UK entertainment union Equity
, which has close to 50,000 members, has pledged £1M ($1.2M) to its Benevolent fund to support struggling members. The money, which is being injected as a result of coronavirus
disruption, comes from funds earmarked for union campaigns and the union’s reserve.
The union is asking those who can contribute to add to the fund, a call led by Oscar-winner and Equity member Mark Rylance
, who we understand has donated “a significant amount”.
Equity President Maureen Beattie said, “It’s difficult enough to make a living in the entertainment business at the best of times, but now thousands of Equity members are facing the greatest financial hardship of their lives. While the government’s new scheme for the self-employed is welcome, Equity members are in dire need right now and cannot wait for all the details to be ironed out. Please support the fund if you can.”
Equity General Secretary Christine Payne added, “Equity’s benevolent fund is here to support members with payments to help them get through this crisis, we thank all those who can contribute to the fund as it will make a huge contribution to thousands of our members who are struggling to survive.”
Mark Rylance commented, “Most of us are freelance, self-employed creative workers who move from theatre to tv studio to film location to corporate training to radio to wherever we are needed, wherever a story needs to be told. Most of us are not famous, are not rich. We are hired for our flexibility, our willingness to drop everything and turn up. We as a Union can begin now to set an example. A wonderful example of what our profession is truly about. Support for each other on and off stage. I am sixty this year, forty years an actor and Union Member. I hope to meet young actors when I am eighty who ask me how we supported each other so generously during the Coronavirus crisis.”
Equity reps actors, stage managers, theatre directors and designers, comedians, models, stunt performers and variety, circus, cabaret and light entertainment artists.
Read Rylance’s full statement below:
Equity is the Union for our society’s story tellers. Unlike the public perception, we lead humble lives, we are used to compulsory holidays/complete work stoppage, we are adept at changing rapidly in the face of the unsuspected and we are extremely good at getting on quickly with each other, even amongst those unlike us. I suspect many of us are much calmer than other professions during this tragic and illuminating crisis, if, and it’s a big if, IF we have reserves to sustain us. Most of us are freelance, self-employed creative workers who move from theatre to tv studio to film location to corporate training to radio to wherever we are needed, wherever a story needs to be told. Most of us are not famous, are not rich. We are hired for our flexibility, our willingness to drop everything and turn up.
During this crisis, any reserves that Theatre, TV or Film producers and trustees have will naturally go to their permanent staff and building expenses. We hope they survive and are well supported through this terrible crisis for all the Arts.
There is no net to catch our freelance members, none, other than a very slow and complicated social system.
This is a time for us to stand together as a Union. This is what the Union is for. We must pool our resources. Those that need help must ask. Don’t be proud or suffer alone in silence. Those that can help, let us contribute as much as we can to the Union. The Union must work to share what we have amongst us to share, equitably and rapidly. When we get through this as a society there will be a need for a new story. A story of interbeing, where we are all connected, united in our care for each other, united in our care for our immune systems and by direct connection the earth’s immune systems.
Let us prepare and look forward to that. We have an enormous job of work to do ahead helping to make sure a new story is told well and truthfully and hopefully. We as a Union can begin now to set an example. A wonderful example of what our profession is truly about. Support for each other on and off stage. I am sixty this year, forty years an actor and Union Member. I hope to meet young actors when I am eighty who ask me how we supported each other so generously during the Corona Virus crisis. Bad times offer the opportunity to set a memorable example of generosity and kindness that can last a long time and inspire. Let us unite to support each other through Equity. Please give to the Benevolent Fund to enable it to serve Equity members who have suddenly found themselves isolated and struggling.