One September morning in 2001, two planes made the world shake. Despite those tragic events about forty Equity members living in the North West met at the Contact Theatre in Manchester that evening to try to ensure that a proposed general branch was successfully birthed in order to further facilitate the needs of members in the area.
2002 – 2005 Saw a number of teething troubles as well as a number of successful developments for the future facilities that the branch would be able to offer members. Then in 2006, the various strands of aims and plans came together, so that at least in our area we could finally quell the “What has Equity ever done for me?” brigade. Free workshops were introduced and continue to develop to include the types of workshops that are useful but rarely seen, if ever, when offered by the more traditional workshop organisers; health & safety; first aid; computer literacy: always with the aim to be specific to our industry. Added to this are the more traditional workshops in which we have been fortunate to attract industry professionals (time permitting) to conduct more formalised acting workshops. Directors including Jacob Murray (Director - Royal Exchange Theatre Company), Ian Vernon (Biffa Film Productions)and Martin Gibbons (Associate Casting Director of Emma Stafford Casting) are among those who have pledged time-gifts to run the FREE Branch workshops since Summer 2007.
And since one swallow does not make a summer, we have the annual Summer Party to look forward to each August, where one can swallow copious amounts of food and drink and now bump into the occasional agent, casting director and director or producer since we turned the event into more of a networking ‘do’ in 2006. We also managed to sustain free entry for members in benefit and student members, make the first drink free and reduce the branch’s financial top-up on the previous two years’ events put together. This format has now been adopted as policy as the way to continue with such events in future…until we can find a way to include goody-bags with diamond watches as well.
To further enable members to voice their opinions, questions, etc., the branch agenda was altered in 2004 to include ‘Members Concerns’ early in the meeting. This avoided the unpleasant situation of railroading these concerns into the ‘Any Other Business’ section towards the end of the meeting and running out of time. We have always been fortunate to have our area organiser, Jamie Briers, on hand at meetings to assist and clarify at this point.
From September 2009, Branch meetings will go monthly and the AGM will be brought forward to the November so we can provide you with another Branch Party in the December... a Christmas Party, perhaps?
One of the most important aspects of the branch is its commitment to absolute transparency in the operation of the union. Members are affected by decisions and should therefore know the full story of how those decisions are made and arrived at. Equity has, for the past few years seen a low return on voting response, but we feel that by keeping our branch members more fully informed, they will be more inclined to vote in elections.
Two of the most important assets the branch possesses are in the forms of the aforementioned Jamie Briers and also Mary Hooley, both based in the Manchester office without whose unswerving dedication and loyalty not just to their jobs but to the members is invaluable.
With all the framework in place only you, the member, is needed to help flesh it out by attending branch meetings, by signing up to the FREE workshops announced therein, taking advantage of the knowledge and experience of leading industry guest speakers that are invited (some people have ended up with jobs as a result).
All in all, support your branch and it will support you.
Q) So, as an existing Equity member living in the North West of England, how much extra does it cost to register to the North West of England General Branch and gain all the benefits it has to offer?