TCUK offers pastoral and practical support to those of all faiths and none, who are engaged in the performing arts.
Through the work of its chaplains and supporters, TCUK seeks to bring together faith and theatre for the enrichment of both.
We have a very firm policy that we’re there to support, not convert, we’re for people of all faiths and none.Lindsay Meader - Senior Chaplain
Theatre Chaplaincy UK (TCUK) began life as the Actors’ Church Union (ACU) in 1899. It arose in the days of touring repertory theatre – when companies would tour their shows around the country, with Sunday being the day they would always travel from one town to the next. A young Anglican curate, The Rev Donald Hole, together with an actor called Charlie Cameron, realised that there was a whole community of people who because of their working schedule were unable to attend Sunday services and so unable to access the church’s ministry. The ACU was set up to provide access to pastoral and spiritual support. Unlike many church guilds of that era, when churchgoing was the norm, there was no expectation that those seeking support from a theatre chaplain were churchgoers, let alone regular communicants. Our ministry has always been available to those of all faiths and none.
The ACU expanded considerably during the early twentieth century and at its zenith, nearly all major regional theatres had chaplains, mostly parish priests. By 1914 the ACU had 349 theatre chaplains. However due to changes in both theatre and society, with the decline of both repertory theatre and church attendance, things began to wane. A declining number of Area Chaplains were under resourced in trying to oversee theatre chaplaincy in impossibly large geographical areas. The charity’s funds were low. There was a daughter charity (the Actors’ Church Union Children’s Charity) which provided financial grants to benefit children of those working in theatre who had fallen on hard times, but this required considerable administration and pulled energy and resources away from chaplaincy.
In 2013, the Trustees agreed that if the ACU was to continue, it would need to focus on re-introducing and re-establishing chaplaincy. A relaunch was undertaken, changing the name to Theatre Chaplaincy UK (complete with a new logo) and transferring the remaining funds from the ACUCC to the Actors’ Children’s Trust, who would continue to support former beneficiaries.
More chaplains were recruited and assigned to theatres and the charity began an annual TGI Theatre! (Thank God It’s Theatre!) celebration each autumn and a Spring lecture. Keynote speakers have included Dr. Rowan Williams and Stephen Fry.
In 2019 the Senior Chaplain, the Revd. Lindsay Meader, became the Lead Theatre Chaplain for the Diocese of London, the first full-time stipendiary theatre chaplain in the Church of England. Her role is to develop the ministry of TCUK, both in London and throughout the country. She was licensed by the Bishop of London in the 2020 TGI Theatre!
Dr Rowan Williams was Archbishop of Canterbury from 2002-2012 and was previously Bishop of Monmouth and Archbishop of Wales.
Williams stood down as Archbishop of Canterbury on 31st December 2012 and in January 2014 took up the position of Master of Magdalene College at Cambridge University and later in 2013 he was appointed Chancellor of the University of South Wales. He was created a life peer in January 2013 as Baron Williams of Oystermouth. On 1st May 2013 Dr Williams was appointed the Chair of the charity Christian Aid.
Rowan Williams retired in 2020 and has returned to live in Wales.
Dame Judi Dench made her professional acting debut in 1957 with The Old Vic Company. Over several decades she has established herself as one of Britain’s finest performers on both stage and screen. Dame Judi has received many award nominations for her acting in theatre, film and television, winning eleven BAFTAs (including the BAFTA Fellowship in 2001), seven Olivier Awards (including the Society’s Special Award), two Screen Actors Guild Awards, two Golden Globes, an Academy Award (Oscar) and a Tony Award.
In June 2011 she received a fellowship from the British Film Institute. Dame Judi was awarded an OBE in 1970 and DBE in 1988.
Nica Burns read law at UCL. She trained at Webber Douglas drama school and was a successful actress before becoming Artistic Director of the Donmar Warehouse from 1983-1989. She was Production Director of Stoll Moss and Really Useful Theatres from 1993-2005 programming and running 10 West End theatres. Always entrepreneurial, Nica has been an independent producer throughout her career, winning many awards. In 2005 she founded Nimax Theatres and co-owns the Palace, Lyric, Apollo, Garrick, Vaudeville and Duchess theatres. She has a long involvement in the comedy industry as Director of the Lastminute.com Edinburgh Comedy Awards, formerly the Perrier Awards.
Bill Kenwright is one of the UK’s most successful theatre producers, best known for the long-running West End hit Blood Brothers and the record-breaking UK tour of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. Other productions have included West End runs of Whistle Down the Wind at the Palace Theatre, Festen in London, on a UK tour and on Broadway, The Big Life, Elmina’s Kitchen, Scrooge – The Musical, The Night of the Iguana, A Few Good Men, A Man For All Seasons alongside UK tours of Jesus Christ Superstar, Tommy, Tell Me on a Sunday and This is Elvis. He produced the London revival of Cabaret at the Lyric Theatre in September 2006, starring Anna Maxwell Martin, James Dreyfus and Sheila Hancock.
Janie Dee is an award-winning British actress, singer and musical theatre performer, characterised by her extraordinary versatility in acclaimed work on stage, film, television and radio. Her career embraces everything from Shakespeare at the RSC and the Globe, to revivals of classic plays at the Bath Festival directed by Sir Peter Hall, acclaimed performances in modern dramas and comedies, and leading roles in classic musicals, both in the West End and in major regional theatres. Janie is also a passionate champion of new writing.
In addition she regularly performs her own witty and sophisticated cabaret at leading venues including Crazy Coqs, The Hippodrome, The Pheasantry, the St James Studio, Aldeburgh Festival and the ‘Divas at the Donmar’ season.
Lindsay has loved theatre since her early teens; a passion further fuelled by her first visit to see a West End play at the Apollo Theatre at the age of 15. She graduated in Drama from University of East Anglia in 1989 and then studied acting with Cygnet Training Theatre. After several years working in marketing and public relations, she was ordained in 2001. She served her curacy just outside Cambridge and moved to London in 2005, where she served as Associate Rector of St James’s, Piccadilly for 14 years. Lindsay became chaplain to the Apollo Theatre in 2010 and is also chaplain to the Palace and Victoria Palace theatres. She became Senior Chaplain of TCUK in 2012. In 2019 she moved on from St James’s to become Lead Theatre Chaplain for the Diocese of London.
Martin Ayres (Treasurer)
Revd Simon Grigg
Revd Lindsay Meader (ex officio - Senior Chaplain and Secretary)
Revd Georgina Elsey