Incorporating the Variety Artistes' Federation
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NWEGB Minutes for Branch Meeting Sunday 17th February 2013

10 March 2013

Present: Barry Evans (Chair), David Corden (Sec/ Pro/ etc), Jamie Byron (Vice-Chair/ Asst. Sec), Hylton Collins, James Dunn, Richard Howell-Jones, Paul Blinkhorn, Christine C. Hall, Viva Cassidy, Susan Twist, Siobhan Rocks, Julian Kelly. Caroline Melliar-Smith & Natalie Amber (unsigned but present).


Meeting commenced 1.01pm


  1. 1.            Welcome: BE welcomed members and encouraged a ‘round-robin’ introduction of all present.


  1. Apologies for absence: Andrew Husband, David Cockayne, Derek Lawson, Mae Brogan, Robbie Dale, Maggi Hevicon-Thompson, Russell Richardson.


  1. 3.            Correspondence (incl. Confirmation of Jan minutes): January 2013 minutes proposed as true and accurate by BE, seconded by VC – Vote: Unanimous. Correspondence included an obituary for Penny Gowling, an Equity members of many years, died aged 92. Member Barry English requested via email that he only receive the electronic form of the Newsletter. Motion proposal from David Cockayne – deferred to Item 6 (below).


  1. 4.            Committee Report: Confirmation of the new meeting times structure for branch meeting to be followed by the committee meeting.


  1. Treasurer’s Report: Due to NA being delayed, discussion was given to the branch position on ‘services advertising’ to be mailed out with the postal Newsletter following member, Viva Cassidy’s, clothing alterations business card being mailed out with the Jan/Feb Newsletter and her contribution of £25 to branch funds. VC stated, should the branch approve, she would be inclined to repeat this on a quarterly basis – thereby contributing £100/ year to branch funds. Discussion circulated around the possibility of attracting other advertisers without affecting the postal costs. DC suggested this could be done by scanning relevant details to A4 (for up to 8 adverts). Also, enquiries would be made to see if the e-newsletter would be able to carry advertising. Motion to “Enable future advertising inserts to accompany the branch Newsletter” – Proposed: VC Seconded: DC – Vote: Unanimous.




  1. Members Concerns: David Cockayne’s proposed motion from the branch to the Council:

“The North West England General Branch is concerned that the specialisms which have lost representation, whether on Council or via committees, will have their particular views and needs relegated in priority in the work of the industrial committees. The three committees need to be fully aware of the needs of existing areas within the union, and of the growing number of new ones. We ask the Council to ensure that these areas of work, and potential membership growth, are surveyed, possibly using an online resource, so that the new industrial committees are fully informed in establishing their priorities and strategies.”


The motion was read out and repeated twice due to the majority of members feeling that the motion, as worded, was unclear and requested that it be saved to be re-addressed at the March branch meeting after it had been rewritten and clarified – Proposed: DC Seconded: CM-S – Vote: F: 11 Ag: 0 Ab: 1.


Julian Kelly raised the ever increasing problems of unpaid ‘work’ being advertised on online casting database sites, specifically ‘StarNow’. Following discussion the branch will look into conducting a ‘SurveyMonkey’ (online) with regard to all casting websites. Christine C. Hall raised the issue of her agent racially (un)stereotyping her due to having blonde streaks in her hair; DC advised that this was beyond prejudice and venturing into the area of outright restrictive practice.


Discussion went on to the importance of engaging all areas of the union and the industry and that education was often all too lacking on both sides to ensure good practice.


Paul Blinkhorn pointed out that when he has acted as a director/ producer in the past, he has ensured that the actors have been paid even if that means he himself does not receive a fee. He also raised the point that there don’t appear to be too many job calls (online or otherwise) for directors.


JB raised concerns over recent press reports of homophobic comments being made on the Coronation Street set and enquired whether anyone knew further details, beyond Granada(sic) issuing a warning letter. DC stated that no comments or remarks based on race, colour, creed, disability, diet, sexuality or sexual preference should be tolerated and that ITV should have included all of these in its 4th Feb memorandum.




  1. Low/No Pay Update from January Meeting: BE read out his contribution to the next Newsletter, with reference to Black Box TC. JB requested that SM’s be included and the last paragraph be edited out as being “too negative”.

JB also brought up his concern that the increasingly popular JB Shorts (now in it’s 5th year) picks writers, picks directors but auditions actors (thereby falling foul of what the branch has agreed constitutes a job offer).

