East Anglia Variety Branch
Equity has a vital network of branches throughout the UK which give members a voice in the union and much more. Branches hold regular meetings in their local area and all members and student members are invited to attend these to share views and experiences, discuss issues that are of importance to them and put proposals to Equity's ruling body - the Equity Council. Branches also organise a programme of social events and raise money for local charities.
If you are an Equity member or student member based in the area you are able to join the branch (no charge) so please get in touch with the Branch Secretary. If you are a member or student member visiting the area you are very welcome to drop into the next branch meeting and get to know some of your fellow members.
The East Anglian Variety branch was born in November 1983. A team of Equity councillors including Francis Batsoni, and area organiser Alfred Clarke held a meeting in a local pub called the Cricketer’s arms, in Norwich. A couple of dozen members turned up; to see what the fuss was about. No one at the initial meeting had the faintest idea what running a union branch meant, or what minutes, agendas and rules were. They were worried because so much T.V. extra work was on offer and they were not getting it. It was the usual problem of an agency giving work to non-members. The members attending this meeting were all assured that only Equity members were allowed to do this work. The outcome of this meeting was the birth of East Anglian variety branch, VB 15.
The first meeting was at the old Railway Club in Thorpe Road, Norwich, which at the time booked acts, and bands every Friday Saturdays and Sunday, plus special occasions. The assembled members nominated Peachy Mead for the Branch secretary as he was a well-known entertainer in the area and he also had been writing a weekly Column in the ‘Stage’ newspaper since 1963. So, they thought he would know the ropes and even though Peachy tried to get out of the job he remains the current Secretary of the Branch. These days he is also Chairman of the South East Area committee, attending meeting for the V.A.C. AGM and A.R.C. He is proud that the branch is active.
Many well-known local artists have served on the committee however; the Chairman’s position is viewed with caution because at least three chairmen have passed away. These being; Marshal Pete Wood, Rod Wells, and Ted Rowe. All three were dedicated chairmen to the branch. In Recent years the post was held briefly by Ned Potts, followed by Dennis Powell who managed to avoid the curse of the chairman and stood down two years ago. In his place and currant chairman is Tony Dennes, who started his entertainment career as a double act with Peachy Mead as Butlins redcoats in 1961. Many years later Tony returned to Norfolk joining the branch as assistant secretary in 1988 bringing the old ‘double act’ back. He subsequently decided the current Secretary would last forever,, so in 2005 he settled in as the branch chairman.
The branch has done much in its time including motions to the unions AGM and later A.R.C.’s. We instigated two-year terms for committees, the postal vote, and got low paid holiday park entertainers excepted to Equity, so we could then negotiate better fees for them. At the time it was suggested, this would open the floodgates to anybody seeking a card. Instead it brought in professionals who were being badly paid and not earning enough to qualify for membership. Like all unions and branches, we felt that the end of the closed shop, was a killer blow and membership dropped.
We now hear that new members only join for the public liability insurance. It doesn’t matter because the fact is they are in the business and chose to join Equity. Our current committee includes members who admit they joined for the insurance, but attending meetings has made them pleased to be part of the Equity family. You to can give your support by attending meetings, and feel part of something important.
Members of this branch should feel special. You belong to an important and effective union and,, you belong to the famous East Anglia Variety branch.