Benevolent Fund

Equity has committed £1 million to its Benevolent Fund and has supported more than 2,500 members since the start of the pandemic. Having spent more than £750,000, further funds are required

During this pandemic the Equity Benevolent Fund is helping members in dire financial situations through a time of unprecedented need.

The Equity Benevolent Fund was designed to support members in financial need with modest one-off grants. In a normal year, the Fund typically supports around 150 members, giving out a total of around £24,000; in 2019 £23,745 was distributed to 126 individuals.

The onset of the coronavirus crisis and its devastating impact on the entertainment industry marked a rapid change in the function and operation of the Fund.

As venues closed and filming stalled, Equity pledged £1 million to bolster the Benevolent Fund and ensure it could support members finding themselves suddenly without an income. Two members of the membership department were reassigned to the administration of the Fund to support the influx of applications.

Since the start of the pandemic, more than 2,500 Equity members have received financial support totalling more than £750,000. The average total allocated to members each week is currently around £86,000.

Equity is determined to support every member who experiences dire financial need during this crisis. However, we are receiving more applications every day and, with the immediate future of filming uncertain and live performances unlikely to resume in any substantial way until 2021, the number of people needing help will only increase.

The £1 million given by the union to the Fund will not be enough to see us through this crisis, and donations from the public are vital to ensure Equity can continue to support everyone who needs help during this pandemic.

In April Equity launched a fundraising campaign spearheaded by Mark Rylance and partnered with charity Lights Up to enable donations via text message.

Mark said: “We as a union can begin now to set an example. A wonderful example of what our profession is truly about. Support for each other on and off stage. I am sixty this year, forty years an actor and Union Member. I hope to meet young actors when I am eighty who ask me how we supported each other so generously during the coronavirus crisis.”

On 21 May For the Love of Arts, a collection of monologues, readings and performances, was launched to raise money for the fund, with the campaign particularly aimed at the audiences who watch our members work on screen or in person. Produced and curated by Michelle Collins and Genesius Pictures, the initiative brings together a series of performances filmed by fifty British actors from their homes during lockdown.

Michelle Collins said: “The current crisis has had a devastating effect on my industry affecting so many of us indiscriminately. I wanted to help. I started ringing around friends in the industry and one thing led to another and I suddenly had a list of fantastic, well known and highly respected film, TV and stage actors on board, all wanting to help in any way they could. I also have a group of extremely talented writers who have all agreed to write a monologue for whoever needs one.”

Give help, get help.

If, in these troubled times, you can make a donation to the Equity Benevolent Fund, please do. No matter how small, every donation makes a huge difference. For the ways to donate, visit equity.org.uk/benfund.

If you are in need of support during this crisis please do not hesitate to get in touch. To apply to Equity’s Benevolent Fund, complete the online formMembers should be aware that, due to the volume of applications, it is taking 2-3 weeks from form submission to receipt of funds.

For other forms of assistance available to you, see our guide to support during the coronavirus crisis at equity.org.uk/support

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