Equity has over 1,200 members who have indicated they have puppeteering as a skillset and many of them work solely as puppeteers.
Puppetry comprises a whole range of disciplines such as: glove, animatronic, rod, marionette, table-top, shadow, body suit, creature, skin costume and parade and Punch and Judy.
Puppets can be used across all entertainment sectors including theatre, variety and cabaret, television and film and other recorded work such as TV commercials and training videos and online.
Equity Puppeteers’ Network
The Network was set up in 2016 so that Equity could work more closely with puppeteers to gain greater recognition for their skills and work issues which can be quite distinct from those of actors and other performers.
There are regular meetings for puppeteers, currently held via Zoom due to the pandemic, which are roughly every two months. Prior to this, meetings organised by staff were held at the Equity offices in London as well as other meetings run by members at various locations. Regional meetings have also been held where there are puppeteers regularly working such as in Bristol and more of these will be held when things return to normal.
Although Equity doesn’t cover the area of puppet making, those who make puppets are welcome to attend the independent meetings organised by members. For more details email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Staff have also held meetings in connection with puppetry events such as puppet festivals in Skipton, Beverley, Tunbridge Wells and Newcastle.
The Work So Far
At meetings of the Network the following has been discussed and actioned:-
Standard Contract Terms – the Network has drawn up some standard clauses for incorporation into theatre contracts. These have been adopted by the Independent Theatre Council (ITC), Society of London Theatre and UK Theatre. These clauses aim to improve health and safety in puppeteering as well as ensuring puppeteers are contracted correctly and are paid appropriately if they are contracted to do other duties.
Definition of Roles – to ensure the lines of puppeteering are not blurred such that maintenance of puppets for example is not rolled into the performing contract and that puppeteers are engaged as performers and not technicians.
Health and Safety – to ensure that the risk of injury to puppeteers is minimised by providing suitable breaks and access to physio or other remedy as required.
Job Advertisements – to address how puppeteering roles are advertised or how puppeteers are able to advertise their skills to potential engagers.
Recorded Media – to improve how puppeteers are treated during the contracting process and the information they are given of when they are required on set for filming.
Education – to liaise with institutions providing training in puppeteering and talk to students about Equity and the Network and professional work.
Benefits of Equity Membership for Puppeteers
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 puppeteers are as follows:-
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 £10m.
Accident and Backstage Cover insurance – covers work-related accidents and provides a fixed weekly payment of £150 from the third week of incapacity and covers damage or loss to work possessions (note limits and exclusions).
Legal Assistance – while working on Equity or non-Equity contract 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 will be 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.
Follow the JOIN links on 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.
Get involved with the Network
To be part of the Equity Puppeteers’ Network email: email@example.com or contact Equity staff Michael Day or Steve Duncan-Rice via 020 7379 6000.