Iris Theatre’s future: help us survive

UPDATE: Thank you to everyone who has donated and shared our appeal so far. This morning, shortly after this post was published, we learned that our Arts Council emergency funding application was unsuccessful. While we are applying for alternative grants, as it stands and without that funding Iris cannot pay its bills in May. If you were considering supporting us, it is now more urgent than ever. We can survive this, but only with your help. Thank you for whatever you do to get us through.

To donate, please click here or scroll down to the bottom to see how else you can help.

It has now been nearly two months since theatres across London and the UK shut down. And as we move closer to the summer months, it has become clear that presenting our inaugural season as Iris Theatre’s new leadership is no longer possible. We have therefore decided that the safest course of action is to postpone the Escape to the Forest season to 2021. We can’t wait to share A Midsummer Night’s Dream and Robin Hood with you next year, and celebrate the summer in the unique way we always do.

Postponing the summer season is a decision that we haven’t taken lightly, particularly as this comes at a significant cost: we make almost all of our annual income in just 10 weeks each summer. Without our summer income, Iris now faces an immediate risk of collapsing without significant, urgent help


While we have applied to receive emergency finance, this will only sustain us for a few months. Even with an emergency grant, without urgent financial intervention we will run out of money and be forced to close before we can next present a summer season. Reluctantly, this means we’re forced to ask you, as a member of our community, for help at this vital time.

Iris is a charity but exists with only a very small amount of grant funding each year which accounts for less than 6% of our budget. We receive no core subsidy, all trust money is for specific projects. And as we’ve said, sales from the summer season accounted for 80% of our projected income this year, with the rest being made up from tax relief, individual donations and smaller one-off events.

The majority of people who we come into contact with our  organisation encounter us at a summer show as an audience member. Conversely, most of our time is spent serving a smaller group of people. Iris is a charity, and it exists to promote education in the arts, particularly vocationally.


For 13 years, Iris Theatre has provided life-changing opportunities to hundreds of young-in-career artists. We reach thousands of people each year who’ve never seen a Shakespeare play or visited a theatre, and we support hundreds of primary and secondary school pupils through a unique, bespoke workshop scheme. We’ve supported dozens of new British musicals and their writers through Workin Process and Xmas Factor, and were early adopters of the Equity Fringe Agreement, guaranteeing actors reasonable wages and contractual terms.

Our research has shown repeatedly that we have a younger, more diverse and lower-income audience than the majority of theatres in London and the UK. Our ticket prices remain well below the national average, and we work hard to keep our bar and merchandise as affordable as possible, too. Because of this, Iris has developed a loyal audience who return year after year.

This year’s season would have introduced two new schemes, developed to fill a gap in the provision from other organisations. PLATFORM, a new initiative for artists on the cusp of a big break, and Start, a training and development scheme for brand new directors and designers. We had hoped that by 2021, we’d expand Start to new disciplines, and that PLATFORM would become a thriving community of break-out talent. Instead, both schemes are now temporarily on hold, meaning the unique opportunities we offer are not available for new and developing professionals.


We’re committed to supporting those freelancers and Start scheme participants that we’ve already engaged as best we can, both financially and pastorally. We’re also looking at new ways to engage with all of you, particularly by continuing our work championing artists and creating career pathways into the theatre industry. We hope to share plans for that soon.

In 2021, we hope to return to the stage with a fully fledged programme of an improved Start scheme, a blossoming cohort of PLATFORM artists, and the full Escape to the Forest experience for audiences young and old.


However, Iris’s future is at risk, and we may well never be able to deliver any of this work if we don’t receive urgent help.

Today, we’re asking you, as a stakeholder in Iris and our work, if you would support us. There are four ways you could help:

We know that times are tough. If you are not in a position to give to us, it would still hugely help us if you could send this on to friends and family who may be able to support our charity financially. Clicking the links above will take you to the appropriate page to support us.

Thank you for taking the time to read through this plea from us. And thank you for whatever you do to support and sustain Iris. Please stay safe and well: we can’t wait to welcome you back to Escape to the Forest at St Paul’s with us next year.

Paul-Ryan Carberry and Paul Virides
Artistic and executive directors and joint CEOs

PS: If you have any questions about anything described here, or want to get in touch to discuss a possible donation, you can contact us at If you’re an existing ticket holder for any of our events we will be in touch with you by email to offer a credit note or refund in the next 48 hours.