Theatre Funding: Complete Guide
From watching Shakespeare on the floor of the Globe Theatre to capturing new fringe theatre in the back room of a pub, London has always offered a myriad of unrivalled theatre experiences. In recent years, however, we are seeing more and more that only certain types of theatre productions are receiving funding and getting commissioned. These productions tend to be those that are aimed at the mainstream, designed to please crowds and fill the capital’s theatres. As a result, there is a growing concern that more challenging works are not being backed and UK theatre is all the poorer for it.
Across the country, the Arts in general have taken a hit in this period of austerity. Without government or corporate support, fantastic charities like IdeasTap have closed. Peter De Haan, the chairman of IdeasTap and founder of The Peter De Haan Charitable Trust, states: “the recent Warwick Report suggests that the arts are not catered for by government agencies, and that arts education is steadily being marginalised.”
The Warwick Report to which De Haan refers was published in 2015 and is the result of a year-long investigation by the Warwick Commission entitled Enriching Britain: Culture, Creativity and Growth. It explores Britain’s Cultural and Creative Industries and outlines how important it is for everyone to have equal access to ‘a rich cultural education and the opportunity to live a creative life.’ You can download the full report here.
Theatre in all its forms is at the heart of the success of arts and culture in Britain and society in general as outlined in the Warwick Report. In 2022, it is still imperative that theatre makers are not disheartened and fight to get the funding that will allow them to get their work out there.
The pandemic made it so much harder for theatre performers and producers to stay afloat. A survey conducted a year after the pandemic revealed that over 95% of theatre organisations were worse off due to Covid. While the UK rallied together to support theatres in Covid times, many production companies still struggled through the uncertain period.
It is clear that funders on a national scale are nervous about taking risks and tend to stick to safer bets. It is therefore harder to find backing for your theatre projects, even more so if you want to do something challenging, but the need to do so is greater than ever.
In this article, we look at theatre funding in the UK and share some information on where you can go to secure funding for theatre productions. In most cases, when it comes to funding, you will need to fulfil a set of criteria for the funder but do so without losing sight of your idea. The agendas of the funders and levels of accountability required vary between organisations and are also worth bearing in mind.
When it comes to theatre funding, the majority comes via the Art Council England and the Lottery.
Arts Council England (ACE) – https://www.artscouncil.org.uk/what-we-do/supporting-arts-museums-and-libraries
ACE provides funding on a national basis, supporting theatre that serves communities and is targeted for specific audiences. According to their website, they “champion artistic collaborations and ideas that increase opportunities for a wide range of artists and participants to experience the transformative powers of theatre.” They also provide funding over a three year period through the National portfolio.
The National Lottery provides a range of funding with various criteria and objectives. You can search the funds using this funding finder tool or read more on the main funds below.
The National Community Fund
There are a number of different funding opportunities available via the National Community Fund. For small lottery grants of between £300 and £10,000, ‘Awards for All England’ supports voluntary or community organisations. Funding is available for ‘putting on an event, activity or performance’ to benefit the local community.
Heritage Lottery Fund https://www.heritagefund.org.uk
The Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) offers awards between £10,000 and £100,000 for projects that preserve heritage or increase people’s understanding of it. This includes helping local groups preserve local traditions and culture. There is also the Young Roots programme that funds projects helping young people (aged 11 – 25) to understand and take part in their heritage.
Funding for Theatres
The Theatres Trust – http://www.theatrestrust.org.uk/how-we-help/grants-funding
With a mission to protect theatres for everyone, the Theatre Trust offers grants of up to £5000 for theatres run by charities and not-for-profit groups to carry out capital improvements to enhance their work within the local community. Applications for the Theatre Protection Fund Small Grants scheme can be submitted at any time.
The Garfield Weston Foundation – https://garfieldweston.org/
The Garfield Weston Foundation supports a wide range of organisations across the country including theatres by providing grants for ‘capital projects to improve the visitor experience.’ The Foundation supports small community theatre groups and those organisations that engage with a variety of audiences.
Suez Trust (formally SITA) – www.suezcommunitiestrust.org.uk/apply-for-funding
The Community Fund offers grants of up to £50,000 to ‘not for profit organisations wishing to improve leisure and recreation facilities’ like theatres. The funds are split into two – the Smaller Projects Fund (up to £20K) and Primary Fund (up to £50K). To qualify you have to be based within one of SUEZ UK’s active funding zones, which exist within a 3 mile radius of a qualifying SUEZ (formally SITA) site.
