Theatre Workforce

Developing the Future Theatre Workforce

UK Theatre and the Society of London Theatre (SOLT) have undertaken a major programme of work to ensure the long term health of our industry.

In 2017, we commissioned Nordicity, working with Alistair Smith, Editor of The Stage, to carry out a significant research project into the current and future training needs of the theatre and performing arts sector. The Theatre Workforce Review was published on 22 June 2017.

The Workforce Development Strategy is our response to this research. It sets out UK Theatre and SOLT's objectives to ensure the long-term health of our industry, based on the challenges identified in the Theatre Workforce Review. The Workforce Development Strategy will be carried out over several years, include multiple areas of work and will involve a wide range of stakeholders.

The three long term objectives of the Workforce Development Strategy are:

  • To ensure that the appropriate skills and expertise are in place for theatre and the performing arts to thrive twenty years from now
  • To improve the diversity of the theatre and performing arts workforce
  • To address long-term culture change in the professional development of the theatre and performing arts

The Theatre Development Trust support the Workforce Development Strategy with seed funding and staffing costs.

Download the Theatre Workforce Review

Download the Theatre Workforce Review - Summary 

Download the Workforce Development Strategy

A consortium of industry employers and sector bodies has been formed to help us shape the work of the Workforce Development Strategy.

The consortium includes:

  • Kris Bryce, Pitlochry Festival Theatre
  • Simon Dancey, Creative & Cultural Skills
  • Prema Mehta, Lighting Designer   
  • Caro Newling, Neal Street Productions
  • Jo Pitman, Royal Shakespeare Company
  • Emma Rees, London Theatre Consortium
  • Deborah Sawyerr, Mercury Theatre
  • Nancy Shakerley, Disney Theatrical Group
  • Jocelyne Underwood, Greater Manchester Cultural Skills Consortium
  • Anna Williams, Birmingham Royal Ballet

As part of the Workforce Development Strategy, UK Theatre and SOLT regularly engage with a variety of stakeholders across the sector and beyond. These stakeholders include:

  • APPG for Theatre
  • Arts Council England
  • Arts Council Wales
  • Creative and Cultural Skills
  • Creative Industries Council sub-group for education and skills
  • Creative Industries Federation's HE/FE working group
  • Culture Counts
  • Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy
  • Department for Culture, Media and Sport
  • Department for Education
  • National College Creative Industries
  • Skillscene
  • SOLT's Education Forums
Ken Bennett-Hunter. Photo: Charlie Hopkinson
Ken Bennett-Hunter. Photo: Charlie Hopkinson
About the Award

Established in memory of former TMA /UK Theatre President, Ken Bennett-Hunter, the AK Bennett-Hunter Award for Backstage Journalism will help meet the need for more journalists specialising in back stage and technical theatre.

The Award is a partnership between The Stage, the Association of British Theatre Technicians, Stage Management Association, Skillscene, the Society of London Theatre and UK Theatre.

The Award consists of £2,000 of financial support, a year of mentoring from established journalists and expert backstage practitioners, behind the scenes access, introductions and networking opportunities, and publication in The Stage (for a fee of £500 in total), UK Theatre and Society of London Theatre websites, ABTT’s Sightline and the SMA’s Cueline magazine and website.

Ken Bennett-Hunter was an advocate and passionate champion of the issues and developments affecting theatre technicians, stage managers, designers and theatre managers.  He was an influential, knowledgeable and engaging journalist whose work brought the technical, back and off stage elements of theatre to centre stage.

Ken Bennett-Hunter was editor of The Stage’s Backstage section and edited The Stage’s Working Backstage series of career guides. He was editor of the ABTT’s Sightline, and was a regular contributor to SMA magazine Cueline, and to UK Theatre publications, throughout his career.

The AK Bennett-Hunter Award for Backstage Journalism is open to all.

The Award may be presented to an established writer looking to develop their technical theatre knowledge, or for someone working in the off stage world to develop their writing ability.

The Inagural Award

The inaugural AK Bennett Hunter Award was won by freelancer Production Manager Heather Doole in February 2018.

Doole, who has worked on shows at the Gate Theatre, Hampstead Theatre and Trafalgar Studios, received £2,000 in financial support as well as mentoring from journalists and backstage practitioners.

The judges picked Doole from a strong field of applicants, after being impressed by the strength of her technical writing. As part of the AK Bennett-Hunter Award for Backstage Journalism, her work will be published in the Backstage section of The Stage.

Doole has also worked as operations manager at the Actors Centre and general manager for magician double act Morgan and West.

“I’m thrilled to have the chance to enthuse more people about the wonder of backstage journalism,” she said.

Announced in December 2018, the Creative Careers Programme, an industry-led initiative aims to raise awareness of opportunities for work across the creative economy. The Creative Industries Federation, ScreenSkills and Creative & Cultural Skills are the lead delivery partners, and DCMS has provided £5m funding. The programme aims to reach around two million young people with advice about pursuing a creative career. It will include activity such as work experience placements and involvement in a new national week to open doors to young people. SOLT and UK Theatre are working with the delivery partners to shape the programme, ensure our work is connected to it, and to share information about how to get involved with the theatre and performing arts sector.

