Young people are in danger of being driven out of the arts because the Government is “ignoring” the crisis facing the industry, actress Michelle Collins has warned.
The former EastEnders star has brought together performers including Sir Ian McKellen, Sir Derek Jacobi, Lesley Manville and Miriam Margolyes to perform short monologues from home in a bid to raise money for the Equity Benevolent Fund.
The fund will offer support for performers and creatives who cannot afford to pay for food, utilities or other essentials during the coronavirus crisis.
Collins, who was rehearsing for a tour of the Harold Pinter play The Birthday Party before lockdown, told the PA news agency: “I think people always think actors will be fine, they are just actors, they are all loaded, they have all got loads of money and do you know what? They haven’t.
“Even actors on the TV probably don’t earn as much as people really think they do. Gone are those days where actors earned fortunes and particularly in fringe theatre in London, it’s great to do it but you can’t survive on it.”
Collins said many jobbing actors who have to supplement their income with work in the hospitality industry have been particularly hard hit with the closure of pubs and restaurants.
She said: “The younger ones who aren’t from privileged backgrounds, who don’t have rich parents who can supplement them, what are they going to do?
“They are probably going to become really disillusioned and leave the industry and we need to show them that we do really care about them in this industry and I just felt so passionate.
“People are desperate and it’s very hard for self-employed people, particularly actors, to get universal credit. The Government are not supporting, they seem to be sort of ignoring our industry a bit, I think.”
She added: “We feel like we’ve been forgotten.”
Collins said it will also be tough for older actors, adding: “They are going to suffer because they are not going to be using over 70s, they can’t work because they are vulnerable.
“I appreciate it’s tough for everybody, everybody is suffering, but this is what I do, this is my industry.
“I don’t want people to leave the industry, it’s tough enough at the best of times, this industry, something like 90% of actors are out of work at one given time and I just think it’s so important that we all support each other.”
Maureen Beattie, president of Equity, said: “Equity is hugely grateful to the actors, writers and the team at Genesius Pictures who have given their time and expertise to this vital project.
“We are particularly grateful to Michelle Collins for her generosity and commitment to the welfare of her fellow workers in the entertainment industry. The money raised will make a crucial difference to the thousands of performers and creatives that the Equity Benevolent Fund helps in this crisis.”
Trade union Equity has committed to boosting its Benevolent Fund to £1 million and is currently giving out up to £86,000 per week in aid.
The#FortheLoveofArts monologues can be viewed on the Equity Benevolent Fund’s YouTube channel and a Just Giving page has been set up where people can donate.
A DCMS spokeswoman said: “The government has announced unprecedented support for the cultural and creative sectors, including the Self Employed Support Scheme, the job retention scheme, a years’ business rates holiday, and the Arts Council’s £160 million emergency response package.
“We’re working closely with the industry to plan for the future and support its recovery. Yesterday we announced the appointment of Neil Mendoza as Commissioner for Cultural Recovery and Renewal and the creation of the Entertainment and Events Working Group as part of our commitment to getting our cultural and creative sectors back up and running again.
“As soon as it is safe to do so we will be encouraging everyone to get out and experience the UK’s fantastic creative and cultural offerings again.”