Government announces £157bn support package for the arts

Netflix donates £500,000 to Sam Mendes’s theatre support fund after director criticised streaming service for ignoring the arts

Mendes had previously criticised streaming services for not giving ‘a fraction of their Covid-19 windfall’ to the industry

Isobel Lewis
Monday 06 July 2020 10:34

Netflix has made a £500,000 donation to a fund set up by director Sam Mendes to help theatre workers “at breaking point”.

The Theatre Artists Fund promises one-off grants of £1000 to freelance arts workers in need of immediate cash, with Netflix donating the initial £500,000 one month after Mendes asked the streaming service to give “a fraction of their Covid-19 windfall to help those who have been mortally wounded”.

Speaking about the fund, the Skyfall director said: “It is specifically designed 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.”

He explained that grants were “not for buildings, or regular staff, but for freelance artists who actually make the shows that the public pay to see”.

The news comes as the UK government announced on Sunday (5 July) after months of silence that it would be offering a £1.5bn lifeline to help theatres, independent cinemas and other arts organisations stay in business while coronavirus forces them to remain closed.

The rescue package is expected to help world-famous cultural institutions like the Royal Albert Hall, the Royal Shakespeare Company and the Mary Rose Trust, with Boris Johnson saying that the money would help safeguard the arts for “future generations”.

Last week, The National Theatre told 400 casual staff members including front of house and backstage workers that they would be made redundant in August as the coronavirus crisis wreaked havoc on the theatre industry.

A spokesperson for the London-based theatre said: “We have committed to paying our casual staff until the end of August, but very sadly due to the changes in the government Job Retention Scheme we simply cannot afford to offer financial support beyond that point.”

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