The Stage – News – Sam Mendes’ freelancers fund boosted to £1.6m by celebrity donations

Sam Mendes’ Theatre Artists Fund, launched earlier this month, has already trebled its amount raised for freelancers affected by the pandemic, with high-profile donors including Benedict Cumberbatch, Eddie Redmayne and Imelda Staunton.

The Theatre Artists Fund was established with an initial £500,000 donation from Netflix, but has now raised £1.6 million for self-employed theatre workers who have been pushed to “breaking point” during lockdown.

Its creation was spearheaded by the Oscar-winning director and is run by the Society of London Theatre and UK Theatre.

The total raised so far will provide 1,600 grants, of £1,000 each, which will distributed next week.

However, organisers revealed this is “just a fraction” of the support needed, with 4,000 people applying for money in the first week of the fund’s existence alone.

Netflix has been joined as a headline sponsor by the Estate of Sir Peter and Lady Saunders, while the fund has also received donations from the Mackintosh Foundation, Eilene Davidson Productions, the Andrew Lloyd Webber Foundation, Benedict Cumberbatch and Sophie Hunter, and the Linbury Trust.

Producers Sonia Friedman and Caro Newling have also become donors, alongside Colin Firth, Hugh Bonneville and Tom Hiddleston.

The fund has also received £86,000 through its online donation platform, from members of the public and figures such as Michaela Coel, Nicholas Hytner, Emma Thompson, David Hare and Armando Iannucci.

Mendes said that despite the encouraging figures, he hoped to raise more money to help the “thousands more actors, writers, directors, stage managers and costume designers” who need urgent help.

“I urge other studios, streaming platforms, business owners, philanthropists and theatre lovers to come forward and show their support in order to help more of those in need,” he said.

SOLT chief executive Julian Bird said: “This fund is an industry initiative designed to provide a short-term lifeline to the core workforce of the theatre sector’s ecosystem. To see so many key industry figures writing cheques to support talent in great need is hugely encouraging.

“However, in lieu of details on how the welcome £1.57 billion investment package will be disseminated, we need to raise a lot more money and we need to do it fast, if we are to encourage people to stay in their professions and not abandon this wonderful sector.”

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