THEATRE KEY WORKERS
Since COVID-19 and the closure of theatres, more than 70% of self employed workers in the creative industries are worried they will not be able to pay their bills (BECTU Union), including close to 50% not eligible for any government support (The Stage).
As a sector built on creativity, we have been known to innovatively turn every threat to an opportunity and the current pandemic is no exception. Theatre professionals are adapting, repurposing their skillset, both as a way to survive financially and to exist meaningfully for our community, something the arts sector prides itself in. This is a series of portraits to tell their stories.
Sarah currently works as a Home Carer in South East London. She was photographed on her route to work.
Special Effects Make Up Artist
Paris currently works as a Funeral ..... in Ealing.
Designer, Prop Maker & Stage Manager
Dev currently works making and testing ventilators at the Ford Engine Plant in Dagenham. They were photographed at the end of a night shift.
Hollie and Tanya are friends from drama school, during the pandemic they have both taken jobs in supermarkets.
Andrew currently works as a Tesco delivery driver in South East London.
Actor & Director
Nadia currently volunteers as a Chef with the charity FEAST! at a Women's Refuge in Islington.
- One day we arrived at the Shelter and there hadn't been any food donated, and we still had to feed 20 women. We (myself, a theatre director, & ?) managed to create a curry from the limited things we brought ourselves
- Noticed when volunteering in Calais previously how many of the volunteers were from the theatre industry. I think we are a very empathic bunch.
Producer, Writer & Actor
Kara currently works in an independent Health Food Shop in Lambeth North.
"When Lockdown started I was working on producing a show at the Edinburgh Fringe with my theatre company, Crossline Theatre. We had just confirmed a slot and funding, and then lockdown began and it all unravelled quite quickly. My freelance non-theatre job stopped about a week before lockdown due to the impact of social distancing, and it will likely be a while before it can resume. I was not eligible for the freelance support scheme, but thankfully I am still on the payroll as cover-staff at Camden People’s Theatre where I have worked on a 0-hours contract. Despite not having the opportunity to cover for them since December, they were able to furlough me based on my income from last year. If they are able to continue through the summer it will make a dent in the pay I’ve lost. I am hugely grateful for this! It has helped take some of the stress off.
My key worker role is in a small independent health shop near where I live. For the lockdown period, the shop was the only non-supermarket business open in the area and a lot of people would come in to feel some sense of “normal”. A lot of our regular customers are vulnerable people who rely on us for supplements and natural remedies, locals in the area, and NHS staff who work at the nearby hospitals. Many people have come in and talked about loved ones they lost to the virus, their own experiences recovering from the virus or their fear and loneliness.
At the beginning of lockdown customers were incredibly grateful, and very happy to comply with our social distancing and safety measures. Then once the government announced that businesses could start opening I felt a distinct shift. In the first week of June, myself and my co-workers all had incidents where customers got upset, kicked up a fuss, or were outright rude to us about our social distancing (not allowing access to the whole shop, not taking cash, etc.). That was a hard week for me because I still felt just as at-risk. Some of the community seemed to no longer care that we were key workers; they wanted to go shopping normally again. Thankfully that is not true of all our customers, and many continue to keep us safe."
Paul currently works at Tesco in Brixton. He was photographed after his final night shift before the end of his contract.