Non-UK-Born Artists Network

The Non-UK-Born Artists Network represents the interests of thousands of foreign-born Equity members. The aim is to expand the equality debate and work towards a culture shift in the industry and society as a whole.

Almost 10 million people in the UK were born abroad. That is 15%, or 1 in 7. In London, it is a staggering 37%, or more than 1 in 3 (ONS Annual Population Survey, Sept 2021). Despite some very encouraging progress in the industry on diversity overall, non-UK-born talent both on- and off-stage and screen remain vastly underrepresented. They experience a wide range of discriminatory practices and are virtually never mentioned in any equality efforts. Both “nationality” and “national origin” are protected characteristics under the UK Equality Act (Section 9(1)(b) and (c)).

Goals

Launched in 2020, the Network campaigns for greater and fairer representation. Some of its key goals are:

  • More stage, screen and audio content created by non-UK-born creatives, so that communities of non-British origin are given a voice and see themselves represented too.
  • Greater consideration for leading roles, going beyond tokenism and reflecting actual population statistics. As an example, close to 1 million Poles live in the UK, yet it is exceptionally rare to find a single Polish actor in a major role.
  • Greater incidental casting, where non-UK-born actors are considered more seriously for roles other than those of their national origin and every unspecified role is no longer cast as ‘British by default’.
  • A more balanced portrayal of non-UK-born characters and their storylines, including greater care in writing, casting and directing, in order to enhance authenticity and avoid stereotyping.
  • Educating the industry about the cultural and commercial value that diversity of national origin can bring to a production, and about its responsibility towards society as a whole in the way the various communities living in the UK are portrayed, or whether they are portrayed at all.
  • Creating and streamlining a process to report discrimination in training, in casting and at work.
  • Developing a long-term strategy on how to enforce NUKBA-related documents.

The Work So Far  

Research

To support the campaign, a working group collected initial data in early 2020 by reviewing the main casts of all continuing dramas as listed on the broadcasters’ websites. As an example, 29% of doctors and 18% of nurses in the NHS England were non-British nationals, compared to only 4% of the main casts across medical dramas, while 0% were non-English native speakers. 

The aim is to collect more data across all media to provide hard evidence that the industry still has a very long way to go to truly reflect the multinational society we live in. To do so a Research and Data Collection working party has been established within the Network.

Manifesto for Casting 

A Manifesto for Casting has been developed by the Incidental and Authentic Casting working party created within the Network.

It outlines the steps that need to be taken in order to overcome the barriers to employment that NUKBA face. It also serves as a base for the development of the Casting Guidelines to be shared with casting professionals to create a safe environment.

Get involved

To be part of the Non-UK-Born Artists Network and added to the mailing list, email Ian Manborde on nukba@equity.org.uk.  

Additionally, the Network runs a member-led Facebook group (Twitter coming soon), which is a great way of connecting with other members and keeping up-to-date with NUKBA-related issues and opportunities.

The Network is also open to non-Equity members.

Benefits of Equity membership for Non-UK-Born Artists

The primary function of a union is to negotiate collective agreements with employers, covering pay and conditions. A union can also use its collective strength to represent its members’ interests with government and other bodies and bulk purchase products such as insurance.

Individual benefits that are relevant to NUKBAs:

  • Public liability insurance – this covers freelance performers if they cause injury to a member of the audience or cause damage to property while working up to £10million.
  • Accident and backstage cover insurance – covers work-related accidents and provides a fixed weekly payment of £150 from the third week of incapacity. Covers damage or loss to work possessions (note limits and exclusions).
  • Legal assistance – while working on Equity or non-Equity contracts or for cancellation and non-payment matters or for personal injury claims when working.
  • Tax, National Insurance and welfare benefit advice – Equity provides a specialist helpline on Mondays and Thursdays for members needing advice on these issues.
  • Equity Pension scheme – is available and contributions are made by employers who issue Equity contracts.

How to Join

To be eligible to join Equity you will need to have earned at least £500 as a performer from any time in your career.

The current minimum annual subscription is £142 and there is additionally a £33 entrance fee which you pay once only  when you first join. There is a £5 discount for paying by direct debit. If you choose to pay by monthly direct debit, for example, then the first payment would be £44.42 as it includes the entrance fee and following that would be £11.42 per month. These rates are current until at least the end of 2021.

If you have recently graduated from a full-time performing arts course you may be eligible for Graduate Membership which is at significantly lower cost and proof of work is not required.

Visit the Join section of this website and be ready to upload documents showing your proof of work such as contracts or email correspondence during the process. In the Employer section put details down of your most recent job.