Incorporating the Variety Artistes' Federation
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Central England General Branch History

Our Branch was founded in 2003 when 30 members of Equity met in a Birmingham pub and nine Equity members volunteered to be the founding committee. Since then our branch has gone from strength to strength and now has over 300 members.

There have been several changes of committee members and meeting venue over the years and most recently a change of name. Originally we were the Birmingham General Branch but as our Branch membership is drawn from the whole of the Midlands we felt we needed a new name to truly reflect the region we represent.

In 2004 our Equity branch campaigned along with local based playwrights including Claire Bennett to have a purpose-built pub theatre venue in Birmingham. After sending several letters in support of this purpose-built pub theatre the Old Joint-Stock Pub Theatre opened in 2005

In 2008 On hearing that the BBC were planning to move their production of “Doctors” from Birmingham to Manchester the branch campaigned vigorously to keep this BBC production here. Many letters were sent by members to their local MPs. Branch Secretary Tracey Briggs met with Sir Michael Lyons (The then head of the BBC Trust) as well as meeting Jerry Blackett, CEO, Birmingham Chamber of Commerce  and Mike Whitby the head of Birmingham City Council. John Hemming MP who had been particularly helpful during this campaign was about to put forward a second early day motion to keep “Doctors” in our region, when it was announced that “Doctors” would remain here. So this victory was achieved by the work of active Equity branch members.

Over the years our guest speakers have included: actor and television director Christopher Timothy; Gwenda Hughes, Artistic Director of the New Vic Theatre, Newcastle-under-Lyme; Andrew Breakwell, Artistic Director Nottingham Playhouse Education Company; Hamish Glen, Artistic Director of the Belgrade Theatre Coventry; Janice Connolly, Artistic Director of Women and Theatre; Adrian Jackson, Artistic Director of the Garrick Theatre Lichfield; Hannah Miller, Casting Director at the Birmingham Rep; Trevor West, BBC Birmingham Drama Production Executive; Peter Leslie Wild, Head of BBC Radio Drama, Birmingham; Lee Thomas, Screen West Midlands Head of Production and Development; plus our Equity President, and several other members of Equity staff. More recently, we have had Local MP Gisela Stuart, Actor Lorna Laidlaw, Equity Low Pay, No Pay Industrial Organiser Emmanuel de Lange, and Big Centre TV Channel Director Chris Perry.

Our branch has also helped to organise a regular play reading group in partnership with Script and training workshops in partnership with the Actors Centre North. Sadly due to recent funding cuts these two events no longer happen, however with the help of active members in our branch it is hoped that these things will be replaced and continue in some other form.

We have also run some successful fundraising and networking events, including a very popular Christmas pub quiz, an evening of celebrity guest speakers and a very enjoyable summer barbecue, which had agents and theatre producers mingling with our members.

Hopefully our branch will continue to flourish and provide a useful resource for Equity members in the Midlands region, however the success of our branch can only be achieved with the commitment, time and help of active Equity members. so please make sure you're on the mailing list for your Equity branch and never hesitate to be involved.