Give the Gift of Theatre

Posted on 24 February 2014

Christmas is long gone now but it is none the less worth celebrating the generosity of spirit that meant that members of the public and businesses responded to our appeal to help people who were having a hard time during the Feast of Good Cheer.

In 2013 we started our Give the Gift of Theatre fund which is used to help families who are facing financial hardship to have some “time off” from their worries and enjoy some quality time together at a live family show. We team up with the burgeoning Food Bank system throughout the City to find these families. Most are invited to see Panto but as we also have a strong strand of Family Show programming throughout the year, there are other times when we can offer them this respite including the Half Term offering Barmy Britain.

The response to our idea was immediate and generous. People could understand how these families must be feeling particularly isolated and stressed at Christmas time, when they were unable to give their children presents or a Christmas treat. People could understand that the children must feel isolated at school too, where others are talking about the fun times they are having at Christmas. Through Give the Gift of Theatre we together enabled more than 400 people to see JACK & THE BEANSTALK. The pleasure would last far longer than the 2 ½ hours in the theatre: they had the anticipation, they had the shared experience, they could talk about it afterwards, their children could talk about it to friends at school, they could all relive it and laugh again at the antics they saw on stage.

This year we also branched out and working with the new digital television company, Coventry TV, we streamed a performance of the Panto into Coventry & Warwickshire Hospital, Warwick Hospital, three Myton Hospices’ and a number of nursing homes, including Herald Lodge, Charnwood House and Keresley House. So that patients, young and old, unable to be at home for Christmas, were able to join in some of the traditional Christmas fun.

Various reports and statistics give evidence of the health benefits that participating in the arts brings to people, and to their community. This particular initiative not only gave a boost to the families who directly benefited, but it also gave a boost to everyone who helped them by donating some money, and clearly said to those families that their community did care and did want to help them.

The arts are good for health, for society, for community and for the economy. All for 0.05% of government spending. Though, that % is declining. Like other funded organisations, we are now working on our application to the Arts Council to renew our funding for 2015-18. The government funding cuts mean that not all of us in England will get funded and therefore there will be cities and communities around the country who see their local arts organisation close. We at the Belgrade are working hard to earn money from other sources and maintain a lively programme of work that is diverse enough to appeal to lots of different audiences in Coventry and the region, and to keep our community and education programme going. It has to be said though that we need both the Arts Council and the City Council to continue to fund us, so let’s hope they do. Coventry must keep the Belgrade!

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