Sam Mendes announces development of theatre artists fund into two-year pilot bursary programme

Theatre Artists Fund

At today’s South Bank Arts Awards, in recognition of his leadership in the creation of the Theatre Artists Fund, Sam Mendes was awarded the Sky Arts Individual Award for Innovation in the Arts During the Pandemic.  Accepting the Award, Mendes announced the development of a two-year pilot bursary scheme offering longer-term support to the cultural workforce. Theatre Artists Fund is working in conjunction with Backstage Trust on this scheme. This new program has a specific goal of empowering theatre workers and freelancers to be part of the next stage of recovery. It aims to create multiple employment opportunities and to include specific involvement and guidance from theatre practitioners across the entire sector. Initially, a two-year pilot scheme will seek to reinforce equality, inclusion and diversity focus and encourage peer support in the freelance community and organizations and skills development. Further details will be announced later this year.

Mendes said: “We want to take what we’ve learned from our work and create a new and permanent way of empowering freelancers for the future…In the coming months, we will be piloting a special bursary program working to make this fund into a foundation in conjunction with the Backstage Trust to ensure our theatre professionals are championed and included in the way they deserve for the benefit of the UK’s entire cultural sector.”

The Theatre Artists Fund, part of the charity Theatre Development Trust and administered by SOLT and UK Theatre has so far given 7,291 emergency grants, having raised just over £7.3million since its inception in July 2020. The financial security of many thousands of vital theatre artists remains in grave peril as the continuing uncertainty created by the pandemic and the Government’s response to it makes finding and keeping work extremely difficult. During his announcement, Mendes cited the extra-ordinary support of the numerous entities and foundations that helped initiate the Theatre Artists Fund and hoped they would continue their support ongoing. The fund continues to provide a lifeline for many and continues to appeal to people’s generosity and support. Donations can be made at