London Student

Women’s theatre collective hope to buy Theatre Royal Haymarket

Women’s theatre collective Bossy is crowdfunding to buy Theatre Royal Haymarket and turn it into a platform for women-led work.

The campaign, which has been running for two weeks, is the brainchild of 28-year-old actor and head of operations at Women’s Radio Station, Natalie Durkin.

“We want to create a space that’s accessible, diverse, inclusive and creative,” said Ms Durkin. “I think we have the opportunity to make a noise here.”

When the lease of Theatre Royal Haymarket came up for sale, Ms Durkin posted a Facebook status in the Bossy Facebook group, which has over 15,000 members, asking if the group should crowdfund to buy the theatre. The status got over 500 likes and 300 comments from enthusiastic supporters.

The GoFundMe goal has been set at £3 million, and so far has raised over £7000. The deadline, says Ms Durkin, is uncertain – as the owner is taking bids and not outright buys and has not decided yet when to make the sale. The collective would be renting the theatre from the Crown, who has the right to turn them down.

At the moment, the campaign committee of 6 women are focusing their attention on attracting big backers and endorsements from influential creatives. Christopher Eccleston and Nick Miles have both donated £100 and £200 respectively.

An article in the Guardian yesterday caused a spike in donations, but also a backlash in the comments section. “The responses under the article are just ridiculous,” says Durkin. “’What about male theatres,’ well, that’s pretty much everything that exists right now!”

Natalie Durkin (right) with Sinéad Emery, committee member of Bossy

In 2017, a study conducted by Stage Directors UK found that male directors outnumbered women at 21 of the 33 Arts Council England-funded venues examined. At the Young Vic and Chichester Festival Theatre, both high-profile spaces, 83% and 80% of shows were directed by men respectively.

If successful, Bossy’s theatre, affectionately nicknamed ‘Slaymarket’ by its members, would put on productions entirely led by women.

Even if you can’t donate to the campaign, says Durkin, you can show your support by tweeting and sharing the fundraiser on social media.

When asked by BBC Radio London what she thought of a theatre run by women, actor Imelda Staunton said: “Have we had one before, no we haven’t, let’s have it. Let’s have a change.

“The time is ripe at the moment to push that idea forward and see how it works. I think it’s worth giving it a go.”

The GoFundMe page can be found here.

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Izzy Kirk