The Stage – News – Sam Mendes’ freelancer fund raises a further £1.9m for theatre workers

The Theatre Artists Fund, established by Sam Mendes to support freelancers struggling during the pandemic, has reopened for applications after receiving a further £1.9 million in donations.

It has also revealed that every eligible applicant for its £1.6 million first round has been offered a grant, meaning 1,600 theatre workers across the UK have each been awarded £1,000.

The fund has now been given a £1 million injection from Arts Council England, and donations from actors including Jim Broadbent, Michelle Dockery and Ralph Fiennes, writers Peter Morgan and Lee Hall, designer Es Devlin and director Phyllida Lloyd.

They have contributed towards a further £1.9 million that has now been raised, taking the total to £3.5 million.

The second round is now open for applications.

The fund was set up last month by the Oscar-winning director, the Society of London Theatre and UK Theatre, and was kick-started with a donation from Netflix, after Mendes called for streaming giants to support the theatre talent they benefit from.

It is intended to support theatre freelancers needing urgent financial support as a result of the coronavirus crisis.

Mendes said: “This fund has enabled us to move fast in response to the urgent need among freelancers and self-employed theatre artists. But the situation is still desperate and many more still need help.

“We owe a huge debt of gratitude to Arts Council England for this transformative contribution, which I hope will lead to an ongoing relationship with the fund as it grows in scale and permanence.”

Simon Mellor, ACE’s deputy chief executive for arts and culture, said supporting the sector’s individual artists and workers was a priority for the funding body.

“The Covid-19 crisis has had a huge impact on every part of our cultural sector – but individual artists and freelancers have been especially badly hit, losing work and uncertain of their future,” he said.

He added: “I’m delighted we’ve been able to contribute to the Theatre Artists Fund, which is working to provide a lifeline to thousands of theatre professionals, including those from our most under-represented communities, during this unparalleled crisis for the arts.”

The second round of applications is now open, and will remain so for the next two weeks, closing on September 10.

More details about the eligibility criteria can be found here.

SOLT and UK Theatre chief executive Julian Bird said: “Theatre wants to take its place alongside restaurants, galleries, museums and cinemas in being a major contributor to the economic and social recovery of the nation, as well as entertaining our audiences and supporting our local communities.

“However, until we have a date for reopening theatres, as normal, thousands of our workforce remain in desperate need, and that’s why this fund is so vital.”

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