After the Prime Minister’s advice on Monday to “avoid” mass gatherings, theatre venues and cultural organisations across the country have taken the very difficult decision to close indefinitely.
This has undoubtedly left performers, creatives, freelancers, technicians and anyone working behind the scenes in a tough position. We’ve been speaking to our friends across the industry, discussing how we can help each other through these unprecedented times, and these are just some of the suggestions:
1. Donating to Charities/Crowd Funders
There are a number of charities working hard to provide financial and emotional support to freelancers and performers throughout this time. Nationally these include Acting for Others, Royal Variety Charity, Actors Benevolent Fund and The Royal Theatrical Fund. Initiatives have also been set up by the theatre community such as Funds for Freelancers by Paul Taylor-Mills. If you’d like to help local artists in the East of England, our colleagues Dilek Latif and Matthew Jewson have set up Artists in the East Coronavirus Fund that aims to provide hardship funds.
You can also help by directing your artist friends to the newly set up TheatreInfo website that has been put together by leading theatrical charities to centralise information about how and where they can access support.
2. Write to your MP
The petition to include self-employed in statutory sick pay during Coronavirus has reached over 100,000 signatures which means it will now be debated by Parliament. But it doesn’t stop here – make sure your voice is heard and write to your local MP to ask them to do all they can to support self-employed artists through these times.
3. Honouring pre-arranged contracts with Freelancers
At the Mercury we have made sure all of our freelancers/performers/creatives contracts are honoured. If you are a decision maker at another local venue please consider doing this if it is possible for you to. And if you know a decision maker speak to them about the importance of doing this.
4. Sharing Artists’ Live Streams/YouTube Channels
A lot of artists are creating online content to help others in the community and beyond through the loneliness and boredom of self-isolation. These have included impromptu concerts, exercise classes, dance tutorials, Q&As and more. These won’t necessarily make the artists creating them any money but the extra traffic to their social media pages could definitely help them get back on their feet when this is all over. So please, if you see anyone creating amazing content, help them out and SHARE, SHARE, SHARE! (It might also convince those of us working from home in desperate need of exercise to get out of our chairs and boogy on down…!)
5. Reach out!
A very simple one! If you have any freelancer friends in the industry make sure to check in on them when you can. See if there is anything you can help them with, but most importantly just lend them an ear, times are tough, and sometimes a good chat with a lovely friend can make things seem that bit brighter.