Grants and Funding for Theatre Companies
Foyle Foundation – http://www.foylefoundation.org.uk/main-grants-scheme-arts/
The Foundation supports performing arts projects, with an emphasis on education and ‘encouraging new work and supporting young and emerging artists.’ They are interested in projects that develop new audiences, providing funding for tours and festivals to facilitate this. They also consider applications for core funding from smaller organisations as well as building projects that improve existing arts venues.
Lloyds TSB Foundation for England & Wales Community Programme
The Lloyds Community Programme provides support to underfunded charities (12 months reserves or less) working to tackle disadvantage.
Funding for Theatre Productions
Esmee Fairbairn Foundation – http://esmeefairbairn.org.uk/what-we-fund/arts
The Foundation offers funding to arts organisations that have a regular annual turnover of over £50,000 to help improve the quality of life for people and communities, and lead to genuine social change. They are interested in emerging talent and unusual and innovative projects. The average grant is £64,000.
Stage One – https://www.stageone.uk.com/
Stage One offer a start-up fund to support new producers and productions with the overall aim to sustain the future of quality commercial theatre in the U.K.
The Andrew Lloyd Webber Foundation – http://andrewlloydwebberfoundation.com/content/category/grants
The Foundation offers grants to promote the arts as well as funding 10 musical theatre course scholarships each year at UK musical theatre colleges.
The Oxford Samuel Beckett Theatre Trust Award – https://www.barbican.org.uk/our-story/our-programme/theatre-dance/the-oxford-samuel-beckett-theatre-trust-award
The Trust aims to help the development of bold, challenging and innovative performance and encourage the new generation of creative artists.
The Award is open for a company or individual to create a show either for the Pit Theatre, Barbican or a site-responsive, non-traditional show to take place in East London.
Paul Hamlyn Foundation – https://www.phf.org.uk/
An independent funder with an interest in putting into practice new and innovative ideas to increase people’s experience, enjoyment and involvement in the arts in the UK.
Children in Need – https://www.bbcchildreninneed.co.uk/grants/apply/
Provides funding for projects that support children and young people experiencing disadvantage. Small grants are under £10,000 whereas main grants are over £10,000.
Note that Children in Need’s Main and Small Grant programmes are now on pause, however some grants were being made in early 2022.
NESTA (National Endowment for Science, Technology and the Arts) – https://www.nesta.org.uk/
Encouraging and supporting invention and innovation in the arts, NESTA offers awards from £3,000 to £75,000 that can last up to three years. The awards are designed to give talented people time, space, resources and support to develop their ideas.
Wellcome Trust– https://wellcome.org/grant-funding
The Wellcome Trust supports projects that bring biology and medicine to new audiences. The Arts Awards are designed to help develop imaginative and experimental projects that investigate biomedical science.
Jerwood Charitable Foundation – https://jerwoodarts.org/
The Jerwood Charitable Foundation (JCF) provides funding to enable arts organisations to thrive by developing their skills and encouraging creativity. They focus on supporting emerging talent and excellence amongst organisations and individuals.
The Odin Charitable Trust – https://www.fundingforall.org.uk/funds/odin-charitable-trust/
The Trust provides grants and funds for projects relating to arts and culture.
Theatres Trust – http://www.theatrestrust.org.uk/how-we-help/grants-funding
The Trust provides small grants scheme for charities and theatres run by charities and not for profits of up to £5000. In November 2016 they launched the Urgent Repairs Scheme in partnership with the Wolfson Foundation. This fund provides grants of up to £15,000 to theatres in need of immediate repair and maintenance
Grants and Scholarships for Theatre Performers
Mercers Company – https://www.mercers.co.uk/philanthropy
Mercers Company Provides grants to UK registered charities to promote the arts with a focus on supporting young professional performers at the start of their careers.
The John Fernald Award – http://www.equitycharitabletrust.org.uk/other-grants/john-fernald-award/
The Award focuses specifically on providing opportunities for trainee assistant theatre directors.
Mackintosh Foundation – https://www.fundingforall.org.uk/funds/the-mackintosh-foundation/
The Foundation awards scholarships to promote and develop theatre and the performing arts.
