Soon after the lockdown and national state of disaster were first announced in South Africa, in March this year, the Baxter Theatre Centre embarked on an innovative financial sustainability campaign, called Baxter Coffee Angels. The ask was simply for patrons, theatre and arts lovers to donate as little as R30 a month (the price of a cup of coffee), or more (where possible), to ensure the iconic theatre’s financial sustainability during this time and into the future.
While the support from the Baxter Coffee Angels drive has been deeply encouraging, the theatre renews its call for contributions. To this end, it continues its drive to “buy The Baxter a cup of coffee every month” and encourages those who have not yet been able to do so – and to share widely – to become Baxter Coffee Angels.
The Department of Sport, Arts and Culture declined The Baxter’s application for COVID-19 Relief Funding.
Current restrictions stipulate that no more than 50 people per venue are allowed, which is financially prohibitive and makes little economic sense for any theatre. The 22:00 curfew further challenges the economic viability and enjoyment of opening the theatre to audiences. Another factor is public confidence to return to the spaces. Additional costs will be incurred for PPE and regular sanitation. Delays in documenting patrons’ details to comply with the tracking and tracing requirement, will have to be considered and planned for.
So, while South Africa may be at level 2 in lockdown, it continues to be restrictive to operate optimally at the moment. Therefore, The Baxter strengthens its call to the public to become Baxter Coffee Angels.
Launching the campaign, Baxter CEO and artistic director, Lara Foot said: “May I start by saying that we are cautiously reaching out to you, well aware of the context of our difficult times, both in our country and in the world. Not for a moment is our drive a priority, in comparison to the people of our country, who are in dire need of financial assistance.
“It’s about our future and the future of the arts. I am sure you will agree that when this pandemic is over, the arts will play a significant role in finding meaning, healing and bringing communities together, in celebration of our humanity.”
She continues: “It is extremely difficult in these times to find a sizeable annual grant from any individual or business and this brings me to our carefully-considered campaign to ensure our sustainability. The Baxter has always been the people’s theatre and we are committed to continue to be that as we navigate our way through this global pandemic with its devastating impact on our existence, and as we look towards securing our future (and that of the arts and artists).”
A further concern remains for the many artists and creatives who have not been able to work over the last five months and have little hope of employment for the rest of the year.
Driven by this concern for local performers who are losing and the many learners in communities who were unable to access the internet, Baxter Radio was launched to bridge the gap and create a platform that would contribute to a solution to both these challenges. Bringing together more than 40 local artists involved in making these works available as free content to radio stations, the initiative aimed to reach a wider audience through radio broadcasts as well as the Baxter Coffee Angels, while providing paid work for local theatremakers.
Guided by the University of Cape Town and national government, The Baxter team has continued to work remotely. They will now slowly return to breathe back life into the building, with all COVID-19 protocols observed. This will prepare the theatre complex and spaces as the country navigates the current regulations and situation.
Planning and some rehearsals will continue with the aim of safely being able to welcome audiences back (under the stipulated regulations at the time), as early as October this year.
The Baxter team eagerly looks forward to the day when audiences can be welcomed back to its spaces in a manner that is safe, where audience members can confidently enter the various venues and enjoy the lived experience of theatre.
- To donate to the Baxter Coffee Angels campaign visit the website www.baxter.co.za.