On 16th March 2020 we closed The Yard Theatre and our two community centres Hub67 and The Hall. But we’re still here.
Since then we’ve been busy supporting our local community, we ran a live digital festival, we’re making theatre online with young people, and we’re working with artists and other organisations to make the case for the support our sector needs to survive.
When we closed, we had no idea when we would be able to re-open. We still don’t. But we want to keep you up-to-date on what we’ve been doing, and what we think comes next.
We closed our doors on what should have been the first day of rehearsals for An unfinished man, an extraordinary new play by Dipo Baruwa-Etti, directed by Taio Lawson. Given the current uncertainty about when the theatre can open, and in order to ensure we can give the production the resource and the support it needs, we have taken the decision with Dipo and Taio to indefinitely postpone the opening. All the creative team involved have been paid their full fee for the show, and actors and stage managers were paid rehearsal wages. Our Box Office team will be contacting all bookers in July in order to arrange refunds, and we would be incredibly grateful for your patience on this. We remain committed to producing An unfinished man.
In May we ran a totally online festival Yard Online, which saw over 600 people watch and take part in free live events and performances by Marikiscrycrycry, Christopher Green, Stacy Makishi and Zoe’s Ghana Kitchen, a late-night virtual party by Eastern Margins and a town hall on the future of theatre. We were delighted to receive funding from Bloomberg Philanthropies to support the artists and creatives who we commissioned and employed, alongside our ongoing work with young people.
We have plans to continue to provide new platforms for artists, and to continue to reach audiences while we remain closed.
The Yard runs two community centres, Hub67 and The Hall. While our spaces remain closed, we have continued to support residents, and especially the most vulnerable. This is what we are doing.
- We have coordinated over 40 volunteers, delivering 175 meals thus far to vulnerable local residents and working with our partners the Wick Award
- We established a group of phone buddies who have made around 250 calls to local residents who are isolated or lonely
- Our work with our 4-19 year old Yard Young Artists continued online, providing over 50 local young people with free weekly activity via Zoom with leading artists and making their end-of-year performances totally digital
- We moved our after-school art club online, delivering free art packs with craft materials to young people in our area along with weekly online activity videos by artist Kirsty Ann Reynolds – 104 families participated
- We convened an E20 response group, bringing together housing providers, voluntary organisations and local authorities to identify local need and respond to, support and connect residents
- We helped to organise the first online Hackney Wick Town Hall for local residents to empower our local community to rebuild, and you can read the minutes of this meeting here
- We ran a huge virtual programme for young people to create gifts for a stranger in their community
- We launched a new project to help neighbours create package for members of their community in need of a little extra
We are hugely grateful to our funders for their support and flexibility in enabling us to respond quickly and effectively as well as our Friends, Guardians and corporate supporters.
We are planning more activity to support local residents through our two community centres over the coming weeks and months as we can carefully and safely begin to re-open them.
If you have any questions about our local programme or taking part please email firstname.lastname@example.org – bear in mind that it may take us some time to get back to you.
In May we kick-started a group of 14 freelancers to help us shape our response to COVID-19, both at The Yard and at a sector-wide level. The group were offered a fee for their time, and you can find minutes from their first meetings here: Meeting 1 | Meeting 2.
We also signed an open letter of support to facilitate the establishment of a national task force of self-employed theatre and performance makers, strengthen the influence of the self-employed theatre and performance community, create ongoing points of connection between freelancers and organisations, and amplify the voice of the self-employed in the conversations to come. We committed to sponsoring a freelancer one day per week throughout June, July and August, recruited by the freelance group through an open call. We sponsored The Uncultured collective, made up of Ashleigh Bowmott and Lauren Sweeney, who you can follow here.
Our business model relies on us generating revenue through our box office, hire of our spaces and our bar including our late-night Music & Events programme. This, alongside fundraised income for the work we do, enables us to produce and commission new shows, and to run our community activity with young people. Less than 10% of our annual income comes from Arts Council England, along with a further 7.5% in regular funding from local partners to support the core costs of running community spaces. This means that over 80% of our income relies on us being open.
Over the course of this financial year we are forecast to lose over £500,000 in earned income through our Bar and Box Office. We have been able to dramatically cut costs – the government’s Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme has been a life-saver, enabling us to furlough the majority of the team from mid-March with some now working through flexible furlough. All of our full-time staff who continued to work during lockdown reduced their salaries during May and June, and our Artistic and Executive Directors had larger reductions from April.
We were enormously grateful to be successful in our application for Arts Council England emergency funding until the end of September, and have been able to raise additional funding to deliver activity with local residents and young people. We’re currently planning how to re-open when safe to do so, whilst continuing to work with our community and artists over the coming months.