How to support the arts industry as venues remain closed

Christel Deskins

The arts industry is struggling to survive as the lockdown continues, but you can support them by renting, buying or subscribing to a streaming service today: iStock The ongoing coronavirus outbreak has impacted many small and big businesses across the UK. The arts industry, spanning concert venues and theatres, have […]

The arts industry is struggling to survive as the lockdown continues, but you can support them by renting, buying or subscribing to a streaming service today: iStock
The arts industry is struggling to survive as the lockdown continues, but you can support them by renting, buying or subscribing to a streaming service today: iStock

The ongoing coronavirus outbreak has impacted many small and big businesses across the UK.

The arts industry, spanning concert venues and theatres, have been shut for more than three months and is one of many struggling sectors during the lockdown. The government announced on 6 July a fund of £1.57bn to help protect cultural venues including museums, art galleries, independent cinemas, music venues and theatres.

Already some venues have closed and will not reopen, while most will not be able to viably run with socially distancing measures in place if they do reopen

It came after weeks of pressure for the government to act. On 17 June, 98 prominent actors, writers, directors and creatives, including Phoebe Waller-Bridge and James McAvoy, signed a letter urging the government to do more to prevent further devastating problems for the arts industry. The letter says they are “concerned that British theatre is on the brink of ruin” and that the “pandemic has brought it to its knees”.

The letter goes on to say: “The existential threat to theatre is also one which endangers the important work that is being done to create and attract more diverse workforces and audiences.”

In May, Shakespeare’s Globe called for urgent funding to avoid closing permanently due to the pandemic, which has been shut since 20 March, and has said it would need at least £5m to survive insolvency.

According to the department for digital, culture, media and sport select committee, the theatre said: “Without emergency funding and the continuation of the coronavirus job retention scheme, we will spend down our reserves and become insolvent.”

Playwright James Graham also issued a stark warning about the future of the theatre industry, as previously covered by The Independent, saying it will not survive the coronavirus crisis without an “aggressive government bailout”.

He added: “It’s a collective art form; you need people around you to see it and do it and there is no middle ground now – if it’s going to survive in any form it will need an aggressive government bailout and you either do or you don’t do it, there is either theatre or there isn’t anymore.

In a bid to sustain themselves, here are five theatre groups who have taken to streaming their shows online for a fee that’s much cheaper than buying front row tickets pre-pandemic.

You can trust our independent round-ups. We may earn commission from some of the retailers, but we never allow this to influence selections. This revenue helps us to fund journalism across The Independent.

You can still watch Shakespeare’s plays performed at the Globe on its online player, with a selection available for free including A Winter’s Tale and A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

You’ll also find the Sonnet Project to watch, a series of sonnets set in New York City, created by the NY Shakespeare Exchange.

It also has a vast library of shows categories by comedy, tragedy, history which you can pay to rent from £4.99, or own for from £11.99. Titles available include Hamlet, As You Like It, King Lear and Macbeth.

It’s free to sign up and is a fun idea to try for date night, whether you’re self-isolating with your partner or separately.

Watch Globe Player now

If you’re missing trips to the theatre, make do with Marquee, a streaming service for dance, opera, music, documentaries and theatre from places like The Royal Ballet Company, The Royal Shakespeare Company and Opera Zurich.

It’s £8.99 a month or £89.99 a year, which will certainly save you money on tickets and get you a front-row seat to shows you might have missed out on.

Work your way through The Nutcracker, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Giselle with a glass of wine in hand dressed up to the nines in your best pyjamas.

Watch Marquee now

A £9.99 monthly subscription with Digital Theatre will give you unlimited access to theatre productions across the globe. You can stream across all devices too, so if you want it on a big screen TV or tablet in the bath, you can.

Its partners include The Old Vic, The Royal Opera House, The Royal Shakespeare Company and the English Touring Theatre, so you’ll be spoilt for choice one live productions to see.

We’d suggest Much Ado About Nothing, starring David Tenant and Catherine Tate, especially if you missed out on tickets when theatres were still open.

If you’re looking for a one-off watch, you can also rent productions for 48 hours from £7.99.

Watch Digital Theatre now

Self-described as the armchair theatre event of the year, Les Misérables is taking its tragic tale and well-loved soundtrack digital, available through Sky Store, iTunes and on Amazon video.

For the first 80,000 downloads, The Mackintosh Foundation will donate £5 to be split between the charities Acting for Others, the Musicians’ Union Coronavirus Hardship Fund and Captain Tom Moore’s Walk for the NHS fund.

To buy it will cost you £9.99, but you can also rent across the platforms it’s available on for £4.99.

Watch Les Misérables​ now

A die-hard Fleabag fan? Missing your stand up comedy gigs? Get your fix from Soho Theatre, who has taken its comedy productions and made them available on its streaming platform, Soho Theatre On Demand.

Signing up is free, and you simply rent the shows you want to watch, and you can watch it as many times as you like over the space of two days. Tickets cost just £4.

While we’ll definitely be signing up to Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s brilliant Fleabag Live, there are also comics Jessie Cave, Jordan Brooks, Desiree Burch, Jen Brister, Dane Baptiste, Adam Hess and Panti Bliss to laugh your way through too. Make sure you check the website regularly to see added shows too.

While you can donate to Soho Theatre, it’s also streaming to raise funds for UK charities on the frontline of the coronavirus pandemic.

According to the website, all proceeds (less taxes and processing costs) will be distributed to charities including The National Emergencies Trust (NET), NHS Charities Together and Acting For Others, as well as the newly launched FLEABAG SUPPORT FUND, which will distribute grants of £2,500 to freelancers working in the UK theatre industry affected by the crisis

Read more

Theatre industry will not survive coronavirus crisis ‘without bailout’

The streaming services you need to know about while self isolating

Here’s a list of every streaming service to enjoy this bank holiday

The best live theatre to watch for free online

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