What a year. So many industries have been hit by the pandemic, including, heartbreakingly, our beloved West End. Some were sent home just two days into starting their dream job, made redundant from a job they’ve held for years or found they were ineligible for government support of any sort. And so a platform gathering them was born: Not on the West End. A smile of sorts: both a reference to Not On The High Street and to being out of a job, yet facing it all with admirable strength.
As founder Anne Saunders underlines, Theatre is an industry that is gloriously full of multitalented people, but most of us enjoy the anonymity of our roles, hiding in the darkness rather than seeking the applause. The platform is meant not to sell on their behalf but to showcase their skills and Etsy shops. And oh, skills they certainly have! Funky advent calendars, hand pounded soy candles with essential oil, gender neutral children’s clothing made from organic cotton, adorable macramé gifts… The choice is fascinating.
Their Instagram account, perhaps, is the quickest way to approach it. Each picture of a creation comes with the story of its maker. All are incredibly touching. Vicki from explains how, up until March, she was working in costume production for Harry Potter and the Cursed Child for the West End and the global productions, all paused for now. After finishing 6 weeks of making scrubs for the NHS in spring, she decided to set up The little cotton club, a collection of pouches, backpacks, masks and reusable giftbags in cheerful patterns. Kyrie, before all of the doors to our theatres closed, had specialised in stage management, working for companies such as Scottish Opera, Opera Holland Park and the Royal Opera House. Having recently moved into Event Management, she had spent the last couple of years at the National Theatre on projects including River Stage and exhibition installations. She now designs gorgeous jewels featuring sea glass handpicked on the coast. You are drawn into it, curious to know more about what they do, feel… connected. We all have had our struggles this year: resilience is inspiring.
We can all make Christmas matter this year by shopping from passionate creators. NotOnTheWestEnd is hosting a virtual market this weekend (November 21-22), with a line-up featuring talks with the business owners and even cabaret performances. Even better, all the shops are offering a 10% discount with the code NOTWE10. so go on. Shop with heart.