Welcome to Not On The West End!
For almost a year, nearly every day I shared the business of someone from the UK theatre industry both here and on Instagram. The project is over for now, but this site and the archive created by the Instagram feed will remain live but inactive. Available for anyone looking to find something a little more special for themselves or a friend. Not all of the businesses will still be going, but a great many of them will be. Please forgive any dead-end links that occur over time.
Since theatres closed on Monday 16th March 2020 the workforce has been forgotten, ignored and disrespected by our government. A career in the theatre has always been precarious for many and this last eighteen months has proven that on a catastrophic scale. Freelancers make up 71% of the performing arts workforce (compared to the UK average of 16%). A fact which neither our unions nor government understood.
I started Not On The West End to try and create a directory of businesses helmed by people who had been made suddenly unemployed. I have described the project as ‘just a dresser with an Instagram’, but because of the community of people who wanted to support each other, it became more than that.
In the end more than 500 businesses signed up to be part of the project, we held two markets and raised almost £2000 for Acting For Others. I was interviewed by The Stage and The Telegraph, the project was mentioned in The Guardian and someone got us a shout out from Elaine Paige on Radio Two! Oh, and I was bafflingly named on the 2021 Stage 100 List. Just below Judi Dench. A hilarious fact that I will cling to until my last days.
Thank you to everyone who bought from any of these businesses, thank you to anyone who shared their posts on social media, thank you to anyone who watched the Instagram live streams, thank you to anyone who bought a competition ticket, thank you to anyone who gave money to support the project. Thank you, most of all, to the businesses. Thank you for your talents and creativity and determination and endurance and kindness.
Below is my opening statement from the day I made the project live. I am immensely proud of what Not On The West End became and has achieved, both economically for the businesses making sales and socially for people to had a way to make new connections with those in the same position. I know that personally, I have made so many new friends because of this and I can’t wait for our paths to cross.
To those going back to theatre jobs, break a leg! To those who have left the industry for good, we'll miss you and hope you will be our beacons of sanity when tech descends on us and you will put up with our stories with a resigned smile.
Again though, thank you. It's been fun. (Well, fun for a pandemic.)
- Anna Saunders, Sunday 1st August 2021
National Theatre Stage Door, August 2020 by Jonny Brown, @jonnymarkbrown
Welcome to Not On The West End! What you will find here is a curated directory of small businesses. Every one of them is helmed by someone who usually makes their living from working in UK theatre, but has been forced to use their talents in other ways whilst theatres are closed because of the pandemic.
On Monday 16th March 2020 all theatres across the UK closed.
In the months following I saw my friends and colleagues across theatre adapt and work and hustle, all while campaigning for freelancers’ support and arts funding rescue packages. It is a testament to our industry's spirit and sensibilities that we didn't all just hide under our duvets.
The people and products are not from a single theatre or show, and are not from a single department. We are a whole community of people who keep going, whether it is through the evening performance of a three-show day of panto, or the third week of tech rehearsals, or the fourth act of a six-hour opera. Or our industry disappearing before our eyes.
Every day here and on Instagram we’re sharing a different theatre professional. This will create a directory of businesses where if you need to buy a birthday present or treat yourself you can find something great from within our own community, rather than lining the pockets of billionaires. Please look through the gallery and the featured pages and support the UK theatre community, not only with your likes and comments but also with your wallets.
A taste of what we have ready to show you so far, we have costume makers, stage managers, actors, scenic artists, automation technicians, opera singers, wigs assistants and office staff, from shows like Pretty Woman, Hamilton, Prince of Egypt, and Les Mis – although the name says West End we have theatre professionals from across the UK involved, from tours, regional venues and freelancers.
They’re creating art, jewellery, clothing, home décor, bespoke gifts – we have two engravers! There’s crochet and macramé, graphic design and photography, businesses with a focus on ethical production and ones that highlight body positivity.
The breadth of talent on display is amazing, but so many of the people I’ve spoken with in the process of starting this up have been struggling to get eyes on what they’re doing or turning that into sales.
Vaudeville Theatre Stage Door, August 2020 by Jonny Brown, @jonnymarkbrown
This page does not sell their products, but rather directs you to their instagram pages, etsy stores or personal websites, and does not take a cut of any sales or require a fee for being featured.
If you would like to contribute to the upkeep of this website you can support via ko-fi.com/notonthewestend
This statement was written by me, Anna Saunders, the founder of NotOnThe WestEnd, and before that I was the Wardrobe Deputy at 9 to 5: The Musical. It was my dream job. We did our last performance five months ago today. I miss it.
- Anna Saunders, Friday 14th August 2020
Contact me by email at NotOnTheWestEnd@gmail.com or via @NotOnTheWestEnd on Instagram.