How theatres have stepped up to help others during COVID-19 pandemic

Friday, 14th August 2020, 8:00 am
Updated Friday, 14th August 2020, 10:25 am

Theatres may have been under lockdown for the past few months - but that hasn’t stopped them performing vital roles in their communities.

Dozens have been helping with the national effort to fight coronavirus and care for those suffering during the pandemic.

Wolverhampton Grand opened up its auditorium to over 40 NHS staff from the local hospital, who have been using the building to conduct training while maintaining social distancing.

The Harlequin in Redhill took on a new function during the coronavirus emergency as a base for Reigate & Banstead Borough Council to support residents in need.

Settle Victoria Hall became a ‘community response hub’, coordinating the delivery of prescriptions and shopping, pet care, shopping and more

Berkshire’s Watermill Theatre has also supported its community in a number of ways, from making scrubs for the NHS to hosting a local paramedic at its on-site actors’ cottage and doing deliveries for people in the local community who can’t go shopping.

Derby Theatre’s community-based approach has included holding advice surgeries and online workshops for emerging artists on the support available, how to manage a crisis and wellbeing. The Youth Theatre now meets online, and its staff have also been delivering food parcels to young people in care.

Chester’s Storyhouse has also been reaching out to some of the most vulnerable, providing access to a phone line for ‘chatter and natter’ to tackle social isolation.

Many theatres’ costume departments have been turning their skills to making scrubs for the NHS including English National Opera, Barn Theatre in Cirencester and the Royal Exchange Theatre in Manchester.

Birmingham Rep has also been making machine washable bags so scrubs can be washed safely and has been collecting material for this purpose from its stage door.

Meanwhile, Chichester Festival Theatre has given the rooms usually used by visiting performers to hospital staff.

Settle Victoria Hall, on the edge of the Yorkshire Dales, is the world’s oldest music hall. When it closed for performances in March, it became a community response hub, coordinating the delivery of prescriptions and shopping, pet care, liaison with local services and businesses, and providing a calm, friendly, trusted voice on the other end of the phone for isolated and vulnerable people. A meeting room has been converted into a ‘visor workshop’, assembling more than 2,200 masks that have been sent out to care homes, ambulance stations, hospitals, medical centres and professionals, and others throughout the area.

Slung Low, which runs the Holbeck and the Cultural Community College in Leeds, has been acting as a lead organisation coordinating volunteers to deliver food parcels, prescriptions, and laundry in its area.And several theatres including Curve in Leicester, Tyne Theatre and Opera House in Newcastle and the Lyceum and Traverse in Edinburgh have donated food to vulnerable families’ food banks and shelters.

The theatres’ work highlights how important they are to the towns and cities they serve.

* This article is part of The Show Must Go On, JPIMedia's campaign to support live arts venues