Incorporating the Variety Artistes' Federation
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Liverpool & District General Branch Equity ARC Report 2017

29 June 2017

Liverpool & District General Branch Equity ARC Report 2017

On the 21st  and 22nd of May this year’s Annual Representative Conference was once again held in London. Representing your branch was Chair Stephanie Greer and Treasurer Martin Williams. Our fellow branch, the Merseyside Variety branch was represented once again by Fiona Martin.

Malcolm Sinclair officially opened the 2017 conference with his President’s address. He emphasised that the union is led by its members, and reinforced how important they are. Members supply the ideas that become the motions that are voted on at the ARC, and then acted on by council and the union. Equity’s staff act on the information that they are given by members, because it is members who know what’s going on in the industry, as they are exposed to it. Equity, Spotlight, the CDG and PMA have worked on a new Manifesto for Casting that is due to launch on 22nd June. He recognised that diversity was a big issue facing the union, and there is still a way to go. The number of motions dealing with equality and diversity this year supported this point. Malcolm Sinclair highlighted the great work done by the member committees over the last year including Equity’s Contract Guide. Equity will be supporting SAG-AFTRA in the work that needs to be done in the performance capture industry and will also be working with Stage Director’s UK to improve contracts. He reminded us that the union faced challenges ahead with the forthcoming General Election and Britain’s Withdrawal from the EU. However, announced that union finances were strong and celebrated 2017 as the Year of Variety.


Christine Payne followed with her General Secretary’s Report.

She guided representatives through the annual report and outlined the progress made by the union on Pay & Conditions, in particular the improved Sub-Rep agreement. She repeated and agreed with Malcolm Sinclair’s assertion that the members work with the staff to make progress. Well done!

She revealed that the union has recovered £120,000 of fees for variety members alone this year. It is essential that the workforce (and therefore unions) are represented in the talks and negotiations on our withdrawal from the EU and Equity should have a place on the Creative Industries Council. On 5th July, Equity have an event in Parliament to emphasise that our members need freedom of movement.

The DIAMOND report has been released (a report on BBC diversity monitoring). ACE (Arts Council England) have failed to show any form of diversity reporting. She concluded her report with statistics which support the argument that The Arts are important! (£87bn of the UK GDP (gross domestic product) is the arts. More people go to theatre than attend premiership football.)


Equality and Diversity motions were first on the agenda. All 9 motions were passed included our branch motion which was passed unanimously! Your representatives accepted Council’s amendment to change the wording of ‘prioritised’ to ‘addressed equally’.



This ARC urges Council to put social and economic mobility on Equity’s national agenda and to include it in the remit of the Equality and Diversity Officer. We praise the union for their excellent work on equality and diversity, especially the appointment of a full-time officer in this role. However, we strongly believe that the often more difficult to define issue of social and economic mobility in the arts needs to be prioritised.

Stephanie Greer spoke passionately as she proposed the motion, as did Martin Williams in his seconding. Support for our motion was received throughout the conference from Equity staff, especially Equality and Diversity officers Hamida Ali and Jo Welch who will be visiting the branch in response soon; and also from fellow branches, including the Yorkshire Ridings Branch who we hope to work alongside in enabling local actors from all backgrounds to be seen at their local theatres. Once again our motion was featured prominently in the national press.


The afternoon began with a rousing speech by Lord Cashman who spoke mainly on Brexit and his sadness at the result and what it could mean for our industry. His full speech is available on the Equity website. He was then awarded Honourable Life Membership alongside Rhubarb the Clown.


Stephen Spence, Deputy for the General Secretary, Industrial and Organising gave his report which focussed on the need to take action against arts cuts. In particular the proposed 100% arts cuts in Bristol and Bath.


Motions focussed on Variety, Circus and Entertainers were well supported and it was voted that 2018 will be ‘The Year of Circus’!


Motions on live performance all passed. Stephanie Greer spoke to support motion 20 from the North Lancashire and Cumbria General Branch which was directly linked to a motion previously sent by our branch. Her speech on the need to cast and rehearse in the area the theatre is based and not in London was quoted in The Stage newspaper.


Day 2 began with a report from Equity’s General Secretary, Communications and Membership Support, Matt Hood. He announced the launch of Equity’s new website which will be in October this year. He spoke on how Equity needs to better learn to use E-Mail, Video and Audio and that Equity will be looking for suggestions on a new logo design.

Bryn Evans, Honorary Treasurer gave his statement of accounts and guided representatives through the financial report. He reiterated that the finances were healthy. With regards to the unknown union funds, it is suspected that it is uncollected royalties. There has since been a High Court judgement on how the funds can be used. Some have gone to various charities. The union is taking suggestions from branches on short-term projects that might benefit members. Unknown funds are roughly £800,000.


It was passed that membership subscriptions will increase by £3 per year. The base rate will now be £128 from £125. That works out at a 25p per month increase. There will also be a £1 increase on the entrance fee.

Other motions of note were the appointment of a staff member for mental health and anti-bullying, and a digital Equity badge so that members can share that they are part of the union. Both were successfully voted for.

Thanks to a motion from the Screen and New Media Committee, Equity will be looking into its agreements for the BBC: BBC Studios are currently owned by the BBC, but are a commercial enterprise. The BBC have a specific agreement with Equity because it is non-commercial. Despite BBC Studios being for profit, they are wanting to use an agreement with Equity based on it being not for profit. BBC Studios will be taking over a lot of BBC production and will be run for profit as a commercial enterprise.


Rosamund Shelley from the International Committee for Artists Freedom spoke to the ARC about some of the individuals that have been supported by the charity. ICAF’s job is to fight for artistic freedom and they have supported efforts like those of theatre company Good Chance and their work in Calais’ refugee camp ‘The Jungle’. A bucket collection raised £329.60 for ICAF.


Martin Williams attended the open spaces sessions (informal discussions on various matters members want to talk about). These included discussions on how we can make film schools recognise the value of paying actors. Further to this was a conversation with Emmanuel de Lange who will be extending his work on the Low Pay No Pay Campaign to film schools. The branch will be working alongside Emmanuel as he visits the universities and film schools in our area. Another important discussion was digital access to meetings. If someone wants to video call into the branch meeting they need to contact the branch secretary forty-eight hours in advance so that they can set up remote access. The online branch is designed to serve those who can’t attend physical branch meetings. You can be a member of both your local branch and the online branch. Remote access does have a protocol and is used frequently by other branches. Our branch now has some contacts to help us with that.


Stephen Spence spoke again. This time focussing on the UK’s withdrawal from the EU and how that will affect Northern Ireland in particular. ‘Game of Thrones’ has pumped £110mn in to the economy through Equity negotiated agreements and 3 sound studios have been built. He believes a hard border with the Republic of Ireland will threaten this progress, success and may even threaten the peace of Northern Ireland.

The 2018 ARC will be in London, the 2019 will be in Belfast.

Motion 45 from the Audio Committee directly linked with our recent branch-subsidised Voice Over workshop. Equity will be exploring what guidance and support can be given to members about professional rates of pay for audio work.

All recorded media motions were passed.

Once again your representatives were live tweeting from the ARC to keep all branch members as up to date as possible!



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