Sue Twist also raised concerns over 24:7, especially due to their funding strands – DC clarified the fact that 24:7 is not a theatre producer and does not itself “hire” actors or directors and the funding goes to facilitate and manage the festival for the production companies taking part – but added that 24:7 have circulated a “Producer’s Code of Conduct” every year since 2006 written by DC to ensure that even the most basic common rights of the actors, stage-management and directors are observed.

James Dunn raised the question of what the payment responsibility of Arts council England and Lottery funded companies actually is. DC stated that ACE funded companies used to be expected to pay Equity minimum but that even their own website jobs section has, in recent years, come under criticism from all sides due to advertising below industry standard agreement jobs – but will seek further clarification from both ACE and the Lottery Arts Fund.


  1. Aims, Campaigns & Issues: Natalie Amber’s ‘Creativity Talks’ campaign has taken shape to the point where she is now engaging with and targeting local theatre production companies, with Bolton Octagon already registering their interest and support. At this time she is still waiting to hear back from other companies, including the Royal Exchange, and her long sought after meeting with Equity Equalities Officer, Max Beckmann.

ST also mentioned the campaigns to save local swimming baths and libraries she has been involved in which do relate quite strongly to our own campaigns which affect facilitation of precious services to the community.


  1. ARC 2013 call for motions: DC proposed a white paper motion for consideration at the January meeting which was accepted for consideration as an ARC motion at that meeting. He then produced a second motion as an alternative to vote for as the motion to go forward to the ARC 2013. The choices of motion read as follows:


Motion 1


“Due to the recent and persistent rises in travel costs, particularly rail fares, this ARC requests that the Council consider mounting a campaign to combat ‘last minute’ castings and auditions that see performers continually having to pay the full fare.”


Proposed: David Corden, Seconded: Christine C. Hall – Accepted by January meeting


Motion 2


“Since the Government’s increase on VAT to 20%, most members with agency representation -  actors, variety, walk-on/ supporting artists - have been hit extremely hard financially due to the fact that many agents, personal/ boutique managements and casting agencies maintain commission levels of up to and sometimes exceeding 20%.

This ARC calls on the Council to seek opportunities to lobby the Government to reduce the rate of VAT that agents and other representation are forced to charge on top of their commission.”


Proposed: David Corden, Seconded: Richard Howell-Jones – Accepted by the meeting


A vote was held, in which Motion 2 was voted as the ARC 2013 motion by a two thirds majority of 8 votes to 4. Neither motion was voted against or subject to abstentions.


DC produced a further motion which he had written to send to the Northern Area AGM, as follows:


“This ARC requests that the Council encourages development of a campaign template to target Local Government in funding deprived or subsidy cut areas so that Branches can individually or en masse target their Town Halls and make them accountable to the live arts.”


Proposed: David Corden, Seconded: NWEGB Feb 2013 Meeting*

He requested that the entire branch second the motion to send a clear message that without an area committee, branches will have to find other ways to co-ordinate their actions in a clearly defined way and have the support and guidance to do so. * This was done and the meeting unanimously seconded the motion.


  1. Recruitment & Retention, incl. Services & Events: No item raised.


  1. Health & Safety: BE requested that DC (Sec) explain BAPAM (British Association of Performing Arts Medicine) to the members. This was done and information given of how to find BAPAM on the internet.


  1. Equality, diversity & specialities: Concern was raised regarding PHA’s insistence at being a sole agent for extras, walk-ons, etc., and the apparent requirement for those working in this field to live within a close radius of the area, thereby negating the possibility of work in other geographical areas. DC informed members that they had the right to re-negotiate their contracts and urge PHA to recognise their rights to work in other geographical locations, if necessary, with alternative representation in those locations.


  1. No item 13


  1. Communications. Any newsletter contributions should be sent to David Corden via email to – DC encouraged submissions from all members, not just committee, and that the deadline for submissions will stand at 6pm on the last Saturday of the month. Also, any newsletter contributions must be sent via email (or a facebook personal message) and will be accepted in the body of the email pane or as attachments in Windows Word format as .rtf or .doc files only. Please use the ‘Save As’ option to save as .doc if using .docx. File attachments with .pdf extentions will NOT be accepted as this is a graphical document file (ie. a picture of a document).


JB requested that an offer be extended to members to receive Newsletters by email only. DC to confirm with Jamie Briers that this is possible and not exclude all postal communications from Equity as it had done in the past.


  1. Any Other Business: Discussion was held regarding alternative venues for future meetings, including 3MT and the Castle pub both on Oldham Street. DC revealed a way of actually making the meetings profit the branch financially.


Meeting closed: 15:02pm


Next meeting: 12:30pm Sunday 17th March 2013, Britons Protection.


April meeting: 12:30pm Sunday 21st April 2013, 3MT, Afflecks Palace, Oldham St., Manchester


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