Equity (trade union)

Equity (trade union)

Infobox Union|
name= Equity
country= United Kingdom
affiliation= TUC, STUC

founded= 1930
office= London
people= Christine Payne, general secretary Harry Landis, president
website= [http://www.equity.org.uk/ www.equity.org.uk]

Equity (formerly British Actors' Equity Association) is the actors' trade union in the United Kingdom. It was formed in 1930 by a group of West End performers.

Equity was the last of the closed shop unions. This was made illegal in 1981; [http://www.tiscali.co.uk/reference/encyclopaedia/hutchinson/m0037988.html] it is now no longer a requirement that a professional actor be a member of Equity. [http://www.catalystmedia.org.uk/issues/nerve2/equity.htm] [http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/entertainment/980967.stm]

Equity can only have one actor with any particular name on its books. This has resulted in several stage names, such as David Jason (born David White), David Walliams (born David Williams), Simon Gregson (born 'Simon Gregory') and David Tennant (born 'David McDonald.)

General Secretaries

* 1932:
* 1930s: David Henley
* 1940: Llewellyn Rees
* 1946:
* Gordon Sandison
* Gerald Croasdell
* 1970s: Peter Plouviez
* 1991: Ian McGarry
* 2005: Christine Payne


*1932: Godfrey Seymour Tearle
*1940–1945: Lewis Thomas Casson
*1949–1969: Felix Aylmer
*1973–1974: André Morell
*1984–1986: Derek Bond
*2000: Harry Landis


Equity used to be criticised by up and coming actors for its 'closed shop' membership which ended in the 1980s. One requirement of becoming part of Equity is to have paid experience in the entertainment industry. It was believed that most agents did not touch actors who are not part of Equity and therefore it was thought that there is no way for an aspiring actor to get his/her foot on the ladder, unless they are born into a family which has connections. Equity was therefore described as "A Catch 22 Scenario."

However, it is actually very easy to become a member, with most performers only having to provide one example of paid, professional work. Nowadays few agents worry about their clients being non-members although they often encourage those new to the business to join once they have secured their first job, rather than seeing it as a prerequisite to going on their books.

Exchange of Actors between U.K. and U.S.

Under current rules, a British or American producer who wants to bring a British actor to New York must seek the approval of American Actors Equity, just as British Equity's approval is needed to bring an American actor to London. In theory the two unions try to balance the exchange, but over the years it has been charged that the provisions for exchange have been unevenly applied. Many feel that the restrictions should be ended or loosened, while others feel differently, claiming that the flow of talent across the Atlantic is mostly one way, from East to West. While established stars are normally admitted automatically under common visa exceptions, the problem arises with non-star talent.

Anti-Apartheid policy

In 1976, Equity introduced a policy of refusing to sell programming to the South African Broadcasting Corporation, an action that led to a virtual blackout of British television in apartheid South Africa.


In 2008 Actors' Inequity, a spoof of the Actors' Equity website, was launched. The site offers an "Inequity Card" for performers to carry. In addition, Actors' Inequity offers free resources to non-union and non-paid actors - and to non-equity theatres. Actors' Inequity was criticized originally for supporting "unpaid actors" until it defined them (in its "About Inequity" section) as "developing actors and community players" [Actors' Inequity site: http://www.actorsinequity.org/index1.html] (those who volunteer their time to community theaters). Realizing that all actors must start somewhere, the theatre community has now embraced the organization. In February, 2008, they touted more than 200 members [according to a press release posted on the Northwest Indiana Excellence in Theatre Association: http://www.nwindianatheatre.org/weblogpressrelease.htm] .

Other countries

*United States - Actors' Equity Association, the Screen Actors Guild, and the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists.


External links

* [http://www.equity.org.uk/ Equity] official site.
* [http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=980DE5DA1338F930A35751C0A96F958260 Free interchange of talent, NY Times, issue February 3, 1999]
* [http://www.actorsequity.org Actors' Equity] U.S. actors union Website
* [http://www.actorsinequity.org Actors' Inequity] Website supporting non-union and non-paid actors (international)

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