The above film is being shown to all the Enterprise Advisers in their training on the creative industries. 

Found out more about the Creative Careers Programme

Kickstart: New government scheme offering job placements for unemployed 16 – 24 year olds 

You may have seen the government’s recent announcement of its Kickstart scheme to provide funding to employers to create 6 month job placements for unemployed 16 – 24 year olds.

We acknowledge that our members' organisations are in varying states of distress and disruption at present, with many closed, working at significantly reduced levels, or going through redundancy processes with their workforce. We also know that many of our members' organisations have either reopened or are making reopening plans.

As we have had several enquiries about the Kickstart scheme, we wanted to let all members know about it, in case you are able to take advantage of it. 

We are currently working on the Kickstart scheme alongside Creative & Cultural Skills who are exploring options to become a Representative Organisation. The purpose of this role is to aid single employers that cannot provide 30 placements (of which we know many theatre business won’t be able to).

The challenge at this time for young people at the start of their careers, especially those from low socio-economic status, is enormous. It would be hugely positive if through Kickstart we could support both your organisation and young people's routes into work, in spite of all the challenges our sector and workforce is currently facing.

If you are interested in taking part in the scheme via CC Skills, please contact them by Thursday 1 October. Conversations are happening quickly around this and we want to make sure CC Skills are responding with UK Theatre and SOLT members in mind.

Frequently asked questions from our sector about the government's Kickstart Scheme:

We are a small business and cannot offer the minimum 30 placements needed. Is there another way we can get involved? 

  • We understand there has been some confusion around the size of employers who can participate in Kickstart. The programme can support anyone who is able to directly employ (issue a contract of employment) to a kickstart employee.  The size of your company is irrelevant.  Any employer who wishes to apply to Kickstart direct, without the support of a Representative Organisation like Creative & Cultural Skills will need to show they can create a minimum of 30 Kickstart placements by Dec 2021.  
  • We know it’s highly unlikely that many employers in our sector can meet this requirement, therefore Creative & Cultural Skills is offering to help.

Is Funding Available? 

  • Funding covers 100% of the wage costs of a 6-month placement consisting of 25 hours a week at the relevant national minimum wage. Placements can start any time between November 2020 and December 2021.

What other support is available?

  • In addition to the wage costs, employers will also be able to access £1500 for each Kickstart placement they create to provide wraparound employability support to each Kickstart employee, such as careers advice, CV writing and general training in employability.  Where employers are unable to provide this support direct, Creative & Cultural Skills will help connect you to local sector-specific organisations who are well placed to provide this.

How will CC Skills' help?

  • CC Skills' collective aim is to ringfence much needed funding for our sector to create quality Kickstart job placements, whilst minimising the associated bureaucracy on behalf of Theatre employers of all sizes.  

My organisation is in Scotland, can we apply?

  • The bid will cover England, Scotland and Wales and will be sector wide, and is being supported by a wide range of partners including Arts Council England, Arts Council Wales, Federation of Scottish Theatres, the Museums Association, UK Music and many more.

 (published 24 September 2020)


A Guide to Entry Routes 

UK Theatre and SOLT have worked with Creative & Cultural Skills to create information sheets to introduce theatre employers to the learning and skills landscape, which we appreciate can sometimes feel like a confusing area of work.

  1. Understanding Entry Routes - know what sort of placements and qualifications theatres can use. If you are thinking about or would like to engage anyone through these entry routes, please read our detailed booklet or contact Creative & Cultural Skills.   
  2. Key Players - a list of key players in education and what they are responsible for   
  3. Common Terminology - definitions of some of the most common language used in skills and education     
  4. Progression Pathways: Levels of Learning - understand what level of difficulty qualifications are    

These guides apply to England only. For more information on Scotland, Northern Ireland or Wales, please contact Creative & Cultural Skills at 

Information correct at time of publishing (March 27 2019) 


For guidance on hosting an apprentice, please visit the National College Creative Industries website. You can download an employer support pack, as well as information for both apprentice levy paying organisations and non-levy paying organisations.

Apprenticeship Levy

We have worked with CC Skills on creating this Guide on better understanding the Levy. The Government has changed the way apprenticeships are funded in England, which includes the introduction of an employer levy. The levy is part of the Government’s apprenticeship reforms in England, which work to put employers in the driving seat and give them purchasing power.

T Levels

The Theatre Workforce Review identified that there are several skills gaps in the talent pipeline to the theatre industry, and that we currently are not representative of the population as a whole. 

UK Theatre and SOLT welcome the prioritisation of technical qualifications within the Sainsbury Review and the subsequent technical education reforms. We want to ensure that these new qualifications help fill the talent gap, whilst diversifying our workforce across the country.

