2020 is coming to a close and here at RTYDS we have been reflecting on the year and the challenges that we, and the rest of the sector, have faced.

Like many organisations in the UK, we were forced to hit pause back in April. In difficult times, it has been more important than ever to create opportunities for freelancers and early career directors who are under-represented in the industry.

Over the year, we were able to offer 55 paid opportunities for freelance artists through placements, residencies, workshop delivery and observer opportunities. We wanted to share more about the work that we’ve been doing in 2020…


We provided support networks for directors and an opportunity to be creative

In response to the pandemic, we moved many of our Craft and Career workshops online and increased the scale of the programme. Over 117 sessions, we had 1,714 participations by directors, theatre makers and artists from across the country.

We worked in partnership with Pitlochry Festival Theatre to hold 10 digital Q&As with Artistic Directors, watched by 491 people.

18 D/deaf and disabled early career directors were able to observe a rehearsal room with our ‘Zoom Chair’ project, in partnership with Ramps on the Moon and Leeds Playhouse. Using Zoom software, participants were able to tune into Amy Leach’s rehearsal room for A Christmas Carol.

“It was the next best thing to actually being in the room and it was such an emotional experience being back in a rehearsal room after so long, albeit virtually.”

– Zoom Chair participant

We set up six monthly Satellite Groups to connect theatre makers from across the country, providing an online space for artists and theatre makers to discuss their work and chat informally about theatre with a facilitating director.

Also, over lockdown we curated online sessions for the Young Vic Directors Program. Between June and September, we held over 50 digital discussion groups and workshops and engaged with over 1,000 artists across the UK.

As a regional artist it’s been invaluable to be able to access provision and continuing professional development opportunities which I normally wouldn’t be able to access. I feel like it has offered opportunities for creative growth… in a period which I was expecting to be more about creative freeze!”  

– Directors Program participant


We have worked in partnership with theatres and companies to provide placements and digital opportunities for artists

The theatres and companies we have worked with include Birmingham Rep, Contact, The Core at Corby Cube, Leeds Playhouse, Middlechild, The North Wall, Pitlochry Festival Theatre, Royal Exchange Theatre, Sheffield Theatres, Tobacco Factory and the Young Vic.

Also, we became an Associate Partner of Ramps on the Moon, delivered New Directions in partnership with Manchester Metropolitan University and became a member of Stage Sight.


We re-opened a number of our programmes

We had 6 residency and placement opportunities, which included the first RTYDS Associate Artistic Director Residency where we welcomed Anthony Lau to Sheffield Theatres.

We also re-opened applications for our first round of RTYDS 18-Month Residencies. We wanted to make sure the application process wasn’t entirely paper-based so in October, a team of 6 artists met all 187 applicants via Zoom.

We also worked with three arts organisations to support their search for their next Artistic Director.


We have supported Class and Coronavirus – a new project focused on the importance of class diversity

Initially set up by directors Stef O’Driscoll and Caitriona Shoobridge as a safe space for artists identifying as working, benefit, criminal, underclass backgrounds (WBCU-C) to check in during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, Class and Coronavirus has grown to a network of 183 artists and offstage workers. Find out more and sign up to the network on their website.


We compiled a list of useful resources for artists and theatre makers

Our blog, Useful Resources for Freelancers, has been viewed almost 600 times and is regularly updated to include places where you can seek support, both financial and pastoral.


Finally, we wanted to take a moment to say thank you. We wouldn’t have been able to do any of this work without the incredible support we have received from others. Thank you to our funders who have remained flexible in such uncertain times, to the freelancers who facilitated workshops for us, to everyone who applied to our schemes, attended our workshops, shared and liked our social media posts and championed us throughout this year.

We have some exciting plans in the pipeline for 2021 and we look forward to sharing them with you.

See you in the new year!