Amazon donates £1.5m to help theatre professionals hit by coronavirus lockdown

Tom Butler
·Senior Editor
·4-min read
A general view of the Wyndham's Theatre, London, where Phoebe Waller-Bridge's comedic play, Fleabag, has been on the stage for a number of weeks before closing in September 14th. Picture dated: September Tuesday 10, 2019. Photo credit should read: Isabel Infantes / EMPICS Entertainment.
Wyndham's Theatre, London, where Phoebe Waller-Bridge's comedic play, Fleabag, has been on the stage, 2019. (Isabel Infantes / EMPICS Entertainment)

The fund set up by Phoebe Waller-Bridge and Olivia Colman to provide grants to UK theatre professionals facing financial hardship during the coronavirus pandemic is to receive a £500,000 boost from Amazon Prime Video.

The streaming service, which is home to Fleabag outside the UK, is donating £1.5 million to support the UK’s creative community, through donations to the Theatre Community Fund, which was established by the actresses along with producer Francesca Moody, and the new Film and TV Charity’s Covid-19 Response.

The donation is part of an overall 6 million US dollars (£4.6 million) committed by Prime Video to support the recovery of the European TV, film and theatre creative community.

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The money will be given to emergency funds set up in countries across Europe to support the production community as filming resumes.

LONDON, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 31:  Presenter Phoebe Waller-Bridge (L) and Outstanding Performance award winner Olivia Colman attends the Harper's Bazaar Women of the Year Awards 2016 at Claridge's Hotel on October 31, 2016 in London, England.  (Photo by David M. Benett/Dave Benett/Getty Images for Harper's Bazaar)
Presenter Phoebe Waller-Bridge (L) and Outstanding Performance award winner Olivia Colman attends the Harper's Bazaar Women of the Year Awards 2016. (David M. Benett/Dave Benett/Getty Images for Harper's Bazaar)

Jennifer Salke, head of Amazon Studios, said: “The creative community in Europe has been vital to our success in producing high-quality Amazon original TV series and movies for our global audience, and it is essential for us to help that community through this pandemic.

“We’ve made our first donations of £1.5 million today to provide support to the talented freelancers from the UK’s creative community who have been directly affected by the closure of theatres and halt in TV and film production.

“As we gear up production on a number of Amazon original series across the UK and Europe in the coming months, we’re committed to continuing to support Europe’s talented creative community through this crisis.”

A £1 million donation to the Film and TV Charity will help kick-start a new grants scheme where eligible individuals will be able to apply for up to £4,500 as part of a package of support that will enable those hit hardest by the shutdown to remain in the industry.

SANTA MONICA, CALIFORNIA - JANUARY 12: (L-R) Phoebe Waller-Bridge, Amazon's Jennifer Salke and Rachel Brosnahan attend the 25th Annual Critics' Choice Awards at Barker Hangar on January 12, 2020 in Santa Monica, California. (Photo by Kevin Mazur/Getty Images for Critics Choice Association)
(L-R) Phoebe Waller-Bridge, Amazon's Jennifer Salke and Rachel Brosnahan attend the 25th Annual Critics' Choice Awards, 2020 . (Kevin Mazur/Getty Images for Critics Choice Association)

The charity is now calling on the industry and individual donors to come forward and add to the donation from Amazon Prime Video, and has set a goal of raising £3.2 million.

The £500,000 donation to the Theatre Community Fund, dispersed and monitored by the Royal Theatrical Fund in partnership with the Fleabag Support Fund, will help provide hardship grants of up to £3,000 to theatre workers and freelancers across the UK.

Colman, Waller-Bridge and Moody said: “We’re utterly blown away to have such an extraordinary level of support from Amazon.

“Our theatre community has never been more threatened or fragile, and this donation, alongside those from other industry individuals, is a game-changer for its future.

“On behalf of the Theatre Community Fund, we extend a huge thank you to Amazon for the acknowledgement of the value and power of UK theatre and how we as an industry will survive anything when we hold each other up in times of crisis.”

The UK government has announced a Coronavirus pandemic financial rescue package for the Arts industry, a £1.15bn support for cultural organisations in England which is made up of £880m in grants and £270m of repayable loans. But venues such as The Apollo Theatre on Shaftesbury Avenue in London's West End Theatreland, where the musical Jamie was abandoned at the beginning of lockdown, will remain closed for the foreseeable future, on 6th July 2020, in London, England. Some theatres in London and others around the country have been wrapped in bright pink barrier tape, which reads "Missing Live Theatre" -  a protest project led by stage designers group Scene Change highlighting the closure of the arts and culture arts industry supports 137,250 jobs and is worth £21.2bn in direct turnover. (Photo by Richard Baker / In Pictures via Getty Images)
The UK government nnounced a Coronavirus pandemic financial rescue package for the Arts industry, a £1.15bn support for cultural organisations in England. (Richard Baker / In Pictures via Getty Images)

Film and TV Charity chief executive Alex Pumfrey said: “We’re incredibly grateful to Amazon for demonstrating such huge support for people working in television and film at this most difficult time for the industry.

“This fantastic donation to the Film and TV Charity will kick-start a new fund to support the diverse talent in our industry through the recovery process.

“We know that the pandemic has a disproportionate impact on people who are already under-represented in our industry and that we must take action to prevent even greater inequality.

“There is a time-limited opportunity to protect the diversity of our industry for the future and I hope that others will seize this moment to contribute to our Covid-19 response.”