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Survival appeal

Play to the Crowd's immediate future secured!

We are delighted to announce that due to the extraordinary support of the local community, which has raised in excess of £225,000 for our Survival Fundraising Appeal, together with a vital support package totalling £219,134 from the government’s Culture Recovery Fund, that the immediate future of Play to the Crowd – the arts and education charity which runs Theatre Royal Winchester, Hat Fair and Playmakers – is secure.

Deryck Newland, Chief Executive comments, ‘We are extremely grateful to everyone who has donated to our Survival Appeal and to the Department of Culture, Media and Sport and Arts Council England for approving our application to the Culture Recovery Fund. Our Survival Appeal allowed us to survive beyond the end of September and the Culture Recovery Fund grant will help to mitigate some of the ongoing and increasing risks and uncertainties around Covid-19 across the next six months.’

David Hill, Chair of trustees for Play to the Crowd, added; “I would like to pay tribute to our remarkable trustees, who have shown such great commitment and support through this challenging time. All of the trustees would also like to send a sincere thank you for the extraordinary generosity and passion shown by our community, which has made the success of the Survival Appeal possible.'

Deryck Newland then continued: ‘This has been, and continues to be, an extremely challenging time for the sector. As with many organisations we’ve had to take extreme measures to reduce our costs which heartbreakingly has meant restructuring our charity leading to staff redundancies, to build a more sustainable organisation for the future.  We are grateful to the government for recognising the value of the arts, however the Culture Recovery Fund won’t save every venue or arts organisation and our thoughts are with those whose future remains uncertain, together with the thousands of freelancers who are the life blood of our industry and many of whom remain without any financial support since March.’

Play to the Crowd is one of the 1,385 cultural and creative organisations across the country receiving support today. £257 million of investment has been announced today as part of the very first round of the Culture Recovery Fund grants programme being administered by Arts Council England on behalf of the government. Further rounds of funding in the culture and heritage sector are due to be announced over the coming weeks.

Deryck continues ‘With this support package in place we are thrilled to announce that, providing government guidelines continue to allow, we will now be able to produce a special, fun filled and socially distanced Christmas show at Theatre Royal Winchester by the same creative team behind our pantomimes. We hope to get this on sale next week to ensure that our local community can still enjoy the festive period in a Covid secure environment – so watch this space!

The charity’s Board will meet tomorrow evening to formally agree that Play to the Crowd’s work can continue, with the restructured and reduced team, and new business model.

Donate now

We are Play to the Crowd, the arts and education charity that runs Theatre Royal Winchester, Hat Fair and Playmakers.

The effects of the coronavirus pandemic are financially devastating us. While social distancing is enforced, our vital work is impossible.

The theatre cannot open.

The festival cannot happen.

Workshops and activities cannot bring our community together.

Together we must ACT NOW

When Theatre Royal Winchester was forced to close on 16 March, we lost all of our ticket and bar income overnight (80% of our charity’s turnover).

Prior to this our charity was thriving, with a strengthening financial position, excellent governance and leadership and an exciting new re-brand.

Since March, we’ve taken significant measures and made difficult decisions to safeguard the future of our charity. 

So far we have:

  • Minimised our cost base by furloughing 90% of our team from the latter part of March (and will continue to utilise the UK Government’s Job Retention scheme until the support ends)
  • Accessed all financial support available to us from the UK Government, and applied to Arts Council England’s Emergency Fund
  • Consulted with our stakeholders and audiences about how we can best serve our community now and in a post-Covid world
  • Entered a period of consultation with our staff to re-structure the organisation to make significant cost and overhead savings

Our generous audiences have also already raised a fantastic £25,000 donating their ticket monies and purchasing memberships since we closed. 

But all of this is still not enough.

We need £225,000 by September to survive this crisis.

We are looking at every avenue to secure these funds.

We hope our crowdfunder will help us to raise at least £60,000 towards our target, and help you, our audience, to continue to make an extremely impactful contribution to our survival.

Donate now

Donate now and your support will:

  • Ensure we can continue to exist and deliver you joyous and life-affirming activities at Theatre Royal Winchester, Hat Fair and through Playmakers
  • Retain as many of our highly skilled and experienced staff as possible, who are committed to mentoring, supporting and serving our community into the future
  • Maintain our beautiful heritage theatre building, which stands at the cultural heart of Winchester as a vital community asset
  • Create and develop our new future, post Covid-19, so live performance and participation can thrive in our community
Imagine no panto

Why our vital work is important

Our arts and education charity exists to delight and unite through the power of live performance.

