Shakespeare’s Globe will be vital when lock-down restrictions lift, says university professor

Closure of iconic London theatre would be disaster for young people

Shakespeare’s Globe theatre attracts one million visitors a year. However, as a charity that receives no regular government subsidy, there are fears it will struggle to reopen.

London without Shakespeare’s Globe is a horrifying thought to anyone who cares about British art and history. Nonetheless, in the wake of the lock-down the iconic epicentre of Shakespearian history is on a dire trajectory.

In a recent letter to Parliament, The Globe warned it would require at least £5 million to “survive”.

The letter states: “Despite being well-managed, well-governed and – crucially – able to operate without public subsidy, we won’t be able to survive this crisis.

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“As an organisation that contributes so much to the UK’s cultural life, that delivers public benefit and stewards one of the most important, recognised and well-loved buildings in the country, we would hope we have earned the right to be supported in return through this crisis.”

Full of young people

The Globe is not only a world-renowned building and theatrical stage. At its location on the South Bank, it works as a registered charity and educational hub. It also houses a library and archive dedicated to the most famous writer in British history.

The Globe’s success extends far beyond the capital. Aside from stage productions that tour the world, The Globe engages with 6.25 million people on its digital platforms.

Photo by Hulki Okan Tabak on Unsplash

Emma Smith, professor of Shakespeare studies at the University of Oxford, says: “The Globe is a really vibrant place. It’s beautifully constructed according to Elizabethan principles. But in some ways it disguises the fact it’s a contemporary theatre.

“What’s different from many other theatres in London, apart from musical theatres, is the audience is much younger.” Low ticket prices make visiting The Globe a “really affordable thing to do”, she adds.

A sign of life returning to normality

Shakespeare’s Globe is far from the only theatre in Britain striving for survival. Many leading figures in the industry are raising concerns.

Kate Varah, executive director of The Old Vic, said in an interview with the Financial Times: “We don’t pursue talk of aid for the sector lightly. The whole sector, not just The Old Vic, needs a reboot from the government. Once we get back on our feet, we can begin to contribute again and help kick-start the economy.”

Smith agrees. She says we’ll need theatres when coronavirus has been contained and full lock-down is finally lifted – and not only because of economic factors.

She says: “We always say people go in as individuals and come out as an audience. It’s precisely those kinds of experiences we’re missing right now. We miss doing things together. The act of going to the theatre will be a sign of life returning to normality.”

The Globe asks for public support in the form of donations and by purchasing memberships and gift vouchers.

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Rasmus is an experienced writer and reporter based in London. He is currently a student at Birkbeck School of Arts. Website: www.rasmusharboe.com