At Freelancers Make Theatre Work, we are keenly aware of the extraordinary generosity of theatre charities during COVID: there is no question of the positive difference these funds have made to individual theatre workers in unexpected need. 

The government announcement on Saturday has created a new, immediate and urgent need for crisis support in the theatre sector – some individual cases have rapidly emerged which show how abruptly impacted freelancers in the sector have been. The circumstances are entirely shocking – nobody could have prepared for this… neither charities nor those theatre workers needing financial help.

Freelancers who were about to start work are no longer doing so. Freelancers who were just ‘managing’ with a mix of strategies, including work in the hospitality sector, are now completely exposed. Freelancers who have been entitled to SEISS, now have a gap in that support before it will be paid out again. And freelancers ineligible for any government schemes are once again facing impossible choices.

As this lockdown is short and sharp, could charities’ responses adapt to be short and sharp in return?

Over the weekend and today, FMTW have been listening to our colleagues, and have collated a shortlist of what might be helpful considerations for fund-holders. Structures and mechanisms  of the charities may make it difficult for them to change processes at speed. However, there are some clear areas which should increase accessibility and boost effectiveness right now. 

The key thing is speed. This is money for basic needs, that’s it.

– smaller cash sums to more people? We suggest a maximum of £500.

– four rounds of cash grants? One per week, allowing time for applications to be spread equitably.

– the easiest possible application process (with a range of options for evidence being: a CV, website link, 100-word description of circumstances, a letter of support). No long or complicated forms.

– immediate distribution of cash. No more than a week between application acceptance, and cash arriving. When publicising the fund, give examples of why applicants might need the money to encourage those with genuine need to overcome their reticence. e.g. rent, mortgage, food, credit card, etc.

– this is about need now: previous access to government or other support should not exclude applicants this time.