We are a unique and vital connecting force between artists and audiences.

We ensure that live performance thrives in our community with equal opportunities for everyone.

In 2019/20 we gave:

  • 300+ FREE performances enjoyed by 90,000+ people at Hat Fair
  • 70,000+ people comedy, theatre, dance, panto, music and opera performances at Theatre Royal Winchester
  • 10,000+ local school pupils creative workshops, educational theatre visits and careers support
  • 2,500+ community performers, emerging and established artists access to our unique theatre space and skilled mentoring
  • £1 million+ in additional positive economic impact for Winchester

Until we can join together again in a shared space - telling each other stories, laughing, crying, cheering and learning together - this vital work is not financially sustainable.

Imagine no Hat Fair festival

Live performance is under threat

Together we must act to save it.

Give to this appeal to support a robust future for Play to the Crowd.

Please donate now
Imagine no youth theatre


We can guarantee that all your donations will go to ensuring we can meet our core objective which is to sustain our charity and its component parts: Theatre Royal Winchester, Hat Fair and Playmakers. If we were unable to achieve that your money would be returned.

We can guarantee that any advance ticket sales money is ring fenced and kept safe for you whatever the challenges faced by the charity. You can continue booking tickets safe in the knowledge that your money is safe with us and that a full refund would be offered if we were unable to present the event.

Update 1 Oct 2020

On 3rd July we launched our Survival Appeal, on what would have been the opening day of Hat Fair 2020. Our trustees calculated that we needed to raise the significant sum of £225,000 to ensure our survival beyond September 2020.

It has been humbling and exhilarating to see just how much people value Theatre Royal Winchester, Hat Fair and Playmakers.

You agreed with us that it was unthinkable for Winchester to lose such important aspects of community life as well as such valuable contributors to the local economy and to people’s mental health and well-being.

This has been evident through the significant contribution our Crowdfunder page has made towards this total. Almost 2,000 people have contributed in this way so far.

Many more people have made contributions offline too and these continue to come in.

Of course since we launched our appeal things have changed in relation to the pandemic and the winter period now looks fraught with possible further challenges.

So we keep our fingers crossed that we will also get a small part of the Culture Recovery Fund which the Government announced back in July and which we have applied for through Arts Council England. This would help us successfully manage these additional risks. We should hear whether that application has been successful in the next few days and will therefore be in a position to make a more definitive statement as to the outcome of our Survival Appeal and our future soon after that.

In the meantime do keep supporting us with donations, by becoming a Play to the Crowd Member and by buying tickets for our events as we start to put them on sale in the weeks ahead.

You can do so in the safe knowledge that, should we get locked down again and not be able to present an event, you will always be offered a full refund.

Finally, I wanted to say a very personal thank you from me and the team here to the many hundreds of people who left brilliant and heart-warming messages of support on here. Do take a look if you have a moment.

My favourite is this one:

“If you have but two pennies left spend one on a loaf of bread to give you life, but spend the other on a rose to make life worth living. Play to the Crowd is Winchester’s rose.”

Thank you for all your support

Deryck Newland
CEO of Play to the Crowd

Update 25 Sep 2020

Thank you!

We’ve smashed our £120,000 stretched target on Crowdfunder. Amazing! What an extraordinary response from our community with well over 1,800 people donating between £1 and £10,000 each.

We are now busy counting up all the offline donations and calculating the gift aid to see if we have achieved our overall Survival Appeal target of £225,000 and will be in a position to update you all on 1st October.

In the meantime, if you are able to, please continue donating. The Crowdfunder will remain open to receive your contributions and every last penny we can gather will help us manage all the financial risks we face this winter as a theatre in these uncertain times.

Thank you to each and every one of you. We're blown-away by your generosity.

Best wishes

Deryck Newland
Chief Executive

Update 4 Sep 2020

We've hit over £180,000. Almost there!

Your continued support on our crowdfunder, together with other offline donations received, means we have now raised over £180,000.

Our total target is £225,000 by 25 September, which we need to survive. Just £45,000 left to go, we hope our crowdfunder will raise a further £20,000 towards this - together we can do it!

We’ve been overwhelmed with our community’s generosity and messages of support so far. The small team we have unfurloughed, together with our Board of Trustees, continue to work flat out to secure the last £45,000 and we are edging that little bit closer to our target every day, thanks to you.

