Equity's response to the Open Letter to National Theatre Wales

Equity wishes to express its support for a recent open letter to National Theatre Wales Chair Clive Jones, which was signed by 40 leading Welsh playwrights. In addition, we welcome the opportunity for our members in Wales to be involved in a debate about cultural identity and, in particular, what kind of national theatre Wales deserves to deliver that identity going forward. Equity represents the wide variety of entertainment workers such as actors, singers, dancers, variety artists, stage managers, directors, designers and choreographers. Our 44,000 members across the UK, including almost 1,600 in Wales, work across all areas of the live arts and in film, television, the music and video games industries and radio.

In recent years our members have reported their views that the company's theatrical output and ethos seems to be changing under its new artistic leadership. This has led to concerns being raised at our National Committee, and that these changes are now being reflected in its artistic programme which seems to be moving away from the theatre's stated aims such as: ‘The nation of Wales is our stage, its incredible stories and wealth of talent our inspiration’.

As has been reflected in the open letter, recent productions in the past year or so have seen not only a predominance of artists based outside Wales being employed, but also co-productions taking place with companies based outside of Wales. This then only covers the first point of the above NTW statement, and leaves the stories and talent based in Wales out of the equation and seemingly out of consideration. Alongside this, Equity has noticed a drop in the number of employment opportunities being offered not only within individual productions, but also across the year due to the number of performances scheduled.

Equity is fully supportive of continued investment from Arts Council Wales, especially in one of the fastest growing industry sectors in Wales, but this funding must bring a benefit to the talent within Wales and not just provide a vehicle for productions to ‘lift and shift’ from elsewhere in the UK for which the performance venue and context is unimportant. This funding should, in our opinion, also allow for the development of skills and careers for life-enhancing work within Wales, both reflecting the cultural identity of the country and allowing artists the ability to be considered for work with their national company.

It is Equity policy, through our Manifesto for Casting, to give all entertainment workers a chance to excel, regardless of their age, gender, ethnicity, sexuality or socioeconomic background. It also underscores that our members should not be forced to relocate to London to pursue their careers or give up their ambitions when they assume caring responsibilities.

Equity General Secretary Christine Payne said: "Our industries will only thrive by attracting and retaining professional talent regardless of background or circumstances, to meet the ever growing demands on stage and elsewhere. Our policy seeks to widen the net and open opportunities up to all parties and ensure consideration is given to professional talent where the production is being made."

Simon Curtis, Equity’s National Organiser for Wales, said: "Now is the time for transparency and accountability across the whole of the Creative Industries in Wales. Equity recently gave evidence to the Culture, Welsh Language and Communications Committee of the National Assembly for Wales consultation on Film and Major Television Production in Wales calling for greater clarity on public funding and the Welsh Government’s policy aims for funding productions and for greater transparency as to the benefits to our members living in Wales. The argument is the same with funding from Arts Council Wales and we fully back the sentiments of the open letter to National Theatre Wales and look forward to being part of the ongoing debate around the issues raised in the open letter."