The Royal Theatrical Fund
Most theatrical charities, because of the way they were originally constituted, can only help performers but the RTF is able to assist anybody who has been employed professionally, for a reasonable period of time, in the entertainment industry. This includes stage management, wardrobe, front of house staff and directors. This wide-ranging remit has undoubtedly been one of the main factors in the 73% increase in new requests for help over the past year. We now support just over 200 people on a regular monthly basis and have additionally assisted a further 220 people on a “one-off” basis over the same period.
The assistance we provide can be financial: helping to fund utility bills, nursing home fees and essential repairs and replacements to household equipment. But it can also be pastoral: helping with debt advice and welfare claims. The latter service is a huge growth area fuelled by the recent wide-ranging reforms in benefit legislation and entitlements. For many people attempting to understand and find their way through this barrage of complicated and diverse new information is almost an impossibility, particularly as claimants are often suffering from physical and, on occasion, psychological health problems, as well as financial concerns.
In order to provide the best possible care in these areas we are now employing the services of a dedicated and highly trained Welfare and Debt Advisor. Initially she will be working for us part-time as we assess the need for her services.
Already the feed-back from those she has helped has been tremendous. “You have lifted a great load from my mind”, “For the first time in many months I am now getting the correct level of benefits” and “I can finally sleep at nights knowing that my debt problems are going to be resolved” are just three comments from recent beneficiaries’ letters and emails.
On the subject of providing reassurance, we hope to continue sending all of our beneficiaries a winter fuel allowance of £200 every January. This simple one-off payment has provided a great deal of peace of mind as winter begins.
This report also serves as the introduction the RTF’s annual audited accounts so this is a good place to ask an important question.
How are we able to fund all of the above?
Some of the funding comes from the rental income we receive from 11 Garrick Street. The Fund owns the freehold of this building which was given to us in 1873 by Thomas Hailes Lacy, a friend of Charles Dickens (our first Chairman). We take great care to achieve the maximum rental income from every square foot. In addition, we have recently negotiated new long term leases for 3 of the 4 floors of the building with blue chip tenants, giving us substantial financial security for years to come.
We also receive income from our investment portfolio.
And finally we rely on donations and fund-raising.
Astoundingly, given the current difficult financial situation for many people, donations were up by almost 50% last year! We are very grateful indeed to all those people who contributed to this remarkable result.
Some people remembered us in their wills - a very positive way of reducing inheritance tax of course. Amongst these were Greta Coulson and Frank Thornton.
Some people gave of their time and organised events. For example, our Vice Chair Samantha Bond created a “Downton Abbey” lunch for some visiting American friends of the RTF which raised nearly £15,000. (Heartfelt thanks to the members of the cast who kindly made this possible).
And many people simply sent us money.
Our rental income and investment income underwrites the month by month assistance our beneficiaries need and means that we can enter into long term commitments to these people with confidence. Obviously we cannot agree to contribute to somebody’s nursing home fees one month only to withdraw that support a month later because we cannot afford it. But if we are to undertake additional support activities we need additional funding and that is where donations come in. They enable us to go further and to do more than we otherwise could, so they are extremely important to our work.
How can people donate?
Some people simply send us a donation as and when they can and for that we are truly grateful but the most effective method of giving is for someone to become a Benefactor of the Fund. This simply means agreeing to donate a regular fixed amount every month for as long as you feel comfortable doing so. It is possible, of course, to cancel or change this amount at any time. This process means we can plan ahead in the knowledge that funds will be coming in to support whatever extra project we have decided to undertake: for example, the cold weather payments every winter or employing a Welfare and Debt Advisor.
In my first year as Chairman I am delighted to be presenting such a positive report and would like to take this opportunity to thank my fellow directors for their support and enthusiasm and especially our President Robert Lindsay for his encouragement.
In conclusion I would also like to thank our honorary officers who give so freely of their time and expertise - Honorary Treasurer Edward Oliver and Honorary Solicitor Martyn Gowar. My final thanks go to our excellent staff, who work tirelessly to make so many things happen and to happen so well.