In February 1962, a special dinner-dance and cabaret show was staged as a benefit performance for the actor David Beattie, who was dying of cancer in a Johannesburg nursing home. The event was organized by Robert (Bobby) Lang. David, a talented young actor, passed away shortly after the function and the balance of the Beattie Benefit Performance was used to start a benefit fund to aid the profession as a whole. The fund was well and truly launched after a rousing presentation called SHOWTIME the following June. A report in THE STAR of 11 April 1962 also reveals that that Sir Noël Coward (still Mr Coward in those days and chairman of the British Actors Benevolent Fund) wrote a letter of congratulations on the formation of the SA Actors Benevolent Fund – the original name of the Theatre Benevolent Fund. Mr Coward commented that by the nature of their profession and very often by their own temperaments, actors found it difficult to save money and when bad luck or illness came along, it meant a lot to have a sympathetic society with the means and the will to help.
In December 1964 the then ABF was registered as a Welfare Organization, and the members of the theatre profession contributed 25c a week, later 50c a week, of their salaries while working. These amounts were doubled by the managements for whom they worked and the professionals staged shows from time to time to augment the funds.
Unfortunately this practice is no longer adhered to, not least because of the closing down of the former artists' unions. Very few contributions are at present coming from workers in the entertainment industry although there are ironically more workers in the field than ever before. If it wasn’t for the few stalwarts and loyal friends of the Fund, the TBF would have been forced to close down long ago.