A DIRECTOR whose shows were thrown into disarray will research the full impact of the pandemic’s effect on theatre workers.

Dr Holly Maples, a senior lecturer at East 15 in Southend, was set to tour with a new production when lockdown hit the UK.

Her show, based on an 18th century black abolitionist meeting, celebrating the black men and women of the time, was postponed twice and it now set to be staged in October.

Now Dr Maples is embarking on an 18-month research project to discover the true extent of the impact for freelance theatre workers during the pandemic in the UK.

She said: “It was heartbreaking to have to postpone the tour. I had just received funding from the Arts Council and we are all so passionate about the production.

It was set to be staged at ten sites in the UK where black free slaves were buried and shines a light on black history in the country 300 years ago.

“The Black Lives Matter movement happened during lockdown so the tour would be so relevant to today.

“Eighty per cent of theatre workers are freelancers and they have all been affected in some way by the pandemic.”

Echo: Director speaks of 'heartbreak' after 12 months of theatre shows cancelled

The project, titled Freelancers in the Dark, will bring together experts from the University of Essex, Manchester Metropolitan University and Queen’s University Belfast.

Dr Maples said: “The entire theatre industry has taken an enormous hit and I think we’ll still be seeing the effects two, three years down the line. We’ve heard a lot about the impact on theatres and theatre companies, but what about the actors, the writers, the producers, the technicians, the designers?

“The pandemic has had a catastrophic effect on livelihoods but the impact is not only financial.”

In the hundreds of interviews Dr Maples has conducted with freelancers so far, she has noticed a positive trend for creativity and resilience.

She added: “There is a sense that this is the time for change in the industry and collective action is happening. Having the time during lockdown to be reflective has meant that focus has gone into forming groups for change.

“Freelancers have also used their ingenuity to learn to podcast, film edit and write novels. People in this industry feel a part of them is missing if they do not perform or be creative.”

To take part email hm19531@essex.ac.uk or visit east15.ac.uk/southend for details.