Sam Mendes has spearheaded a fund to help struggling theatre workers (Picture: David Fisher/BAFTA/REX)

Sir Sam Mendes is spearheading a fund for theatre workers at ‘breaking point’, which has been kickstarted with a £500,000 donation from Netflix.

The 1917 director is hoping the fund will aid those working in the theatre industry in need of emergency financial support, amid the government’s recently-announced £1.57billion rescue package to ‘protect’ the future of Britain’s arts.

Sir Sam’s fund has been established with the hefty donation from Netflix and also counts Steven Spielberg, Armando Iannucci and David Walliams among its supporters.

The filmmaker – who previously called out the streaming platforms that were making ‘lockdown millions’ amid the pandemic – said: ‘Thousands of theatre professionals in the UK are struggling. Many of them haven’t been able to get help from the existing government schemes, and the situation continues to worsen. They need help now.’

Designed ‘specifically for theatre workers who find themselves at breaking point, for those unable to put food on the table or to pay bills, or for those considering leaving the profession altogether’, it will offer grants up to £1,000 per applicant.

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It’s been created to support freelance artists who have been ineligible for government aid during the coronavirus pandemic, which has shuttered theatres across the UK.


The Apollo Theatre on Shaftsbury Avenue
UK’s theatre industry is in dire need of help (Picture: Matthew Chattle/REX)

Sir Sam went on: ‘I am well aware that this is a drop in the ocean in terms of what is required for a full recovery, but I hope it might ensure some form of survival until the theatres can reopen again.’

The Oscar winner called for funding from individual donors and organisations, saying: ‘Please do consider a donation. I promise it will make a difference.’

Theatres and concert halls have been cleared to reopen but not for live performances, with Julian Bird, chief executive of the Society of London Theatre and UK Theatre, saying they remained ‘gravely concerned’ for the artists who have little or no income, and have missed out on the government schemes.

Bird added: ‘Currently these artists are completely in the dark as to when they might be able to earn money again.’

Anne Mensah, vice president of original series at Netflix, said: ‘Creativity is all about collaboration, and we are deeply concerned by the challenges our friends in the theatre now face, especially in the regions, and the likely consequences for the diverse voices and stories at the heart of our culture.

‘Playwrights and directors, theatre artists and performers, composers and comedians, are the lifeblood of our industry too and, while Netflix has been more fortunate than many, in the end we are only as strong as the people we work with.’

Sir Sam had previously called out the streaming giant for making millions while in lockdown, as theatre struggled to keep its head above water.

Previously Writing in the Financial Times, he said: ‘The performing arts need to be saved now. Not next week, or next month. If they die, an ecosystem this intricate and evolved cannot be rebuilt from scratch.

‘While a huge percentage of working people have suffered over these past three months, there are also many (whisper it) whom Covid-19 has made rich.

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‘It would be deeply ironic if the streaming services – Netflix, Amazon Prime et al – should be making lockdown millions from our finest acting, producing, writing and directing talent, while the very arts culture that nurtured that talent pool is allowed to die.’

Donations can be made here.

MORE: National Theatre axes 400 jobs as pandemic wreaks havoc on arts industry



Source: Metro