Equity launches Change Network

Equity has launched the Change Network – a new initiative to ensure that the union hears and, crucially, addresses the issues faced by black members.
The new network provides a space for black members to discuss concerns unique to them. In addition to connecting individuals and facilitating conversations, the insights gained from this initiative will inform the union’s policy and work.
The union has designed this initiative in response to approaches from prominent activists who wanted to make sure black voices were heard, and amplified, by the union. The network was launched with a day of talks and workshops. Kwame Kwei-Armah, the artistic director of the Young Vic (and, as actress Dawn Hope underscores, “the only black person in Europe running a theatre”) and Equity Councillor Emmanuel Kojo spoke to the assembled members.
After a Q&A, four discussions were held to address several key issues that had been identified by the union’s activists. These workshops looked at hair and make-up, integrated casting, the economic case for diversity and workers in non-performance roles and were chaired by Equity members Dawn Hope, Emmanuel Kojo, Linden Walcott-Burton and Sophia Horrocks respectively.
The ideas generated from these workshops can lead to real, practical change in the form of industrial agreements. By understanding the problems experienced by our members, organisers can seek to rectify them by adding specific clauses to
Equity contracts.
At the end of the workshops, there was time for networking, which allowed those gathered to identify other areas of importance to discuss and take forward.
Equity’s equality and diversity organiser Ian Manborde points to recent events to underscore the importance of this new network. “People believe that racism is no longer a problem in this industry, and they’re wrong,” he said. “Earlier this year, Equity responded to Quentin Letts’ review of The Fantastic Follies of Mrs Rich, where the reviewer saw fit to comment on Leo Wringer’s race. This is a prominent member of our union, and a well-respected, classically trained actor, working in a Royal Shakespeare Company production. If he is subject to these remarks, who will be safe from them?”
The union has a history of fighting to make the industry a better place for marginalised groups, whether through Equity’s Play Fair or Manifesto for Casting campaigns. Whereas these both looked at issues facing
a range of groups, from minority ethnic members to those identifying as LGBT+, the Change Network is Equity’s first project focusing specifically and solely on black members.
It is also the first network which brings together members from all stages of their career, and from a number of different professional specialisms.
The conversations held here will shape the union, but the union also wishes to see this space shape members, creating a new cohort of activists who can play an active role in Equity’s equalities work.
If you are a black member who wishes to be involved in this new initiative, the union would like to hear from you. Equity would specifically be interested in hearing what you believe the priorities of the Change Network should be. This could be anything from addressing access to the industry, such as campaigning for more incidental casting or researching a lack of black casting directors, to improving workplace conditions by tackling low pay of black actors. Another network event will be held in the autumn. Interested members are advised to keep an eye out for forthcoming details, which will be publicised on the Equity website at www.equity.org.uk/getting-involved/events or contact imanborde@equity.org.uk