27 February 2020
Equity President Maureen Beattie was the keynote speaker at the Council for Dance, Drama and Musical Theatre (CDMT) and Trinity College London reception highlighting the UK’s provision of world-class professional training in the performing arts.
Maureen spoke about the need to "ensure that those starting out in our industry do so fully equipped with an understanding of their rights as workers – that they know that harassment and bullying are always unacceptable and have the confidence and strength to call it out." She added that "Equity looks forward to working with organisations such as CDMT to make equality of access universal across performing arts education."
See below for Maureen's speech.
Pictured are Glyndwr Jones (Director of CDMT), Maureen Beattie (President of Equity), Matt Hood (Assistant General Secretary of Equity).
I am delighted to be here this evening representing Equity and celebrating the UK’s outstanding professional training in the performing arts.
I graduated from what was The Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Dramatic Art and is now The Royal Conservatoire of Scotland in 1974. 200 of us auditioned and there were 12 students in my class. There were at the time what now seems like a handful of other establishments training students for a career in the entertainment industry. Now there are so many courses on offer – some better than others and some downright dubious – producing far more graduates than the industry can possibly absorb, and sending out students of all ages unprepared for the challenges of a world which can be so very rewarding but which can be punishing and deeply stressful. This enormous change in the landscape is one of the reasons why we need organisations like CDMT and Trinity more than ever before.
The quality of the UK’s training has been key to the success of UK performers and creative practitioners around the globe. The work produced by Equity members – performers, directors, choreographers, designers, and the people behind the scenes who support them - can be seen on screens and stages from the US to Australia, and everywhere in between, because producers know that engaging the talent trained in this country is a guarantee of excellence, versatility and endeavour.
That guarantee wouldn’t exist if it wasn’t for the work undertaken by organisations like the CDMT and Trinity. CDMT has accredited professional training in performing arts schools since 1979, assuring employers, and prospective students and their families, of the quality of their learning in dance, musical theatre and more recently drama.
The CDMT also validates the performing arts qualifications of many of the world's leading organisations, such as Trinity, giving graduates confidence in the status of their professional diplomas.
Through this assessment and assurance CDMT and Trinity help place new entrants to our industry on the first rung of the rather slippery ladder to successful careers as performers.
This support is vital as there is still so much to do to make our members’ working lives fairer and safer. Schools have made great steps towards making performing arts training more accessible to those who have not traditionally felt included in our industry, particularly from lower-income, non-white and disabled communities. Equity looks forward to working with organisations such as CDMT to make equality of access universal across performing arts education.
There’s also much more to do to ensure that those starting out in our industry do so fully equipped with an understanding of their rights as workers – that they know that harassment and bullying are always unacceptable and have the confidence and strength to call it out. That they know that contracts that don’t pay but demand professional skill are exploitation. That they know that there is a union who will always stand by them as their career develops, through the successes and the quieter moments when you can feel very alone.
I am very proud of the changes Equity has made to improve access to the benefits of union membership for those currently in training and those who have recently finished their training. Our Student and Graduate Membership schemes have opened the door to Equity and a 48,000 strong community to those taking their first steps into the entertainment industry.
And our graduates need to know that they can be the agents of change that this industry needs. It is by working together that we make our places of training and work safe. By working together that we can make sure that casting is open, honest, respectful and ends with a clear yes or no if we have the job or not. And by working together we can challenge the structural exclusion of more than half of our society, and the ongoing shame that is the lack of gender balance across this industry – and which Arts Council England inexplicably all but omitted from their recent Let’s Create strategy for the next decade.
So there is more, much more, for Equity and our members to do. But working with partners like the CDMT and Trinity, training and supporting our new members for their professional futures, we will get there. And I thank you for what you continue to do so well.