The Noel Coward Foundation – https://www.noelcoward.com/foundation
The Foundation provides funding primarily for the education of students in the arts of drama and the theatre.
Please note that The Noel Coward Foundation has paused new applications until 2023.
The Actors Children’s Trust – https://actorschildren.org/
The Trust provides funding to students who have a parent who is an actor.
The Fenton Arts Trust – www.fentonartstrust.org.uk
The Trust focuses its efforts specifically on the support of artists and actors at the beginning of their careers. Each year there are 25-30 beneficiaries.
Garrick Trust – http://www.garrickclub.co.uk/charitable_trust
The Garrick Trust aims to encourage theatre by focussing on helping professional organisations in need of financial support. They have a particular interest in helping actors, directors, writers, musicians, composers and choreographers in the early stages of their careers.
Funding for Actors
Equity Trust Fund – www.equitycharitabletrust.org.uk
The Trust is designed to help professional actors and performers in need of ‘emergency financial help’ or looking to explore different career paths.
Evelyn Norris Trust – http://www.equitycharitabletrust.org.uk/other-grants/evelyn-norris-trust/
Evelyn Norris Trust provides grants to help with rest, recovery and recuperation for performers who are injured, ill, or infirm.
The Actors’ Benevolent Fund – https://www.actorsbenevolentfund.co.uk/
The Actors’ Benevolent Fund exists to help members of the theatrical profession who are in need because of accident, illness or old age.
The Royal Theatrical Fund – http://www.trtf.com
The Fund offers support for people of all ages who have worked in the entertainment industry and need assistance due to illness, accident or old age.
General Funding Resources
Get Grants – https://www.getgrants.org.uk/funding-finder/
A free website that provides details on funding and finance opportunities, alongside training courses and networking events.
We Are Creative – https://www.wearecreative.uk/
The national membership organisation for the public arts, cultural education and creative industries helps bridge the gap between commercial companies and publicly funded cultural organisations to ensure creative excellence.
Covid Support for Theatres
Closures during the pandemic placed many theatre companies under even more strain. As a result, many organisations rallied together to provide Covid theatre support for anyone working in the industry.
Culture Recovery Fund – https://www.gov.uk/government/groups/culture-recovery-board
This scheme was launched by the UK government and distributed by Arts Council England. Three rounds of grants have been rolled out to theatre companies in need, with the final round currently in its assessment phase.
Acting For Others – https://www.actingforothers.co.uk/
Whether you’re a theatre actor, producer or front of house staff, Acting For Others provide financial support via a selection of charity members.
Equity Charitable Trust – https://www.equitycharitabletrust.org.uk/emergencywelfaresupport/
Equity Charitable Trust offers emergency support for theatre professionals, as well as Welfare and Educational grants, to help you get through financial hardship.
Backup provides support to tech professionals in the industry, launching the Hardship fund to aid Covid recovery. Three rounds of funding have been distributed so far, and will update their website with more information regarding the next.
Other Ideas for Theatre Fundraising
The potential for collaboration is huge. If you are a smaller company or an individual performer by teaming up with bigger institutions you can benefit from a great amount of support and extend your reach. This article in the Guardian explores the potential benefits.
Crowd Funding for Theatre
Crowd funding is a big thing nowadays. As other forms of funding and revenue become harder to secure, it can be more effective to pitch your project directly to the people and allow them to fund your production in return for a reward.
Some of the main crowd funding platforms include
Just Giving – https://justgiving.blackbaud.com/for-charities
Add a Just Giving button to your website to allow people to easily donate to your theatre if it is non-profit or a charity.
20 Bedford Way Theatre Venue
At 20 Bedford Way, we know just how important a role that theatre plays in society and we also appreciate how difficult it can be to put on productions when funds are tight. It is for these reasons that we are happy to offer a limited amount of free evening rehearsal space with bookings of our Logan Hall theatre. Logan Hall seats 933 people and is equipped with a stage with curtains, six changing rooms, 60 channel stage lighting, and a 2.4 kw PA system. The adjoining Crush Hall has an interval bar and space for a box office and cloakroom. We also have a drama studio available to hire. To make an enquiry and find out more about our affordable rates and theatre venues for hire, contact us today on 020 7612 6143.
Necessary to put your idea first and not let it become compromised in the quest for cash as articulated by Lyn Gardner in the Guardian.
Header image via the National Library of Ireland on Flickr.