Founded in 1818, The Old Vic Theatre is part of the fabric that London’s thriving culture is cut. When they approached us back in 2021, we were both a bit battle-worn by Covid but we recognised a kinship in each other. At their heart, they are storytellers. At our heart, we’re storykeepers. Ah, we thought, these are people who have witnessed what happens when stories have nowhere to go. 


Spearheaded by their HR Director Jessica Lynch-Blosse, The Old Vic wanted to support not only their full-time team but their seasonal staff too. Since partnering with The Old Vic we’ve delivered 530 therapy sessions, trained 20 Mental Health Champions and delivered 6 workshops alongside smaller group work. An industry that is often underfunded and facing governmental budget cuts, that houses creative eclectic and wonderful individuals from all walks of life, finding the money to support their people in a meaningful way against the odds.


What do we love about working with The Old Vic Theatre? They’ve done away with the stereotype that creative people need to be struggling in order for their art to be meaningful. They understand that their people are only going to be giving their absolute best when they and their mental health are being taken care of. 



About The Old Vic


The Old Vic is a 1000 seat not-for-profit theatre in the heart of London Waterloo. We are an artistic powerhouse for entertainment and education with a strong social mission, enabling anyone to experience, make and benefit from theatre. Depending on the time of the year and what we have on our stage, we have up to 350 staff, comprising our core team of around 85, 120 casuals and a large cohort of freelancers.


What was your company struggling with in relation to workplace mental health and wellbeing?


The majority of those we work with are casuals or freelancers, many of whom were actors, backstage roles and creatives working short stints at venues, often due to the transient nature of their contract, not being able to benefit from the same benefits as core staff. We wanted to support everyone who works with us equally and in a way that was flexible, accessible and above all, useful to those working with us. Emerging from the pandemic we realised that many of our teams were struggling in different ways. We had an EAP in place that was good, but underutilised, was reactive rather than proactive and didn’t feel personal.



Why did you choose to partner with Self Space?


We considered a few different wellbeing support models before landing on a therapy partnership with Self Space, including the possibility of an online platform with wellbeing resources, an in house therapist to name a few. The workshops were also a great pull in ensuring we could offer our staff a chance to discuss mental health openly, receive tools and tips and an approach that was consistent with the support on offer. 


From our first conversation, it was a match made in heaven. It was really clear that Self Space ‘got’ us and what we wanted to achieve. It was invigorating to see a company that talked about mental health in such a frank and accessible way – it was a breath of fresh air.

Everyone we met from Self Space to discuss the potential partnership was so passionate and fantastic and they’ve been creative, flexible, responsive, thoughtful (and fun!). It’s been great to see their growth over the duration of our partnership.



What were you hoping to achieve by working with Self Space?


We hoped at a minimum, that our people began feeling a bit more comfortable talking about their mental health at work, with each other, with their line managers, and outside of work too. Our hope was also to lead the way in terms of how the arts and creative sector supports those who keep the sector going, in that we hoped to see others following suit in ensuring tailored and accessible support for a transient and vital workforce. An integrated approach to the partnership was important to us – with a joint alliance that felt like Self Space were part of The Old Vic and The Old Vic were part of Self Space – connected but with confidentiality maintained for those using the service.



What has been the impact of working with Self Space?


Since we’ve been encouraging therapy as mental maintenance, or a ‘wellbeing MOT’, many of our staff have tried therapy who wouldn’t have had the opportunity, or been interested before. 


This is some of the feedback we’ve received from our staff:

‘Just a quick email to say thank you so much again for helping me out and offering the free therapy sessions through Self Space. I have benefitted massively from the sessions and it is a really great thing that the Old Vic provides it – so thank you to you for organising, and thank you to the Old Vic for being such a brilliant and supportive environment to work!’


‘Really appreciate the access to Self Space and think it’s a wonderful thing – thank you!’

‘I am really proud of how much The Old Vic have put mental health support at the forefront. Self Space is a great initiative.’


‘Great session, it was really good to have the time made within work time for these discussions, and to both learn and speak to colleagues about the topic.’


Prior to Self Space, the utilisation of our previous EAP was <5%.
35% of our Core staff have utilised Self Space in 2023. 

73% of our staff either Agree or Strongly Agree in response to ‘I value the mental health support from Self Space’. 

Our usage figures speak for themselves – we’ve seen a steady incline in usage since the inception of our partnership – with many requesting more sessions. 



Do you have any other comments that you’d like to share about your work with Self Space?


Just a huge thank you for being so helpful, flexible, innovative and ultimately supporting our teams to do their best work and be their best selves.



If you’re ready to take the first step towards championing the mental health of your people, book a chat with Alex, and she’ll help you get started.