When designers SceneChange saw Lambeth’s iconic National Theatre ‘dark’ – closed to the public, taped off like a crime scene – it brought home how stark and bleak, without light and warmth, closed theatres feel if they’re not filled with life, crowds and emotions. Scene Change offered theatres all across the UK the chance to star in temporary art installations wrapping them in vibrant pink and white tape, changing the message from ‘closed’ to ‘#Missing Live Theatre’.
Marie McCarthy of Clapham’s Omnibus Theatre says: “It’s the idea of animating the building that made us want to be part of it. Mid-March cancelled 157 events overnight, cut off our only source of income, took all the life out of the theatre. We were lucky enough to get an award from Lambeth Council to help fund running costs for a short period of time. We’re running Lockdown highlights online to support artists and companies who were programmed in our Spring and Summer seasons and trying to keep connected to our local communities – our Zoom creative writing classes for seniors, and we’ve just started summer learning participation theatre skills for under-11s – but at the moment our independent café is our only source of both arts funding and live people! Audiences are willing us to survive and it’s a long road ahead – but #MissingLiveTheatre is a message of hope that we haven’t gone away.”
“Our community miss their creative hub and the stimulation of live events and community classes,” says Laura Harling of Longfield Hall theatre. “We wanted to be part of this campaign that highlights the power of creativity from a hugely passionate industry, and we’re definitely missing live theatre. We created an online lockdown season, but it’s not live theatre and not accessible for all. Theatre feels like the only industry that had to defend itself to the government, with no reopening plan until last week. We can’t just fling the doors open and say ‘welcome back’ to live theatre, with freelancers and companies falling through the cracks of government emergency funds. Touring productions need the small theatre circuit to reopen. SceneChange are making our theatre into art with a message of hope for a week and the community can walk by and be uplifted by this art installation knowing we’re still here, we’re on the road to recovery.”
- For more about Scene Change, including their instagram campaign showing desks and studios waiting for people, as well as UK Theatres wrapped in tape, see their website
- Lambeth Council is committed to supporting our world class cultural sector, and recently provided £355,000 in emergency grant funding to 25 not-for-profit arts and culture organisations. More information here