2020 wasn’t quite the year any of us expected. We should have spent those months welcoming you to the Pleasance. However, for the first time in 36 years, the Courtyard gates in Edinburgh were locked and our London theatre stood empty.
Over 300 shows were cancelled, over 1,000 performers affected, countless experiences were lost. The consequences were devastating, both on and off the stage.
We spent much of 2021 doing everything we could to bring artists back to the stage. Thanks to the tireless work of the Pleasance team we managed to reopen our London venue alongside a smaller operation at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, providing the theatre and comedy fix we all desperately needed.
In Edinburgh our contribution to the festival was reduced from 27 venues across three sites, to four live venues and an online Pleasance player. Despite being smaller in size, we presented a dynamic and defiant programme of in-person and digital performances, featuring exciting newcomers, thought-provoking artists and much-loved Fringe stalwarts. Together, these programmes represented significant financial support to early career artists from across the country and continued Pleasance’s rich history of supporting new talent.
We are doing everything we can to ensure we remain open and can continue to bring artists, theatre workers and all those involved back to the stage in some capacity. However with so much unknown about how we continue to weather this pandemic, our future remains uncertain.
To make sure the Pleasance and everyone we support can continue, we still very much need your help.
We are not-for-profit, a charity funded by our ticket sales, receiving no regular government subsidy. By donating the cost of a ticket, you’ll help make sure we can continue to be there in the future.
The Pleasance exists to champion artists and develop bright ideas, to nurture talent and inspire new careers.
Your donation will help us rebuild what has been lost, so that we can support a wide range of people from across the arts by re-establishing our facilities and resources. It will ensure we can continue to support, inspire and champion early career artists both at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe and in London.
“The Pleasance is not just a venue, it has a philosophy of passionate support for the artists it presents. I loved being part of the engine and was thrilled to see many young, experimental groups of performers. I was born again at the Pleasance, I can’t wait to return.” Miriam Margoyles
You will enable us to reopen 30 venues across Edinburgh and London, welcome over 600,000 audience members from around the world, programme over 350 companies, provide 200 peer-to-peer training opportunities and £150,000 in artist’s grants.
The Pleasance is our home. An extraordinary place full of possibilities where artists and audiences thrive in a melting pot of creativity. It's a place for everyone, built by us, but made unforgettable by you.
Together, we can open the gates again and keep them open. Thank you for your support. With love from everyone at the Pleasance.
“The Pleasance has always had an open door to a multitude of bright ideas, it is our desire to maintain that open door and to give people the opportunity, confidence, ambition and skills to help them find work beyond the festival. Four weeks at the festival can be a life changing experience and we are determined to offer the most from that opportunity.” Anthony Alderson - Director
A little bit more about the Pleasance
Why does the Pleasance need help?
The Pleasance Theatre Trust, more commonly called the Pleasance, is not-for-profit, a charity, which exists solely to discover, nurture and support new talent.
We are primarily funded by our share of ticket sales, which allows us to deliver a wide range of opportunities for emerging artists and practitioners, both on and off the stage. The cancellation of the Edinburgh Festival Fringe and closure of our London theatre have been devastating for us and those we support. We continue to do everything we can to adapt, reduce costs and secure any available emergency grants, but with an estimated £950,000 loss of earnings, we face significant challenges ahead.
Your donation will help us reopen, remain open and safeguard future opportunities and jobs for the next generation in theatre.
What does the Pleasance actually do?
Through programming, artist development and training, the Pleasance is committed to discovering the most exciting new voices out there. Each year we directly support over 3,000 artists, creative professionals and volunteers.
We hand-pick the best theatre, comedy and children’s shows to showcase at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe and offer transfer opportunities to our London theatre, helping each company gain new audiences, press, future touring and career opportunities. In 2019, this included 274 productions with 130 debuts, enjoyed by over 560,000 people.
Our artist development programme, Pleasance Futures, provides financial support, mentorship and in-kind resources to artists at all stages of their careers. In 2019 Pleasance Futures gave £140,000 of direct funding to projects, including our youth theatre Young Pleasance, the Charlie Hartill fund for new theatre-makers and comedians, the COMMON Award to support working class artists, a programme to develop regional theatre and a scheme to support Scottish theatre graduates. In March 2020 we also launched a new Development Fund for Artists of Colour.
“I was 18 when I first performed at the Pleasance, six months into becoming a comedian and they gave me a break through the Charlie Hartill Comedy Reserve. Without the Pleasance finding ways to bring new comic talent to Edinburgh, the Fringe wouldn’t be quite the same.” Jack Whitehall
The Pleasance is an entry point for a great many people into the theatre, for some their very first job. We provide much-needed training opportunities for young people looking to begin careers in the arts. In 2019 we provided 220 people with hands-on experience and training throughout August at the Fringe.
Our annual operation is managed from our development theatre in London, where we stage work by early career artists and provide a launchpad for newcomers to comedy. This is also home to our small and dedicated team of 20 full time staff, who simultaneously manage the operations in Edinburgh and London.
