Theatre Royal Plymouth (TRP) has become one of the partner organisations of Sam Mendes’ Theatre Artists Fund which recently announced a £1.5M roll-out of its two-year pilot programme.
Sam Mendes’ Theatre Artists Fund provides crucial support for mid-career artists by creating full time professional positions in arts organisations across the UK. TRP successfully applied to be a part of the scheme and secured funding to deploy training that will benefit around 14 people over two years, plus the provision to support industry freelancers across the same period.
The programme has been designed to address the huge shifts in the creative workforce exacerbated by the pandemic. Largely affecting mid-career professionals, the upheaval is also impacting people looking to enter the industry with fewer experienced practitioners now on-hand to support essential professional development. This pilot seeks to embed skilled people back into buildings, provide financial stability and value them. A range of models for improvement are being explored, with a view to creating a blueprint for the future.
Brendan Cusack, Head of Workshop at TRP, said: “Our application to be a part of Sam Mendes’ Theatre Artists Fund comprised of three elements, including giving qualifications to makers who already have skills, developing people further and increasing environmental competency for our set building output.
“For us, retaining artists and makers within our industry is a priority. Our production and learning centre, TR2 has a diverse mix of individuals, many of whom have learnt their trade on the job, here with us. They are highly skilled at making scenery for drama, dance and opera, but would undoubtedly benefit from additional formal qualifications.
“The training funded by this pilot will allow our staff to expand their skillset and feel confident of their competency within our sector and will, crucially, retain personnel within theatre production. We’re thrilled to be a part of this hugely exciting scheme.”
Sam Mendes said: “This is proof that at least something good has come out of the pandemic, despite the fact that theatre and its practitioners suffered substantially during that time. I very much hope that this is the beginning of a scheme that will help many more theatre freelancers over the next few years. After all, those people are - and have always been - the beating heart of the theatre industry.”
Alongside TRP, other organisations signed up so far are York Theatre Royal with Wise Children, Leeds Playhouse, Chichester Festival Theatre, Lyric Theatre, Belfast, Nottingham Playhouse (with Rocket and Glitter Productions), Unicorn Theatre, Kiln Theatre, National Theatre with National Theatre Productions, National Theatre of Scotland, and Theatr Clwyd. Participants are undertaking roles in a wide range of departments including production management, design, company management, lighting, automation & rigging, costume, props, draughting and scenic art.
The pilot is operating in phases, responding to the recovery needs of each organisation which has the facilities and opportunities to enable mid-career professional development. Early partnerships and placements began in October 2022 whilst later partnerships and placements will complete by January 2026 at the latest. The final evaluation will be ready in early Spring 2026.