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10 things you can do to help theatres during venue shut downs

Theatres are in uncertain times after the latest Government announcements

The Sondheim Theatre
© WhatsOnStage

As it is repeatedly said, these are unprecedented times both for society and our industry. Last night theatres across the nation went dark following the Prime Minister's advice to "avoid" mass gatherings. He did not close venues outright, meaning many will be scrambling to make ends meet over the coming months, which in turn will have a drastic impact on artists, freelancers, makers, technicians, and anyone working behind-the-scenes on stages across the nation. Here are a selection of ways to help.

1.Donate to charities supporting the industry

There are a raft of charities that have already mobilised to help those, especially freelancers, who don't have any money to support themselves as opportunities and productions shut down across the UK. A few of them are www.actingforothers.co.uk, www.royalvarietycharity.org, www.actorsbenevolentfund.co.uk while artists such as Paul Taylor-Mills and Bryony Kimmings have set up funds and initiatives to help those in need.

2. Buy venue memberships

A small way to give theatres cash injections (and to give yourselves perks and access to tickets for post-shotdown shows ahead of time) is to buy into membership, friend and loyalty schemes available on their websites. A win-win, if you have the means to help out in a financial way.

3. Donate over refund

A lot of venues are asking, if they have the means, for patrons to refund and instead see their ticket cost as a donation to help the theatre continue to function. Considering almost every venue relies on ticket income to survive, the goodwill of audiences is vital to keeping institutions afloat during these trying times.

4. Buy play scripts

Even if you don't have a chance to watch a full production, you can still have play scripts delivered to you – which will allow you to support writers and companies across the UK, as well as our incredible assortment of script publishers. This doesn't just apply to scripts of course, you can also pick up instructional guides, theatre how-tos and general arts-related books.

5. Write to your MP

The Prime Minister's actions, by not closing venues outright, have left many theatres in, at best, precarious positions. It's key that this is remembered and that public opinion remains in the spotlight, even during trying times.

6. Buy merchandise

Mother's Day is coming up, there are a ton of venue-owned online stores available (The Globe, the RSC and the National all have them, as well as independent shops) so you can always find stage-y gifts to purchase. Also a great way to give someone a pick-me-up during these trying times.

7. Watch shows and performances online

In this digital age, a show can still go on even if there's no one in the room. Many producers are already cooking up ways to create content to keep performers in work and putting shows in front of theatre-lovers. We know venues like the Gate are working to do something similar soon. Stay tuned for more round-ups about what you can see online and where. There are also always cast recordings!

The West End cast of Leopoldstadt
© Dan Wooller for WhatsOnStage

8. Shout about things

Social media is there and is a vital way of linking up artists and opportunities in a time where they're at a scarcity. There are great Facebook groups – such as UK Theatre industry coronavirus group – that provide hourly updates on situations and advice. It's more important than ever to make sure people aren't feeling mentally isolated and worried – reach out to your fellow makers and make sure they're okay – there are a great wad of links here on Exeunt.

9. Subscribe, sign-up and keep an eye-out

At the moment, we don't know when things are going to go back to normal. But if you follow your favourite venues on social media, sign-up for newsletters or bookmark pages, you can be there to cheer on the industry as it has a bit of a wobble. WhatsOnStage's newsletter is available here, for example.

10. Look ahead

It may all look uncertain at the moment, but it is only through resilience that the industry will keep itself going. It's never too early to think about finding the light at the end of the tunnel – if you're an audience member then start drawing up a wish list of shows you might want to book for (either in the autumn or Christmas) as you can be sure that theatres will be re-opening with a bang eventually.

For artists, freelancers or producers, now is a time to make sure you're very much stable and able to take care of yourself, but opening up conversations with those in the same position about plans in the future is a good way to give something to aim towards. Solidarity and standing side-by-side going forward is essential.