Buckets of love at RENT

Waverley Care Fundraising Manager, Karen Docwra

Earlier this month, the 20th Anniversary tour of RENT the musical came to the Edinburgh Festival Theatre and we were delighted to be invited to bucket shake at two performances. Here, our Fundraising Manager Karen, talks about the extraordinary reaction from the audience.

In my 25 years working for Waverley Care, I’ve never once had to reign in the tears while holding a collecting bucket. But, when a young woman turns her purse upside down and shakes out its entire contents, you know that something special is happening!

Waverley Care has a long association with RENT, Jonathan Larson’s profound and important story of impoverished artists living in New York City’s Bohemian East Village at the end of the 1980s. HIV is a theme that runs through the show, a catalyst that has seen us link up with many amateur companies to fundraise. These have  included Craft Theatre, Captivate, Edinburgh Music Theatre, EU Footlights and Glasgow Live Productions.

We knew that the 20th anniversary tour would be big, and when we found out that one of the cast would announce our bucket shakes, we had high hopes for a healthy collection.

But nothing prepared me – or our volunteer collectors – for the response from the audience.  Handfuls of coins and £10 notes being thrust in your direction just simply doesn’t happen when you work for a stigmatised cause.  But such is the power of RENT!

Across the two nights, we raised an extraordinary £2,600 (with a further £500 to come in the form of matched funding from Lloyds Banking Group); a sum which will help us to transform the lives of people who are living with HIV, many of whom still struggle to be open about their status – a theme that runs through the show.  ‘I should tell you, I should tell you …’

Having sat through the show before my fundraising duties, I was already hugely moved.  Moved, of course, by the loss of the beautiful, happy-go-lucky Angel, who we see die as a result of AIDS, but also by the overwhelming themes of love and friendship which pervade the show and put a smile on your face, even amidst the sadness.

And I think this is what had me wiping my eyes on my Waverley Care T shirt – that sense that the people in the audience really cared; they really cared about people who are living with HIV and they really cared about the work that we do.  And that was an emotional place to be!

The next ‘five hundred twenty-five thousand six hundred minutes’ will see us using this money to change lives for the better. So a big thank you to those audiences, to the Festival Theatre, to Lucie Jones for her passionate announcement and to the RENT 20th Anniversary tour company for making it happen.