We have been engaging with theatre employers, the Department for Education, the Department for Culture, Media and Sport and the Gatsby Charitable Foundation on the ongoing development of T Levels. We have written a paper that collates theatres' thoughts and comments regarding the implementation of T Levels in our industry, and shared it with these stakeholders.

Get Into Theatre is the UK’s leading theatre careers website. Get Into Theatre is funded and supported by SOLT and UK Theatre alongside the Andrew Lloyd Webber Foundation. It is produced by The Stage. 

The website helps visitors find information and opportunities to pursue a successful career in theatre in the UK. Many people do not know about all the job options in theatre or the different ways to make a start in a theatre career, so the website provides easy access to current information on:

  • Training and studying
  • Funding, scholarships and awards
  • Experiences
  • Theatre job profiles

Get into Theatre was launched in May 2019.

Visit the Get Into Theatre website

Inspiring the Future of Theatre is a wide-reaching industry initiative which aims to show young people the range of careers available in theatre, and to encourage and strengthen connections between schools and their local theatres.

The campaign was launched in July 2018 by UK Theatre and SOLT in partnership with charity Education and Employers.

Find out more about Inspiring the Future of Theatre

UK Theatre and SOLT continue to coordinate industry-wide action to ensure that everyone in theatre and performing arts can prevent and tackle harassment and abuses of power; and ensure theatre and the performing arts is a safer, more supportive and inclusive working environment for all in the future.

Theatre Helpline (0800 915 4617)

Launched by UK Theatre and SOLT in June 2018, the Theatre Helpline is a free and confidential support line available 24/7 for anyone working in theatre and performing arts in the UK. Theatre Helpline provides advice and support to help deal with challenges including:

  • Bullying or harassment
  • Health issues including mental health  
  • Injury and mobility problems
  • Issues with employment or unemployment
  • Career issues including professional development and training 
  • Retirement and care in later life
  • Debt and financial issues
Dignity at Work Training

UK Theatre and SOLT offer a range of dignity at work training to support individuals working in the industry to lead a respectful working culture, identify and address issues, have clear procedures in place and build confidence in embedding a respectful working culture for all. 

Encouraging safer and more supportive working practices in theatre handbook

In April 2018 UK Theatre and SOLT published a handbook which includes:

  • 10 Principles to encourage safer and even more supportive working practices in theatre
  • Information about the Theatre Helpline
  • A legal checklist to ensure organisations have clear, up-to-date policies and procedures for preventing and dealing with harassment and bullying
  • ·Example policies, procedures and initiatives from SOLT and UK Theatre members across the country
  • ·A summary of the key themes arising from open forums we held across the country in February 2018, and suggestions of good practice arising from those events
  • ·A list of organisations and individuals with specialist skills to help deal with sensitive issues

Find out more about Safer and More Supportive Practices programme of work

Stage Sight logo.jpeg

Stage Sight is a collaborative network of theatre and performing arts organisations whose vision is to create an off stage workforce that is more reflective of our society today, inclusive of ethnicity, class and disability. 

UK Theatre and SOLT manage the day to day running of Stage Sight, as it's mission directly aligns with the main objectives of the Workforce Development Strategy.

The Stage Sight website launched in March 2019.

Visit the Stage Sight website

Freelancer guides

SOLT and UK Theatre are working with CC Skills, the Creative Industries Federation, and other sector bodies to produce two best practice guidance documents: one for organisations working with freelancers, and one for freelancers working in our sector. This work forms part of the Creative Careers Programme.

Useful resources for freelancers

The following websites all contain resources and information for freelancers and self-employed individuals.

The Theatre Casting Toolkit aims to help make the UK’s stages and rehearsal rooms more reflective of modern society. 

Designed for people involved in any part of the casting process the website offers a set of practical tools, a resources library and reflective ‘food for thought’.

The Toolkit was developed by Tonic following a commission from UK Theatre and Society of London Theatre (SOLT), in response to the needs of industry members. Individuals and organisations and theatre companies across the UK theatre industry, including Equity and the Casting Directors Guild, were involved in consultation and trialling.

Find out more about the Theatre Casting Toolkit.

Theatre Casting Toolkit

SOLT work alongside Masterclass, Royal Opera House and Mousetrap Theatre Projects to present TheatreCraft; the largest free careers event for young people seeking an off-stage career in theatre. TheatreCraft is an annual one-day event which is open to anyone aged 16-30.

It offers attendees the opportunity to:

  • Take part in workshops and talks led by industry leading theatre makers
  • Explore a marketplace of UK theatre, companies and education providers
  • Meet high profile and influential people in the industry
  • Make connections and network with like-minded emerging theatre makers

Visit the TheatreCraft website

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"UK Theatre" is the operating name of UK Theatre Association, a company limited by guarantee registered in England and Wales, whose registered office is at 32 Rose Street, London, WC2E 9ET, Company No 323204.