Curtain call for Merseyside merchandise firm

Merseyside branded merchandise firm The Branded Items Group helped played a major role in raising more than £1m for theatre charities during the pandemic. Tony McDonough reports

The Show Must Go On
Chris Marcus, left, with Steve Fairhurst of The Branded Items Group


A Merseyside promotional items and branded merchandise business has been commended for its support for a campaign that raised more than £1m for theatre charities during lockdown.

By April 2020, things had looked uncertain for the merchandise industry, forcing family-owned St Helens form The Branded Items Group to diversify, providing PPE, branded facemasks and hand gel.

In May, the company was contacted by the newly-formed Theatre Support Fund in London’s West End. Chris Marcus and Damien Stanton, two friends who worked in London’s theatre industry had created a brand called The Show Must Go On.

Its aim was to sell branded merchandise to raise money for charities supporting the theatre industry. Managing director of Branded Items Group, Steve Fairhurst, said: “The initial enquiry to our company was for just 100 branded mugs and 100 books.

“I thought the The Show Must Go On campaign was brilliant from inception and the message resonated with the situation we were all facing during the COVID crisis. We were however shocked at what was to follow and how fast the campaign took off. The theatre ordering system literally crashed within days with the demand.”

Chris Marcus, founder of The Theatre Support Fund, explained: “We started the Theatre Support Fund as a tiny project in April 2020, but the project grew at an extraordinary rate. By the end of the first day on sale, the orders were near 1,000 books and mugs and 6,500 T-shirts.”

The Show Go On campaign gathered momentum and drew international media attention, with celebrities such as Dame Judy Dench offering support, alongside a whole host of household names such as Keira Knightly, who posted images of themselves on social media wearing the branded T-shirts.

The campaign culminated last week, with the Theatre Support Fund running a five-night live performance of The Show Must Go on Live at the Palace Theatre, London which was a performed by a series of west end musical leads and hosted by Bonnie Langford.

The Show Must Go On
The Show Must Go on Live at the Palace Theatre, London


The Branded Items Group directors attended as guests, with a live stream performance being broadcasted to 500,000 people on You-tube, where it was announced the campaign had raised more than £1m for theatre charities.

Chris said: “Steve (Fairhurst) has been like the third key member of our team.  He has been there literally day and night to help us and respond to our needs and ideas for new products as the range grew. 

“The whole operation, which turned into a project turning over millions of pounds has been successful in a large part to the help of Steve and The Branded Items Group.”

Steve added: “We feel so privileged and lucky to have been involved in this campaign. When I think back to that first phone call last year, it’s incredible to think how much the Theatre Support Fund has raised with merchandise being sold to over 70 countries worldwide.

“The enormity of what we have been involved in only really sunk when we were sat in the Palace Theatre at the live performance and could see what it meant to performers and the audience alike.”

The firm, who which was also given a UK Business Hero status from the Countess of Wessex during lockdown, for its work in the local community, is now looking to expand in the UK theatre industry.

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