We have also now submitted an application to the DCMS Cultural Recovery Fund – the £1.57 billion support package announced by the government. Arts Council England will be administering this fund and have been given £500 million to distribute for the arts. If we are successful in our application the funds will help to manage ongoing risks and uncertainties around Covid 19, particularly pertinent as we’ve now had to take the decision to postpone our pantomime, Aladdin, until next year.

However, this government support package needs to stretch across a vast number of organisations and there is no guarantee that we will be successful in our application. The timeline also does not help us with our Survival Appeal (applicants will be informed by 5 October) so we are full steam ahead in trying to achieve that ourselves.

We’ve reached the milestone of £180,000 - with online and offline donations- so just need to raise the final £45,000. We know it’s tough out there but please continue to spread the word and share our news to friends, family and colleagues. We are extremely grateful for all donations, large and small.

We are absolutely determined to survive. Live performance and creative participation are absolutely vital to so many people’s well-being and positive mental health and beyond this crisis, as a society, we will need these activities more than ever.

Thank you.

Deryck Newland
Chief Executive
Play to the Crowd

Update 12 Aug 2020

Together we’ve hit £150k! What an incredible milestone!

Our Survival Appeal has hit a key milestone this week, reaching an incredible £150,000!

Only £75,000 left to go!

Your amazing support of our crowdfunder, together with our offline donations, means we are now two thirds of the way to achieving our overall target of £225,000 - the amount we need to raise by September to survive beyond the Covid crisis.

"We’ve been overwhelmed with our community’s generosity and support so far. To have raised two thirds of the total we need - through online and offline donations - in just over 5 weeks is truly extraordinary. We’ve still got a long way to go though and the small team currently working, together with our Board of Trustees, are working flat out to secure the last £75,000. We are absolutely determined to survive this. Live performance and creative participation are absolutely vital to so many people’s well-being and positive mental health and beyond this crisis as a society we will need these activities more than ever." - Deryck Newland, CEO

Despite the welcomed recent news of the UK government providing a support package for our sector, we now know that the funds (£500m to be distributed by Arts Council England) will not be confirmed for organisations until October.

If we are successful in securing these funds, we will be able to manage ongoing risks and uncertainties around Covid 19, but only if we can secure our survival first by raising a further £75,000 now.

Theatre Royal Winchester, Hat Fair and Playmakers will disappear unless we raise £225,000 by September. 

Our crowdfunder has made such a significant contribution to our success so far, that the generosity of our community has encouraged us to yet again stretch our crowdfunder target to £120,000. Any amount our crowdfunder can contribute towards the £75,000 we still need to raise, will make a real and significant impact to our survival. Please continue to stand beside us in this time of crisis, share our news with family, friends and colleagues, (maybe even pay a visit to our Cafe Bar at Theatre Royal Winchester!) and help us reach our overall target of £225,000 by September.

Live performance is still under threat. Together we can act to save it.

Let’s keep going!!

Thank you.

Update 17 Jul 2020

Update 6 Jul 2020

Government support package for the cultural sector

We are delighted to welcome the news of the UK government's £1.57 billion support package for our sector. Our heartfelt thanks go to everyone who has been working to highlight the important role the arts play in our society and the impact they have on communities, and to the DCMS and HM Treasury for listening and acting.

We eagerly await the news as to what this investment package will mean to Play to the Crowd and how quickly it can be distributed but we hope it will go some way towards securing our future. It is important to remember that this package, although large, has to cover an incredibly broad range of organisations including thousands of live music venues, heritage organisations, museums, galleries, historic palaces and independent cinema as well as theatres and festivals. I also hope that freelancers, independent producing companies and the whole creative sector supply chain will not be forgotten.

Therefore, despite this generous support package from the government, and with continued uncertainty around when we can open viably, we will sadly need to continue to consult on the possible need to reduce our staff cost base and continue to ask our community for urgent financial support via our Survival Appeal and this crowdfunding page - it will take many years for theatres and audiences to recover from this pandemic and this recognition from the government will hopefully help mitigate, to some extent, all the challenges we will inevitably continue to face in the years ahead.

We have been overwhelmed by our community's generosity, raising in excess of £50,000 over the weekend since we launched our Survival Appeal, and from the messages and offers of help and encouragement. We thank you - we are so sincerely grateful.

Please keep going as our target is £225,000 which is challenging and we will need you, as well as the government to help us achieve it.

Together we can!