Several FST Members got together to write a letter to their performing arts colleagues to encourage them to use #LoveTheatreScotland on social media to emphasise why theatre matters, what it means to us and to our audiences.
Theatre is important to Scotland. Through theatre, we come together to laugh, cry, learn, challenge, discuss and feel. Whether we attend the family panto every Christmas or buy tickets weekly, theatre connects us. Research shows that our hearts beat together when we’re part of an audience, that sharing space and experience creates a communal physical reaction. It is the unique power of this connection that we’re all sorely missing right now.
On 17 March 2020, our theatres went dark to keep people safe. We care deeply for our audiences and participants and made the civically responsible choice: we know it was right to close. However, the impact of this on our theatre industry has been immediate and devastating. Make no mistake, this has brought theatre in Scotland to its knees. The ticket income that theatres rely on and have cultivated for decades stopped overnight. Some companies will fold. Those that survive are cutting costs by losing skilled and valued staff.
There is no clarity yet around when theatres can safely reopen or when audiences will feel comfortable enough to return. The professionals who have dedicated their training, skills and lives to this artform now stand in a world of uncertainty. Many of them work predominantly in a freelance capacity: the sector thrives on their exceptional creativity but their income has been slashed or has disappeared altogether. Business support schemes have been welcome and provided some support, but some have fallen through eligibility gaps and all current schemes will end long before our industry can start to generate income again.
Against this fraught backdrop there have seen stunning creativity, generous support and a clear demonstration of the power of our community. Theatre has continued to work for the public: for children, for the isolated, for the elderly, for our audiences. Youth theatres have continued remotely, engagement work with community groups has deepened and moved online, plays have been shared for free to benefit the public. This pivot has been drastic and inspiring but it is not a long term solution – our industry is now at critical risk.
Without theatre our individual lives and our collective society would be sadly diminished: Scotland would mourn the loss. We are therefore asking people to come together to celebrate the power of theatre with the collective hashtag #LoveTheatreScotland. Through this connection we hope to show how important theatre is to this country: to its audiences, participants and professionals. Please add it to the work you’re creating, the thoughts you are sharing and the memories that matter to you. Ask your audiences to join in to help to tell our government that theatre really matters to the people of Scotland There are professional organisations lobbying tirelessly on behalf of the sector; please support their efforts by adding your voice to the call. We may not be able to stand together in an auditorium, but we can still make a stand: #LoveTheatreScotland