North Lancashire & Cumbria General Branch


In June 2011 Equity members and other theatre crafts people/practitioners came together to mount a campaign in support of funding for in-house production at the Duke’s Theatre, Lancaster.

This was in reaction to the Art’s Council announcement that the Duke’s would have an 11% reduction in their ACE grant from 2012 (this on top of a 50% cut 3 years previously). In a short space of time the Duke’s ability to produce its own shows had been decimated.

It was not difficult to see where things were heading – a complete end to in-house production at what had been just a few years earlier, a lively, busy, popular theatre which had received critical acclaim for much of its work.

The employment for our members as actors and stage managers and that of theatre crafts people (workshop staff, scenic designers, costume designers/ wardrobe professionals) who make up the life of a thriving, creative theatre would all be irretrievably lost forever. The possible demise of yet another small but much-loved and highly respected theatre serving a specific and relatively isolated area could not be tolerated. It is worth remembering that the Duke’s is the only producing theatre in Lancashire.

A small campaign committee was formed and we set about challenging the Arts Council about its funding decisions, raising the issue in local and national media, writing to local city and county councillors and most important of all, mobilising the Duke’s audience.

Our Campaign activity happily coincided with what was then to be the final Duke’s Promenade production, “Merlin”, in Williamson Park and some 800 letters and contacts were made to North West Arts in support of the Park show, in protest at the threats to production work at the theatre and about the comparatively poor funding of the Arts throughout Lancashire.

We realised that with a small committed core of 8-10 Equity members we could have an important influence on events, opinion-setting and the profile and significance of our members work.

We decided that the best way to keep a “ watching brief” on the Duke’s future was to establish a General Branch of Equity in the area. This would have 2 major benefits. Firstly, we would have an organisation already in place to challenge any future threats to the Duke’s as a producing theatre.

Secondly, by extending the Branch to cover Cumbria we could engage with and be a real service to members in our wider geographically remote area.

And so on 14 October 2012, we held our first North Lancs/Cumbria AGM to formally establish our new Branch and elect a Branch Committee.

We have a potential Branch membership of nearly 200 members and we aim to meet 6 times a year, not only in Lancaster where the bulk of our members are located, but also in Kendal, Carlisle and Keswick on a rota basis.

We aim to make the Branch friendly and welcoming and agenda “lite” as far as possible. The emphasis will be on socialising and networking and there will be the chance to hear guest speakers and engage in professional training (in collaboration with other north-west branches).

Our Branch provides a direct link to the policy-making mechanisms and structures of the Union as a whole, through the Annual Representative Conference and to the Equity Council and Officers of the Union. We therefore have real opportunities to influence Union policy and direction.

We intend to grow and develop as a Branch in size and confidence and as a real help, benefit and resource to local members personally and professionally

I personally welcome you to join us at our next and subsequent Branch meetings and look forward to having your involvement in the Branch, as much as possible. Full details of meeting dates and venues are given here on our Branch web pages where you will also find contact details for our Branch Committee members.

With best wishes

Peter Rylands