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.
Until July 1st the majority of our staff will be on furlough leave as part of the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme. This means we won’t be as active on our social channels and it may take us time to get back to you, but if you do have urgent queries for us or want to get in touch you can do so by emailing email@example.com.
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 have 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 has continued online, providing over 50 local young people with free weekly activity via Zoom with leading artists
- 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 – 120 participants have signed up so far
- We have 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 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.
This is a hugely challenging time for the whole theatre sector and everyone who works in it. Working in partnership with freelancers and the artists we work with, and with other organisations, we have played a role in establishing what we need both to survive this period of closure, and to rebuild.
As part of the London Theatre Consortium we have submitted evidence to the Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport (DCMS), and advocated for the support we need at a local, regional and national level.
Together with others, we are currently calling for three key things:
- Financial support for freelancers and artists across the theatre and culture sectors. They form the backbone of our sector, are at the centre of who we are and what we do.
- An extension of current government support for organisations until we can generate enough revenue to be sustainable again.
- Additional financial support at the point of re-opening to enable us to continue to take artistic risk, and invest in new work and emerging artists.
We have kick-started a group of 14 freelancers to help us shape our response, both at The Yard and at a sector-wide level. The group, who are offered a fee for their time, have had two meetings so far, with minutes available here: Meeting 1 | Meeting 2.
In May we signed an open letter of support to freelance theatre and performance makers alongside many other theatres 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. To help establish the task force, we have made a financial commitment sponsoring a freelancer to join this group, one day per week in June, July and August.
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.
From the moment our spaces closed until the end of September we are forecast to lose nearly £440,000 in income. 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 the government paying them a reduced salary, and all but a skeleton staff furloughed during June. Most of those continuing to work have reduced hours and salaries, and senior staff have taken a larger reduction so that we can target more funding towards freelancers and programmes. We have then applied to Arts Council England to make up a shortfall until the end of September.
However, beyond this the future is very uncertain. The furlough scheme is due to end in October and Arts Council would only support us until the end of September. It looks like it will be a long-time until our business model can return to normal. Our theatre seats 110 people sitting close together and our Music & Events programme regularly hits 250 capacity on Fridays and Saturdays. With social distancing, it’s hard to see how these income streams will be sustainable, and when it will be safe for our audiences and artists to return in those numbers.
If you are able to, we would be very grateful for any donation you can make of any size, either as a one-off, or by becoming a regular supporter as a Friend or Guardian.
We would also encourage you to write to your MP and to the government to highlight the importance of theatre to our communities, and there are some useful resources here.