The charity works hard to deliver the most benefit to the largest number of people through the effective deployment of our funds, and we reinvest any modest surplus into the following year’s initiatives. The Trust ended 2019 with an overall surplus of 2.1% which was directly reinvested back into the charity.
You can learn more about our annual activity in our 2019 Annual Report, here.
Where would my donation go?
Your donation will help us to continue delivering opportunities that are driven by artistic merit. Over 80% of our income is generated from our Edinburgh operation and the proceeds from one year’s festival not only pay for the costs of the festival, but also go on to fund the full time operation. Without the festival this year, our services have been hugely impacted.
We are a foundation stone for the arts and entertainment industry in the UK. Your donation will allow us to continue programming emerging artists, giving them the space and freedom to take risks. It will enable us to continue championing artists and offering our facilities in-kind, so that they can fully develop their work and be given the best chance of long-term success.
Your donation will help us rebuild what has been lost, so that we can support a wide range of people from across the arts by re-establishing our facilities and resources. The continuation of this Crowdfunder will ensure we are able to keep championing, nurturing and supporting early career artists through Pleasance Futures.
Importantly, your donation will allow us to retain the experienced team to build our festival operation next year and keep Pleasance London running. To provide the expertise, time and guidance to those we support and train.
Young people face a bigger challenge in starting careers than ever before. Your donation will allow us to provide an environment where those young people will gain valuable experience, build their self-confidence and provide them with essential job opportunities.
Ultimately, your donation will allow us to keep Pleasance London open and create the Edinburgh Festival Fringe experience in 2022 that you know and love, once again transforming classrooms, chapels and carparks into some of the most iconic spaces at the Festival Fringe.
Does the charity have a financial reserve?
Yes, we did, and it took 16 years to establish this safety net. However, the closure has exhausted that reserve. This leaves us with an uncertain future, with many months of costs to cover in order to remount the festival and continue the Pleasance. In the meantime, we are doing everything we can to stabilise further losses and reduce costs. With your help, we can remain open and sell tickets once again.
Has the Pleasance received any emergency funding during lockdown?
Yes, we have applied for the emergency funds that we are eligible for and are very grateful for the support received so far from Arts Council England, Islington Council, and the Scottish Government's Pivotal Enterprise Resilience Fund. These total £415,000, less than half of what we have lost. In addition, 80% of the Trust’s staff were placed on furlough under the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme between April and October. We continue to seek further funding to help us recover.
Doesn’t the Pleasance make all of its money at the Courtyard and Dome bars?
No, the Pleasance does not run the bars. The bars are run by Edinburgh University Students’ Association and we only receive a small share of the income generated, which in turn covers the rent that we pay to the University of Edinburgh for other spaces. The money from the bars directly funds the activities of the Students' Association throughout the year.
How does the Pleasance support artists?
Pleasance Futures is the name we use to bring together our many support and artist development schemes on and off stage. This includes long running programmes such as the Charlie Hartill Special Reserves for Comedy and Theatre, Young Pleasance, that should’ve celebrated its 25th Anniversary this year, our London and Edinburgh Associate Artists, our National Partnership Programme (with HOME Manchester, Leicester Curve, Bristol Old Vic and York Theatre Royal), our COMMON Award for working class artists, our partnership awards with Vault Festival, Greenwich Theatre and Les Enfants Terrible, INCUBATE for new writers, Pleasance Scratch for developing work, LABS support for in-kind rehearsal space for artists, plus so much more. In 2020, Pleasance also launched a new Development Fund for Artists of Colour and a new position within the Festival team to maximise training opportunities for Festival staff, both supported by the Charlie Hartill Special Reserve.
“Without the Pleasance and COMMON’s commitment to supporting working class voices like my own, the Edinburgh Festival would be an impossible mountain to climb – even for someone born in The Valleys.” Rhys Slade-Jones
The Pleasance also provided nearly £100,000 worth of support directly into other productions coming to the Festival. Pleasance Futures activity also includes the training and development programmes provided to staff at the Fringe
Outside our artist development initiatives, our broader programming provides a platform to thousands of artists at all stages in their careers each year. We hosted 527 individual productions at the Pleasance in 2019, with a significant majority of these being debuts, premieres or work-in-progress performances. We provide space, time and advice to anyone who asks for our help. We put belief in the artists we programme and use our resources to do everything we can to help them achieve their goals, whatever they may be. For 36 years, the gates have always been open to anyone with a bright idea. Your donation will help us ensure they open once again.
How does the Pleasance support young people and children?
In 2019, the Pleasance Kidzone celebrated its 10th Anniversary. The Kidzone is a place for children to safely engage with the Festival and a safe haven for parents in the heart of the Courtyard. The Kidzone has, for 10 years, been developing our audience for the future. In 2019, the Pleasance was able to directly fund transportation, tickets and activities for 500 children from socio-economically deprived areas of Edinburgh, for many their first experience of the Festival.
Our youth company Young Pleasance is dedicated to offering dynamic, excellent and professional theatre opportunities for young people through workshops and large-scale productions. Having produced annual original shows for the Edinburgh Festival Fringe over the last 24 years, the company has established an excellent reputation at the Fringe with audiences and critics alike. Young Pleasance has provided a key launchpad for a number of very successful theatrical and film careers.
