Park Theatre recently announced the launch of a fundraising initiative called Park Life, to secure the future of the venue. As with all theatres across the UK, Park Theatre have had to temporarily close to help prohibit the spread of Covid-19. This has meant cancelling all performances, hires and classes for the foreseeable future. As a small charity with no regular government or Arts Council funding, this has lead to a catastrophic loss of income. The venue have been working closely with the Board and donors to try and address the shortfall. in order to secure the future of the theatre, they now need to raise as much money as possible, with at least £100,000 needed to enable them to prepare for re-opening once the government permits it.
So much more than ‘just a theatre’, Park Theatre is a community hub in Finsbury Park and has been a huge part of the redevelopment of the area. In seven years of providing affordable, accessible theatre, it has enjoyed eight West End transfers (including Daytona starring Maureen Lipman, The Boys in the Band starring Mark Gatiss, Pressure starring David Haig and The Life I Lead starring Miles Jupp), two National Theatre transfers, twenty-five national tours, five Olivier Award nominations, has won Offie Awards for Best New Play and Best Foodie Experience (two years running), a West End Wilma Achievement in Accessible Theatre award and won a Theatre of the Year award from The Stage.
This is what Jez Bond, Artistic Director of Park Theatre, had to say to us.
Q: Can you tell us about ‘life during lockdown’ for yourself and the staff at Park Theatre?
Jez: Life is different for so many people right now. This concept of everyone being in the same boat is unfounded. At Park Theatre most of our staff are furloughed so thankfully they have some salary – up to 80%, but in some cases less due to the £2,500 cap. So there is some financial stress I’m sure, but on the other side hopefully, they are able to focus on some other things in life that aren’t work-related: though of course being on an enforced home-stay doesn’t necessarily feel like a holiday to everyone. A few of us are still working and are grafting daily to keep the engines running and prepare what we can as we all steer into this uncertain future. I’ve been focussing on the fundraising aspects as well as the communications, particularly with all our artistic stakeholders. Once every few days I walk into the building to check it over; the sound of silence in a building that is usually so buzzing with energy is a strange feeling.
Q: Have you managed to get some things done that have been on the ‘to do’ list for far too long?
Jez: I’ve not learnt a new language, taught myself how to crochet or created new memes. When you’re still working, I think you end up working harder. And when you are responsible for your ship you will work through the night to ensure it’s sailing as smoothly as possible. Being at home has at least meant that I’ve spent more time with my partner and our daughter: and if I’m ever down they’re all I need to bring a smile to my day. I hope that we can all learn some positives from these months: and a better work-life balance for all would be wonderful. But then if we look ahead, how possible is this for those running charities over the next few years?
Q: To remain viable for now and the future, how difficult is fundraising for Park Theatre?
Jez: It’s a time when everyone is asking and being asked, so the climate is extremely tough. To this end, I’ve been most humbled by the response thus far. The harder part, of course, maybe what 2021 holds, when everyone has been hit badly, everyone has given and when then we still continue to need funds. But we know at this point that we WILL survive this, based on our worst-case scenario of a Spring opening, and I would hope for January. What we need is to survive this and be able to be as strong as we were before for our community.
Q: How are you planning for the next few months and life after lockdown?
Jez: At night I am going into my shed and building my crystal ball so that should help once it’s complete! For now, I am still working and will do until the foreseeable – I will furlough myself as soon as I can, so we can save cash burn, but as furloughed workers are not allowed to work I can’t do that yet. Perhaps there will come a time when things are calmer but I imagine that in the not too distant future we will be looking at announcing a date and at that stage will become hectic with re-programming, amongst a global jigsaw puzzle of availabilities!
Q: How can theatregoers help support Park Theatre?
Jez: A donation to our ParkLife fund, however large or small, will go a long way to support us and enable us to come back as strong as we were:
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