness vary region to region?
As you might imagine, large population centres see the highest rates of LGBTQ+ homelessness. With service centres in Newcastle, Manchester and London, The Albert Kennedy Trust supports a large number of young people in those large cities – particularly London. We provided intensive levels of support to over 500 young people through our three service centres last year.  Also, over 1,300 young people accessed digital services from AKT. 34% came from London, and 24% from the South East.



 What is AKT’s biggest priority for 2019 – considering that 1/4 (24 per cent) of LGBTQ+ young people are at-risk of or experiencing homelessness and what with Brexit etc, etc.
Our biggest priority must be the wellbeing of vulnerable young LGBTQ+ people and ensuring they have access to the support and opportunities they deserve. The impact of homelessness on LGBTQ+ young people’s health, wellbeing, safety and life chances (education, employment) is often much greater than their peers. We believe the key issues facing LGBTQ+ youth at risk of homelessness are a lack of understanding amongst mainstream service providers who are just not equipped to deal with LGBTQ+-specific issues and in particular those of the trans community. Young LGBTQ+ people are often trapped in poor quality, possibly abusive accommodation and/or have low-paid jobs and can’t save up for a deposit. Welfare reform has also greatly impacted on LGBTQ+ people – in particular access to housing benefit.

What role can West End theatre play in society?
It’s a great platform to inform, educate, as well as entertain;  and also to see that diversity reflected in the subject matter.

What do you enjoy doing that has nothing to do with your career?
I am approaching a significant birthday so I’ve convinced myself that a regular gym routine is fun – even early in the morning.  I also enjoy travel, theatre and spending time with my family and dog.

COMPANY feels like a natural show for you to collaborate with – what can audiences expect from attending this Benefit performance? 
Company has been one of Sondheim’s best known and loved musicals.  But, the gender switch of roles in this production – and in particular the addition of a same-sex couple preparing to be married – make it something special.    Plus Patti LuPone’s return to the West End should not be missed by any lover of musical theatre.  The cast have really gotten behind our work and the evening’s performance in particular.  We have two prices of tickets available and the top tier provides a special drinks party with the cast.  They are really looking forward to sharing the evening with our supporters. Check out their brilliant videos on our social media channels.

What are the biggest challenges that AKT face in 2019 – and more broadly – charities in general?
In our 30th Anniversary year, our work continues to evolve.  Young people needing our help now come from increasingly diverse communities so our work has adapted to fit the need present.  We know that there are young LGBT people facing homelessness outside of our the physical bases so we must find ways to grow our digital services, and our research shows that the problem is on the rise as young people from more diverse communities choose to come out at younger ages than  past generations.   We also face competition from other charities, and with the post-Brexit economy looming ever nearer we may see some of our corporate and individual support lessen over the next few years.

What other exciting things does The Albert Kennedy Trust have in store in 2019?
2019 will see AKT mark it’s 30th anniversary, and we’ll be celebrating that throughout the year with special events in Newcastle, London, and our hometown of Manchester. We can’t give the details yet, but we’re currently working on a film and exhibition marking our anniversary. Our National Youth Conference and Gala Dinner will also be bigger and better than ever this year. Also, keep an eye out for our brand new brand identity in 2019!

Is there anything that you’d like to add?
If you are looking for a night out and want to avoid the Valentine’s Day hype, please do book tickets for this special evening.  It will be an evening to remember and it won’t be repeated!