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BWW Interview: Damien Stanton And Chris Marcus Discuss The Campaign For THE SHOW MUST GO ON!

The Theatre Support Fund+ founders share how they came up with the striking campaign design featuring the lettering of sixteen West End shows

BWW Interview: Damien Stanton And Chris Marcus Discuss The Campaign For THE SHOW MUST GO ON!
Damien Stanton and Chris Marcus

Damien Stanton and Chris Marcus are the team behind the now iconic "The Show Must Go On!" Campaign. Merchandise featuring the slogan and lettering from sixteen of London's West End shows has helped raise millions for those in the theatre sector who have fallen on financial hardship in recent months.

The pair were included on this year's Stage 100 list, and the Theatre Support Fund+ also won the Innovation Award at this years' The Stage Awards. We spoke to Stanton and Marcus about coming up with the campaign and what it means to be recognised for their fundraising efforts.

You've had a very unexpected 2020. How have you found navigating this tumultuous time, and how are you doing now?

Setting up the Theatre Support Fund+ and the "The Show Must Go On!" campaign has indeed been very unexpected since the pandemic began. It certainly wasn't something that either of us thought we'd be doing in 2020-21!

As the pandemic and lockdown hit, I was just finishing off as Props Supervisor opening Back to the Future in Manchester and getting ready to start work on Frozen whilst Damien was working as ASM on Sleepless the Musical which was in rehearsals. Obviously, everything stopped, and we found ourselves with a lot of spare time.

We came up with this idea in April and put it into action very quickly. Since the beginning, we've taken the process day by day but have learned a huge amount about so many new things. We certainly didn't expect to create something as successful and popular as it has become, but we are proud and happy with what's come of it.

It feels like the graphic that we created has been around forever, certainly not just 10 months! At the moment, we are still moving forward with the project.

Now that the crazy rush of getting everyone's orders out for Christmas is over things are a little calmer here, but we're still shipping about 1500 orders of our merchandise per week, so the team are still busy! Just before Christmas, we shipped our 55,000th order!

BWW Interview: Damien Stanton And Chris Marcus Discuss The Campaign For THE SHOW MUST GO ON!
Dame Judi Dench wearing a
"The Show Must Go On!" t-shirt

You were the brains behind the Theatre Support Fund+ campaign, "The Show Must Go On!" How did that come about?

We have been good friends for many years, and once the theatres were closed on 16 March, we found ourselves with a lot more time than usual. We are both people who like to be busy, so spending months on end watching TV was never an option.

Once we'd baked all the banana bread we needed to, we started to hear of friends who were making masks and scrubs for the NHS and trying to "do their bit". We decided to try and develop an idea to do something different that would use our strengths.

Raising money for the theatre industry was an idea we both really loved. We've both worked in this industry all of our working lives, and I knew how many people there would be struggling through the pandemic both financially and in many other ways, so helping them was going to be the thing we wanted to focus on.

We came up with the idea of making a t-shirt celebrating the West End fairly early on in the conversation. I think it stemmed from me noticing how much Tiger King merchandise was on Etsy and we started thinking of ideas.

The very first idea had "The Show Must Go On!" in the Les Mis font. I think we realised quickly that there were so many shows in the West End that people love that if we came up with an idea which encompasses all of these shows we might create something that would be both unique and a celebration of the entire West End that people would want to buy.

Was it a challenge crafting the logo with all the different letters?

It was a challenge as there are so many styles of letters and colours and logos to try and get into one message. Damien is a very good graphic designer, so this was very much his forte!

We did various versions moving round the colours and letters to look at different layouts. I think it finally started to fall into place when we decided to use the Come from Away globe and The Book of Mormon doorbell as letters and built the design up around it.

The campaign was a collaboration between a few arts organisations. Why do you think it is important that charities pull together for united fundraising efforts?

We are working with two charities, and Acting For Others was one of them. They are an established charity who have been part of the West End community for many years raising funds for the industry.

We also wanted to find a campaign which was specifically helping freelancers. They make up 70% of the theatre industry workforce, and one in three have received no government help so it felt important to include them. They are the part of the industry that we have both been part of and it felt right to use our campaign to lend our support there.

BWW Interview: Damien Stanton And Chris Marcus Discuss The Campaign For THE SHOW MUST GO ON!
Beverley Knight wearing
a "Show Must Go On!" t-shirt

We all must join together to raise awareness and gain support. Many voices together are always going to be louder and stronger than one voice, and one thing the pandemic really has done is to bring people together.

"The Show Must Go On!" merchandise has been worn by many high-profile individuals, from Dame Judi Dench to Sir Cameron Mackintosh at the Britain's Got Talent final. To what extent has this helped boost the campaign, and how does it feel to be supported by so many in our industry?

The campaign started with a massive and unexpected splash, and we've grown from there. A press release was put out for us in the morning we went on sale. We didn't know what to expect. We had ordered six hundred t-shirts and didn't really know if we'd sell them.

We were two people that no one outside of the production part of the theatre industry knew. We'd invented a campaign name that no one knew and made a graphic that no one had seen before. To say that the public embraced it with open arms is an understatement.

We remember that feeling on the first day when it got to 6 pm, and we had taken almost two thousand orders. It was extraordinary

Since then, as you say, the support has been amazing. Every big name in the industry has worn the shirt and supported the campaign. We're proud and humbled by the number of people who have supported us, which really has proven the power of everyone working together to help those that need supporting during these hard times.

You've raised a significant amount of money for supporting the sector. Any other highlights from the past year?

As well as the merchandise, we have also worked on a range of different projects which have included the following: creating a bespoke mask for the Regent's Park Open Air Theatre; teaming up with Wicked for "Wicked day" and working as their charity partner; Northern Bloc ice-cream creating an exclusive flavour for us with all profits going to Theatre Support Fund+; a Christmas single; working with The Shard on the design of their Christmas tree and working as a charity partner.

To top it all off, we launched a Christmas range with the fabulous Bonnie Langford and Christopher Biggins! It's been a rollercoaster of a year!

Congratulations on making The Stage 100 list. How does it feel to be recognised for your efforts?

We both work in a part of the industry where you don't get awards or recognition. We work alongside directors and designers and cast members as part of a giant team on a show. To be recognised like this from the Stage for our efforts was an amazing and unexpected thing.

It was lovely of the Stage to make us part of the 100 list and also for awarding us our Innovation Award. It was great to be recognised by such an important part of the industry as The Stage.

BWW Interview: Damien Stanton And Chris Marcus Discuss The Campaign For THE SHOW MUST GO ON!
Michael Ball wearing a
"The Show Must Go On!" t-shirt

There was going to be a live concert at the Palace Theatre until restrictions were sadly tightened. Are there any updates on that?

Yes, it's been rescheduled to 17-21 March at The Palace Theatre.

How do you think the arts sector should be best supported at this time?

I think by the industry continually coming together and showing support to one another is the best we can do at the moment, with the hope of getting shows back on as soon as possible.

Any other projects you'd like to tell us about? Any new products coming out?

Not at the moment but you never know!

How can we continue to support the Theatre Support Fund+?

Head over to our website and all of our merchandise can be purchased from there!

Theatre Support Fund+ The Show Must Go On! merchandise is available online now

The Show Must Go On! Live at the Palace Theatre from 17 March


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