The Theatrical Guild badges itself as the charity for backstage and front of house. Since its creation in 1891 by the actress Kittie Carson it has been giving relief and assistance to members of the theatrical profession who through illness or financial distress were in need of help.
Originating in Londonâ€™s Great Russell Street, a group of friends were invited around to discuss how they could help alleviate the awful conditions they had all witnessed in theatres on tour â€“ theatre workers living on appalling wages, sacked for being ill, pregnant, or simply on a managerâ€™s whim.
Itâ€™s one of the oldest and possibly one of the most sustainable of all the entertainment charities - in the Victorian era people sewed and knitted so that boxes of clothes could be distributed to theatres all over the land. Later, between the wars when the charity was flourishing, all working actors were asked to donate clothes (including warm underwear!), coats, stockings and costumes.
Counselling and welfare
Not so many woolly vests are provided these days but over 122 years later, it supports those that work in theatres in a variety of ways. These include offering educational sponsorship, one-off grants as well as access to counselling and welfare advice. One beneficiary said, â€śAfter the Theatrical Guild's phone call, a great weight was removed. I had such a good nightâ€™s sleep â€“ the best in months.â€ť
The trustees are still largely actors and those working in the business. The Chairman, Jane How, has just opened in Fatal Attraction at the Royal Haymarket Theatre, Hugh Sachs is taking a rest after a year in One Man, Two Guv'nors, Tilly Tremayne was recently seen in The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, and Liz Robertson has cabarets and musicals coming up, as always! They apparently have a 'very gorgeous' President â€“ Phyllida Law (main picture, at PLASA London) - and two very talented Patrons; Simon Russell Beale and Keira Knightley.
First Night Riders
The Theatrical Guild regularly fundraises with their sister organisation Acting for Others, receiving crucial support via mass bucket collections across the country and one off events. The next one to occur will be â€?Shop with the Starsâ€™ at the department store Fenwickâ€™s on Bond Street. It takes place from 6pm on Thursday 10th April and the tills will be staffed by celebrities offering their opinions on purchases and encouraging people to â€?spend, spend, spendâ€™!
If you're a biker, you can join them on their now legendary 'First Night Riders' tour - the sponsored motor bike rally round notable theatres in the UK. Now in its 5th year, in June they will be breezing around the South East coast, stopping off at all sorts of venues to have a good nose (especially under stage), all in the name of a good cause! If youâ€™re interested in joining the ride - or maybe you could sponsor a rider - have a look at firstnightride.com.
You can help the Theatrical Guild to spread the word by sharing this article or their details on your social networks or passing on their information to someone who might need them one day. Today sees the launch of entsust.com's 'Backstage Classifieds' feature, and 25 pence from each ÂŁ1.99 listing will go to Theatrical Guild to support them in their work.
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Pictures: The Theatrical Guild
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