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Be a Chair

27 February

Ayesha Casely-Hayford | Actress blog

It has not been an aspiration of mine to be a chair, but when the opportunity came, I took it.

I was happy to be a chair for my local Equity branch meeting whilst the real chair and vice chair were away performing. Equity, in particular my branch The West and South West London Branch, has been my acting lifeline. Since most of this industry is about who you know and what you know, there is no better way to know loads of people and loads of industry stuff.

As members we democratically make and shape our union policy by voting and passing motions. In our branch we have been voting on motions relating to casting guidelines and also requesting greater transparency in the Arts Council England’s funding decision-making. Voting is the first step but especially through the campaigns that follow, change begins to happen.

A big campaign this year is “Professionally Made, Professionally Paid”. Led by Equity staff member Emmanuel de Lange, the campaign is aimed at highlighting the work Equity is doing to address the issue of artists working for low pay and very often no pay. It is also about mobilising members to resist low and no pay work – to get us questioning the work we are offered and expecting to be treated better, to be treated professionally. An aspect I particularly love about this campaign is that it accepts there are artists who will work for no pay or low pay. There are many reasons why an artist may decide to work for free, including wanting to keep gaining experience and building contacts in an industry where work is not forthcoming. From my own experience on starting out in the industry, there is currently often little choice. In recognition of this, the campaign refuses to judge or condemn but has created a monitoring form. If an artist accepts a job and works for no pay or low pay, it is asking the artist to complete the form so that the union can collect data and build a clearer view of the situation: how many people are actually working for low and no pay? What kinds of employers are engaging artists in this way? Is there anything that can be done to support change? The monitoring form is a great idea – nothing is black and white, it’s right to try and see the whole picture. 

When I see my union working so hard for my rights, It’s no question that I want to give back. Happy to be a chair, happy to be of service. Stronger Together.

Ayesha Casely-Hayford | Actress Blog

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