For the past couple of months my Equity union activities have been taken to another level through engagement with Act For Change – a campaign to raise awareness and effect change in the TV industry.
The Act For Change project was begun by actor Danny Lee Wynter who was shocked by the lack of diversity on an ITV trailer for its drama season. With the tagline “Where Drama Lives” ITV put together a trailer of past programmes it was proud of. That trailer managed to only have caucasian actors.
Taking stock of this and being disturbed by it – Danny brought together a group of close friends, which included the current Equity union president, Malcolm Sinclair – and that’s how I became involved, as another Equity link to what Danny and his friends want to achieve.
I agree with the campaign. Television is a powerful medium because of the vast number of homes and therefore people it can access. With this much power must of course come big responsibility for the directors, casting directors, producers, commissioners and writers involved. There is a balance to be achieved between artistic expression and maintaining social and ethical standards, we don’t want a nanny state – but what we do want, without question, is for everyone, within our country to feel like they belong, that they can see where they fit. Television has a role to play in this by ensuring that there is fair representation of the voices, relationships, cultures, identities in the creative media it presents and puts into people’s homes, into their minds.
There are other campaigns going on and some of them relate to BAME (Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic), others on gender issues, disability and LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bi-sexual and Trans-gender). Act For Change is striving to address all of them – it is fighting for diversity on television, a true representation of the society we live in. In that fight, questions are therefore being asked as to why the groups we are referring to disabled actors, female actors, minority actors, also actors from different social classes – are not getting jobs; are not appearing on television, not in stereotypical roles but just not appearing at all. It is only when these boundaries are broken through asking questions to effect change that television will then be a “home” for everyone.
After months of seriously intense and involved planning, Act For Change launched on 30th June 2014 at The Young Vic Theatre. I was beaming as part of the Front of House Team. We had fantastic guests and a panel of key industry players. The event was hosted by Shami Chakrabarti of Liberty, who is supporting the campaign. It was brilliant.
— Ayesha (@ACaselyHayford) July 5, 2014
You can watch the film of the whole event here. But if you haven’t got an hour to spare (!) here’s the campaign’s official documentary for you, which beautifully expresses what Act For Change is all about.