Presidential Opinions: The power of our community

We live in what are euphemistically described as “interesting” times, do we not?

The great god, Mammon, has well and truly descended upon us and how much something is worth in dollars, sterling or yen appears to have become the only measure that matters. Elected and non-elected leaders the world over are increasingly brazen about looking after their own interests and those of their peer groups, with little or no regard for those less fortunate than themselves. In many areas of our own industry the shareholder is God, and the multi-national conglomerates have smelled the blood of a beleaguered, stressed and vulnerable workforce and are moving in for the kill.

The EBacc – the combination of subjects that the government thinks is important for young people to study at GCSE – contains no arts subjects at all, and no one with any real political power seems to give much of a toss whether the arts survive or not. Neither do they seem to be much concerned about the lack of opportunities for young people from lower income families. Maybe I’m wrong, maybe they do care and they’re just keeping it a secret. Interesting times? Parlous and scary! 7% of eligible Equity members voted in our recent elections. 7%!! There are countries where people would lay down their lives to take part in a democratic election such as ours, not to mention the right to unionise. I know that not everyone is able to give the same amount of time to activism, but the words of Edmund Burke spring to mind: “Nobody made a greater mistake than he who did nothing because he could only do a little.” If we want to change things for the better, we need to wake up and make an effort.

This starts with me as President; with the two vice presidents and the honorary treasurer; with the General Secretary and the staff; and with the Council and the committees. We need to get out there and engage with the members of this wonderful union. We need to find new and dynamic ways to communicate. We must harness the power of the community if we are to triumph in the challenges ahead.

The D/deaf and disabled community within our union faces particular challenges. At this year’s ARC a motion from the Deaf and Disabled Committee urging Equity to challenge employers and casting professionals to justify the practice of engaging non-disabled performers in roles portraying D/deaf and disabled characters was passed unanimously. I recently recorded a radio series with Sam Barnard, an actor with Down’s Syndrome, who was playing a character who has Down’s Syndrome. The authenticity of Sam’s performance was electrifying. And Sarah Gordy (the first woman with Down’s Syndrome to be awarded an MBE) was superb in the play Jellyfish at The Bush Theatre. Her character, Kelly, was based on Sarah – a fiesty, witty, sexy woman who has Down’s Syndrome. One of her co-stars, Nicky Priest, who has Asperger’s Syndrome, played a character with autism. He was brilliantly funny and moving in the role. Maybe, just maybe, these particular barriers are beginning to crumble just a little.
I need to say just one more thing – Malcolm Sinclair ROCKS!!