Since its foundation in 1930, Equity has evolved from a relatively small grassroots organisation to a mass collective with an international reputation as a trade union that fights for the working rights of its members. It is recognised the world over for ensuring that the voices of professional performers and creative practitioners are heard.
Equity’s work was ground-breaking in forming the first ever West End contracts, attacking film studios and the BBC for its artists fees, and in looking to continual care of these performers in the profession.
During WWII, Equity established a series of luncheons to benefit artists in need as a result of the outbreak of War.
This sense of pastoral and communal care for its members has been a constant aim of the union, with the same spirit continuing today in the maintenance and funding of several benevolent funds that provide members with support.
During the 1960s it fought with the civil rights movement and insisted that all members sign a declaration stating they would not play to venues that included a ‘colour-bar’. This fight for equality continued throughout the years of Apartheid in South Africa. Today Equity’s campaign for fairness continues to be an integral part of its mission in protecting its members from racism, sexism, homophobia, and bullying in the workplace.
As a trade union organisation its efforts are primarily focused on achieving fair working conditions for its artists. Through this work, it endeavours to protect artists by setting strict guidelines to ensure the health and welfare of its members is fought for and respected.
Equity exists to protect the rights of the artists it represents. As stated by their website its aims and actions are to;
- Campaign and lobby
- Provide Services
- Take action
- Act as a community
If, as an artist, you feel you are being taken advantage of, overworked, underpaid, and unfairly treated then contacting Equity can be the first step in pursuing the right course of action. It also keeps a regularly updated special attention list of agents, directors and companies to steer clear of within the industry.
The aim of the list is not to offend or attack, but to offer advice; factually those listed have been reported to Equity due to several cases of misconduct. The list is an active reminder to be consciously aware before accepting any job that your rights as a performer must be respected.
As well as the special attention list, Equity works tirelessly to promote the successful work of its current members by regularly inviting prominent and positive members of the industry to speak at its meetings, to host workshops and auditions. Those invited to speak and attend are often key casting directors, established agents, and prolific directors. All of which are there due to the reputation of Equity. I’ve known several actors who have attended these mini-meetings or casting days and have subsequently been offered representation by agents, or been called in for further castings.
Like any trade union and organisation, taking a proactive step is essential to gain the full reward of membership. Attending meetings, applying for the auditions, even just reading the minutes can all help you to keep in the loop and involved. Feeling included, spoken to and spoken for are all part of being within this industry community – which is why it’s incredibly important to be looking at the upcoming Equity elections.
Equity is not in any way politically affiliated – having your vote cast here is about having your rights as an artist and performer heard and respected. If you’re unsure who to vote for, try and go to an upcoming branch meeting or contact a local current councillor to ask about current aims and goals.
All members eligible to vote will have been sent a registration pack to vote by June 4th.
If you have not received this – email Equity to have it sent out: email@example.com.
You can only vote by ballot paper by post. All candidates’ election statements are available to downloaded and read from the website here.
Voting closes at 12:00pm on 9th July 2014.