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Robert Lindsay: Lack of support for arts has led to low self-esteem

Robert Lindsay (Matt Crossick/PA)
Robert Lindsay (Matt Crossick/PA)

Lack of support for the arts has led to low self-esteem in the industry, actor Robert Lindsay has said.

The My Family star, 71, said the reopening of theatres does not mean times of hardship are over for self-employed and freelance workers and criticised an advert from last year that suggested a young ballet dancer could ‘reboot’ her career by moving in to cyber security.

The advert, which was later branded “crass” by Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden, was part of the Government’s Cyber First campaign and featured a young dancer tying up her ballet pumps alongside the caption: “Fatima’s next job could be in cyber. (she just doesn’t know it yet).”

It added the slogan: “Rethink. Reskill. Reboot.”

Lindsay will introduce an on-demand virtual Q&A with Dame Judi Dench, Sir Derek Jacobi, Sir Ian McKellen and Dame Maggie Smith hosted by Sir Kenneth Branagh, in aid of the Royal Theatrical Fund and partner organisation, the Fleabag Support Fund, to help performers in need due to the pandemic.

He told the PA news agency: “I don’t think it is over. There was an awful period when the Government said ‘get a real job’, which hurt people in the industry very badly.

“For actors, our whole career is based on getting another job, to fill in while you’re resting, and I think the mental effect, is hard on people in the industry, the low self-esteem, the lack of support by the Government, hence the fact we raise this money through these performances.

“There’s been such lack of support and therefore, there’s a kind of very low self-esteem in the industry, and it’s going to be interesting going back to rehearsals in a couple of weeks’ time to see how self confident everyone is.

“I’m sure everyone will be really nervous and a little bit unsure of whether they’re physically capable and mentally capable of performing again, because it’s a big strain.

“It’s a fearsome profession, you have to go out there and it’s showtime, and when you’re feeling under par and underwhelmed and underappreciated, it’s difficult to lift your spirits.

“The only thing that will lift your spirits is working together in harmony with with a group of friends.”

The Government previously unveiled a £1.57 billion fund to save institutions in peril as a result of the global pandemic, and a further £300 million was announced in the 2021 Budget.

However, there has been criticism of the Culture Recovery Fund that money failed to trickle down to freelancers, who make up a large part of the workforce in the performing arts.

Lindsay continued: “We’ve always known that it’s a vulnerable profession.

“I have three kids and I always warn them and they’re incredibly knowledgeable because they’ve seen the ups and downs of my career so they are aware of it and they are fortunate, but it’s the kids that I worry about that have actually graduated from drama schools this year, with no finals, with no agents been able to see their work, they’ve had a really tough time.”

Lindsay will soon be seen in new online comedy The Three Musketeers and will star in Anything Goes at The Barbican this summer, and said he has to remain confident that audiences will return in droves and without social distancing.

He said: “The road map has been made clear by the Government recently that they will continue to open everything on the 21st of June.

“We are due to open Anything Goes on the 23rd of July, so at the Barbican theatre, which is a huge theatre, but it’s a big show.

“It has a cast of 20, 30 people and an orchestra so it has to pay its way and the only way of paying its way is to have a full audience.

“Thankfully, I heard this morning that the bookings are going extremely well. So obviously people have missed it.”

For One Knight Only, a Q&A with Dame Judi Dench, Sir Derek Jacobi, Sir Ian McKellen and Dame Maggie Smith, was first live-streamed in November and will be available on demand from May 28 – 31 in aid of the Royal Theatrical Fund and the Fleabag Support Fund. Tickets are £25 and can be purchased via http://www.stream.theatre/season/116.

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