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Do you realise the power you have to change our industry?

by Claire Wyatt, Actress and TAG Member

I’ve been a member of Equity since I graduated 12 years ago. I’ve always paid my subs, but I haven’t always been involved. For a long time I used Equity for its insurance scheme and read the magazine from time to time, and that was about it. Oh, and that little diary was good in days before I had a smart phone! But I really felt that Equity, and particularly those who sat on Council or Committees within it, were an elite bunch of people who were either West End dahhhlings with loads more experience than me, or old stars who haven’t worked for years but had the time to be bothered with all the politics.

Well, I’ve learned over the past couple of years that I couldn’t have been more wrong… Well, almost! (More on that later!)

I decided to get more involved with Equity because I believe I had no right to moan about the problems in our industry (and boy do we have some problems!) if I wasn’t prepared to be part of the solution. So, I started going to branch meetings, offered to be Equity Dep on shows, gave my services for free to an Equity working party and started asking more questions and getting involved in marches and campaigns.

youmakethedifference And let me tell you this: it’s changed my life and it could change yours too.I’ve joined a proactive branch where I’ve benefited from auditions with top directors and casting directors. A branch that arranges workshops and play readings and has incredible speakers at the monthly meetings which helps me learn, develop and network. My life is richer, I’m more aware of my rights and I feel more empowered to control my career and take action to improve it.

What I’ve discovered is that Equity is full of people just like you and me. People trying to make a living in an increasingly precarious industry. People who are battling inequality and poor wages. People who are frustrated at the lack of opportunities and the increasing influx of new actors entering an industry they may not be trained and prepared for.  But, and here’s the difference, people who are working together to change all those problems.

Things like low pay/no pay, equal representation of women on our stages and screens, increased visibility of the BAME community or those with a disability, improved treatment in auditions etc. are never going to get better if we don’t work together. There is real strength in numbers, but just being a member of Equity isn’t enough. We need your voice too.

Actors’ Guild members are well known in the industry for their professionalism, intelligence and proactive attitude to the industry. But, and be honest here, did you vote in the last lot of Equity Elections?

Only 12% of Equity members did. 12%! That’s shocking.

By not voting you’re letting a tiny percentage of people decide the future of your industry. The Council is really important. It negotiates your wages, it campaigns on your behalf and it decides what action gets taken and how. So, great new initiatives like the project to open up casting opportunities at the National actually happen. But if you don’t vote you won’t get people in that room who care about the same things you do.

At the moment the Council is far too white and old for my liking. Now, I’ve nothing against age and experience – we need it and there are some excellent older candidates that I’ll be voting for, but it’s essential that we have a mix of people in that room. People who know what it’s like to work in all aspects of our industry. People who are new to the industry, people who are still working, people from around the country, people who are doing well and people who are struggling. That’s democracy.

So, when the Ballot papers hit your doorstep over the next few days, please take the time to read the statements and vote for candidates that represent you and your concerns.

Yes, I’m standing and I’d love your vote. But more than anything I’d love you to JUST VOTE. We have to improve that dismal 12% figure and band together to build a Union and an industry that we’re proud to be part of. One that stands together to demand better working conditions and respect for the incredible work we do.

The power is in your hands. You make the Union. You make the difference. Use your vote.

Here’s some info that may help:

  • Not sure how Equity is structured and what you’re voting for? Try this film
  • Want to know what Equity Council is and what it does? Watch this
  • You can download a copy of candidates’ election statements here.
  • Want to know what I stand for and why you should #VoteWyatt? Check this out
  • Want to know more about what our union and our current President, Malcolm Sinclair, have done for us recently? Read this.