When the show must not go on

When lockdown began back in March, many people in employment were able to make the transition to working from home. But for the thousands employed in theatres across the country, any chance of being able to work, either from their normal place of work or at home, disappeared overnight when venues had to close.

It’s not unusual for people in the theatrical world to find themselves 
without work on a regular basis. To some, it’s almost routine, working on a temporary contract for a few months and then moving on to the next. But with the arrival of Covid, there are no ‘next’ productions to move on to.

The Revd Lindsay Meader (below) is the Senior Chaplain for Theatre Chaplaincy UK. She is based in the West End of London, in the heart of theatreland. 

Lindsay’s remit is to develop theatre chaplaincy in London and potentially to roll out the model across the country. She says; “The industry has been desperately hard hit by this pandemic. Over 70% of its workforce, which includes actors, stage hands, sound and lighting technicians, costume designers, dressers etc are freelance, and many do not qualify for the furlough and self employed support schemes.”

The temporary nature of the work means that many have fallen through the cracks of the government’s financial support systems. Lindsay goes on to explain that the issues go beyond financial concerns. The transitory aspect of working in the theatre means that people are often many miles away from close friends and family, often living in short term accommodation, sharing with relative strangers. “They simply don’t benefit from the type of personal support network that helps the rest of us to cope in times of stress and isolation”

Even in normal times, anyone who embarks on a career in theatre knows they are signing up for a life of insecurity. Coping with the precarious nature of the job is tough at the best of times, but the impact of the pandemic has made the work of the Theatre Chaplaincy all the more important.

Lindsay organises numerous online meetings for those who know what it’s like to be in the same situation. One such meeting, aptly titled ‘The Green Zoom’, meets every Wednesday at 4pm on…. Yes – Zoom. It’s a safe online space for those who work in the theatre industry, or who did before lockdown, to come together to share stories, support, console and encourage each other. And maybe share a laugh or two.

Lindsay is fully aware that being a Chaplain comes with its own stresses and strains; “It’s hard not to take on other people’s problems when you care about them.” For this reason, Lindsay has a mentor and also a spiritual director, who, in her words; “keep me on track with my wellbeing and my own relationship with God.”

Find out more about Theatre Chaplaincy UK at www.theatrechaplaincyuk.com