“It might just be the best thing a young person could do with their summer. Without Young Pleasance, I don’t think I would have decided to train as an actor and without bursary support from the Pleasance as well, I would not have been able to take part.” Kishore Thiagarajan-Walker
We are proud of our reputation for providing a launchpad to successful careers. The Pleasance has always been a place to learn new skills, gain invaluable experience and connect with like minded people that will become colleagues, employers, or simply friends for life. Each summer, we are joined by a team of over 200 people who gain experience in our technical, guest services and industry teams. We provide them with a subsistence towards their living expenses, training and development opportunities and cover their accommodation in single occupancy rooms for the duration of the Fringe. We annually review best practice and try to deliver the most value to those who join us each summer. These experiences provide an important first step into working in the arts and we want to continue providing these unique opportunities as we come out of this crisis.
Our alumni past and present span the globe, continuing their careers in countries such as Australia, New Zealand, United States, Canada, Hong Kong and South Africa.
In any major arts organisation in the UK, you are likely to find someone who has, at some point, worn a Pleasance T-shirt. This is something our industry cannot afford to lose. This includes The National Theatre, Royal Court, Oxford Playhouse, Chichester Festival Theatre, SOHO Theatre, Sherman Theatre, Drury Lane, Universal Music, Punchdrunk, Arts Council England and Really Useful Theatre Company to name just a few! Not to mention the hundreds of freelance professionals who are essential to keeping the entertainment industry alive.
The next generation of arts professionals are going to need more support than ever. Your donation is vital in giving them that start.
Can you tell me more about Pleasance London?
Since Pleasance London’s foundation in 1995, our year-round home in Carpenters Mews, Islington, has provided some of the leading talents in the theatrical community with a platform to develop work, hone their craft and grow new audiences. The artistic programme across Pleasance London's three auditoriums runs in parallel with that of Pleasance Edinburgh, with curated programmes such as the Work in Progress, Edinburgh Preview and Best of Edinburgh seasons hosting work both in and out of the Fringe. We also programme work that is aimed at local London audiences, host one-off events and fundraisers, and offer space for local academic institutions to help young people present professional-standard productions.
Space in Pleasance London is utilised outside of performance times to provide maximum benefit to early career artists, with vacant space primarily offered in-kind for script readings, rehearsals and R&D weeks. Formal artist development initiatives under Pleasance Futures are also operated out of the venue, such as a Pleasance Scratch, LABS, Reading Week and Young Pleasance London.
We reopened our Main House in London briefly in December 2020 for two weeks before having to close again due to COVID-19 lockdown measures. We were then able to reopen two of our three spaces in London in May 2021, but to comply with social distancing, our capacity was reduced from 380 seats per night, to 100 seats. We have subsequently re-designed and re-built our Main House theatre space to afford flexibility should social distancing need to be introduced again, reducing our previous 240 seat capacity to 148.
Who can I speak to if I have more questions?
If you have any other questions, the Pleasance’s Director Anthony Alderson will be happy to answer them. He can be contacted at [email protected].
Video Credits: Editor: Adam Morrow / Music: Daniel T Mays / Footage: Recorded at Pleasance Edinburgh as part of the Pleasance Festival Training Programme by Theo Davies, Barnaby Chadwick and Iona McEwan, with support from Dabster Productions. Additional footage by Adam Morrow.
Photography Credits: Taken at Pleasance Edinburgh as part of the Pleasance Festival Training Programme by Anna Bruce, Elly White, Greta Mitchell, Heather Pasfield, Idil Sukan/DrawnHQ and Jassy Earl. Additional images by Neil Hanna.
Artists Featured: Video - Swivelhead (Pipeline Theatre) / Nick Helm / Requiem For Aleppo / James Acaster / Citizen Puppet (Blind Summit) / Mr Swallow - Houdini / Sara Pascoe / Joe Lycett / Blind Man’s Song (Theatre Re) / Dane Baptiste / Please Excuse My Dear Aunt Sally (One Year Lease) / Balletronic (Ballet Revolucion) / Russell Howard / Alice Unhinged (Young Pleasance) / The Hampstead Murder Mystery! (Young Pleasance) / Jack Whitehall / Trans Scripts (Paul Lucas Productions) / Labels (Worklight Theatre) / Jayde Adams / Joel Dommett / Lucy Porter / Lolly / Tim Key / Susan Calman / Molly (Squint Theatre) / Dorian Gray (Incognito Theatre) / Nish Kumar / Cirkopolis (Cirque Éloize) / Larry Dean / We Are Ian (In Bed With My Brother) / The Dreamer (Gecko Theatre & Shanghai Dramatic Arts Centre) / Love Birds (MusicWorld) / Amusical -- Photography - Giant (ZooCo) / Nick Helm / Outside on the Street (Invertigo Theatre) / I'm a Phoenix B**** (Bryony Kimmings)The Land of My Fathers and Mothers and Some Other People (Rhys Slade-Jones) / Young Pleasance / Freeman (Strictly Arts)