Campaigners raise £10k in bid to buy historic Theatre Royal Haymarket for female-led arts space

Sean Morrison
Theatre Royal Haymarket: The lease for the Grade I-listed playhouse went on sale last month: Damian Crook

A campaign group who launched a bid to buy an historic West End theatre to transform it into a venue that showcases female-led work have raised more than £10,000.

The all-female Accalia Arts founded the campaign to buy the Theatre Royal Haymarket in the wake of the #MeToo movement and allegations of sexual harassment that are widespread across creative industries.

The lease for the Grade I-listed playhouse, the third oldest in London, which hosted major plays including Oscar Wilde premiers, went on sale last month.

While the asking price for the Suffolk Street theatre has not been made public, the group’s fundraising target is currently set at £3million. By Friday afternoon they had reached a milestone of £10,000.

Using the social media hashtag #bossybuyout, Accalia Arts campaigners are urging theatre lovers to back their campaign to “instigate” change in creative industries.

Natalie Durkin, founding member of the all-female campaign group, told the Standard: “Across every industry there are representation disparities and the arts are no different. In the visual aspect there is a 2.1 balance Male to Female Actors and the ratios only get lower on the creative fields.

"We are looking to be the change by actively using our campaign to educate and influence the pipeline of getting women to positions of influence within the arts."

She added that if they are unsuccessful in their bid, the money donated to the campaign will be used to fund a London-based female arts festival.

Julia Mucko, theatre producer and Accalia Arts campaigner, said: ""We are campaigning to inspire women, to give them an environment to make work, create a conversation and make their voices heard by using a platform which we have all formed together."

The GoFundMe page reads: “We [Accalia Arts] intend to create a corner that contributes to global women’s movements, with a focus on the inclusive nature of the arts. The arts engage us to explore, along with holding valuable transformational capacities whilst despite being the fastest growing industry to GDP we find funding is consistantly cut.

“There are so many reasons why we want to make a success of this but our primary reason is uniting, as women to instigate and inspire creative modes of change in our social standing, treatment and power.”

The Royal Haymarket first opened in Suffolk Street in 1720.

It was the first theatre to establish matinee performances and is believed by some to be haunted by several ghosts including the spirit of its 19th century actor-manager John Baldwin Buckstone.

Arnold Crook, the chairman of the family firm Louis l. Michaels Ltd that has owned the theatre since the early 1970s, said they were selling "an ongoing business, with ongoing productions and a very dedicated, ongoing, staff".