this is for you.

Press night performance of Grease at London’s Dominion Theatre

A new program in London will soon start giving away unsold theater tickets to those who couldn’t otherwise afford them. Called the Ticket Bank, it will aim to dole out 1,000 tickets per week to theater, dance, music and comedy shows. The tickets will be free or pay-what-you-can.

The Ticket Bank is an arts-oriented variation on a food bank: giving donations, or any available surplus, to those in need. The pilot program will launch on January 9, 2023 and run for one year.

“There are brilliant people putting together food banks and heat banks, but that doesn’t give humanity its basic needs from a soul point of view,” Chris Sonnex, who conceived of the idea, tells the Guardian’s Harriet Sherwood. “People who are suffering as a result of the cost of living also need access to community, entertainment and things that warm the soul.” Sonnex is the artistic director at Cardboard Citizens, a performing arts organization for people with the experience of homelessness. “Art,” he tells the Guardian, “is a human right.”

The initiative is focused on the skyrocketing cost of living, which puts cultural experiences out of reach for more and more people—especially in major cities like London. But it also aims to help cultural institutions like theaters, which have seen dwindling audiences due to economic crises and pandemic restrictions.

London isn’t the first city to launch a unique program to reinvigorate interest and participation in the arts. Several other cities, including Quebec and Brussels, have opened up their museums for free mental health visits in recent years. Twice yearly, during New York City’s Broadway Week,  popular shows offer tickets at a majorly discounted rate.

Sonnex enlisted the Cultural Philanthropy Foundation, an organization aiming to “democratize access to culture,“ to help make the project happen. “Very rarely do you come across an idea that is so simple and brilliant that you can’t believe it doesn’t already exist,” Caroline McCormick, the foundation’s chair, says. “When Chris Sonnex told me his idea for the Ticket Bank, my response was as simple as his idea. ‘We have to make this happen.’”

Seven theaters have agreed to participate in the imitative: the National Theater, the Roundhouse, the Barbican, the Almeida, Gate, Bush and Tara theatres. Another seven will be announced in January.

“Everybody’s seen the value, everyone wants to make it work,” McCormick tells BBC News.

A group of London and UK-based partners will ensure the tickets reach people and communities in need or historically underserved by cultural organizations.

While “a million different barriers” make accessing the arts difficult, “one of the biggest is ticket prices,” Sonnex tells the Guardian. “It’s important to reach as many people as possible to say: This is for you.”

“i believe in the healing power of the arts,

and whenever you can bring art into anyone’s life, it’s a special thing.”

-austin nichols

46 responses »

  1. brilliant, brilliant! And Yes, Why did nobody come up with this idea earlier? The mind boggles. Wonderful – as indeed the soul needs nurishment too. This truly is heart-warming news.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. That is great to know. What a fantastic thing to do….instead of having seats left for a performance. There was a hut at Leicester Square before and you coud get half price tickets for the same day performance.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I absolutely love this idea of giving away unsold tickets because, yes, many people cannot afford tickets to the performing arts. We have cut way back on attending theater and other arts events because of inflation and rising ticket prices. It’s not that I don’t want to support the arts. I do. I love the arts. But when money is tight (er), that is one way to save money. I hope this catches on. Everyone should have the opportunity to engage in the arts, no matter economic status or income. And right now that’s not happening.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. This is wonderful! You never know what a difference the arts can make, and this gives people an opportunity to ‘be there’. I will never forget my 10th birthday. I had a choice of taking a group of friends to an amusement park, or taking one friend to a performance of ‘Oklahoma’. I chose wisely.

    Liked by 1 person

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