It’s not always easy to know how to help an industry in crisis, especially one as deep and widespread as that afflicting our arts venues.
But daunting as the task may seem, there are some things we can all do to help.
The government announced a rescue package for the arts and culture sectors is worth £1.57 billion. But this money will be spread across museums, galleries, theatres, independent cinemas, heritage sites and music venues, with a pot reserved specifically for national institutions. So while this investment is welcome, it won’t be enough to help every one of the UK’s 1,100 theatres, or many other arts venues.
There are more than 750 local theatres, which receive no public funding and are not part of large commercial chains. Many of these will be in towns and villages where they are the only live performance venue in their area. These are the theatres that will miss out on government money. These are the theatres that still need your support.
Venues will be looking for other ways that they can use their buildings while performances in front of live audiences are not permitted, which looks to be more the way in the future. They may reopen for film screenings, film productions for streaming, put on productions outdoors or reopen their cafes and bars. These activities will help pay for building maintenance and ensure they are keeping in touch with their local communities.
But there is still much the public can do if they want to help their local theatre to survive this difficult period:
* Make a donation to your favourite local venue or, if you had tickets booked for a cancelled show, donate the money back instead of accepting a refund.
* Book in advance for any shows your local venue has on sale for next year or if your local theatre offers vouchers, buy those instead.
* Support your local venue café or restaurant if it has reopened - they are eligible to register for the government Eat Out to Help Out so you may even be able to get a discount there.
If you are unsure about which local theatre to make a donation to, you could instead donate to Theatres Trust, the only charity that supports all of the UK’s theatres.
Theatres Trust is currently fundraising to offer more grants to smaller theatres to cover the costs of reopening after the lockdown and make adaptations for increased hygiene and social distancing measures that are likely to be needed when audiences are allowed back in.
If you don’t have money to spare, there are other ways you can show your support:
* Write to your local MP to tell them how important your local venue is to you.
* Share stories about venues on social media - it could be your happy memories of panto or you could repost your theatre’s appeal.
* If the worst does happen and your favourite venue goes into administration, you could set up or join a campaign group, bringing together everyone in your area who cares about it. Theatres Trust can give advice about setting up and run an effective campaign group.
Visit theatrestrust.org.uk for details.
Meanwhile, to avoid a catastrophic outcome for grass roots artists, workers and musicians, Music Venue Trust has launched a Grassroots Music Venue Crisis Fund.
In the next three months alone, the trust says it needs the resources and financial backing to prevent more than 550 potential closures. It wants to save every single grassroots music Venue in the UK so that it can reopen.
Visit musicvenuetrust.com for details.
* This article is part of The Show Must Go On, JPIMedia's campaign to support live arts venues