Equity moves to support performers facing 'AI threat'

voice over artist working in a studio. image depicts a man wearing headphones, speaking into a microphone while doing work on his computer
08 Jun 2023

Equity says new resources will educate performers on their legal rights, and calls for government to take urgent action to regulate the use of artificial intelligence.

Age discrimination in the art world

Moulds of heads and feet as part of an artwork
06 Jun 2023

Though opportunities for young artists may be laudable, Liane Lang thinks age boundaries are discriminatory.

Free Musicians Union membership for refugees

05 Jun 2023

The Musicians Union (MU) is offering refugees a year’s free membership.

The scheme, which launched last week, allows musicians escaping famine, conflict and persecution to have full access to the MU’s advice and services including contract advice, legal advice and insurance cover relating to their work as musicians.

It has been made possible by the union’s collaboration with Counterpoints Arts, with the partnership hoping the initiative will help refugees build music careers in the UK.

“Solidarity and inclusion are about embracing everyone,” MU General Secretary Naomi Pohl said. 

“We want refugee musicians to flourish, avoid bad deals and exploitation, and have confidence that - should they need help - we’ll be right by their side.”

Artists' resale royalties reach £2.3m in first quarter

05 Jun 2023

Over £2.3m was paid to 873 artists and artists’ estates in Artist’s Resale Right (ARR) royalties by the Design and Artists Copyright Society (DACS) in the first quarter of the year.

Of the 873 recipients, 53 were paid ARR royalty for the first time. The median payment for the quarter was £280, with over 60% of all royalties under £500.

£120m has been paid out in total to 5,900 artists and estates since 2006, when the right became UK law.

DACS Chief Executive Christian Zimmermann said ARR is a vital source of income for artists working in the UK.

“We know from our members how important these payments are to artists who use their royalties for living expenses, materials and studio space – helping sustain their practice,” Zimmerman added.

“Estates often use the money for cataloguing, archiving and restoration – making sure that the legacies of British artists are preserved for future generations."

Mercury Theatre extends talent development programmes

31 May 2023

Mercury Theatre Colchester is extending three dedicated talent development programmes for promising and innovative playwrights, producers and directors from the east of England.

The programmes enable creatives to work with leading theatremakers and gain experience working in the industry.

Each programme is designed to nurture future talent. Evaluation statistics from the previous cohort show that programme beneficiaries have enhanced employability of up to 60%.

The Mercury Playwright Programme will mentor a group of writers through the process of creating a full-length play or piece of theatre, under the guidance of stage and screenwriter Kenny Emson.

The Mercury Directors Programme will support mentees through the through page-to-stage directing process under the guidance of Mercury’s Creative Director Ryan McBryde.

And the Mercury Producers Programme will provide an overview of the skills and craft of theatre producing, including setting up companies, pitching, planning, budgeting, fundraising, audiences, marketing, touring and press, led by Dilek Latif, Mercury’s producer.

“The success of our [Playwrights, Producers, Directors] PPD scheme has proved to us how vital it is that regional theatres support local artists and so we’re extending and reaching out for the applications from playwrights, producers and directors at any stage of their career who have a strong link to Colchester and or the wider Eastern region having originated, studied or lived here,” said McBryde.

“This year, our PPD offer will be enriched by unlocking additional expert knowledge from guest session leaders from our new Associate Companies: Graeae, English Touring Theatre, Paines Plough and Frantic Assembly,” he added. 

“Partnering with these extraordinary, world-renowned theatre companies will allow us to broaden the scope of our work and provide further opportunities to springboard artists across our region.”

The nine-month-long programmes are set to run from July 2023 to March 2024.

Antony Stuart-Hicks, Talent Development Producer for the Mercury, said the theatre is looking for “creatives who are bold, ambitious and theatrically daring”,  particularly those underrepresented in the industry, “whether this be by class, disability, ethnicity, gender or sexuality”.

Equity secures pay rise for West End actors and stage managers

A view of London's West End at night
30 May 2023

Three-year deal struck by Equity and the Society of London Theatre following 'difficult and challenging' negotiations.

Made in Scotland funds 18 shows at Edinburgh Fringe

30 May 2023

The Made in Scotland programme will fund 18 Scottish shows at this year’s Edinburgh Fringe Festival.

The programme, funded by the Scottish government’s Festivals Expo Fund, will support shows created by local companies, spanning a range of performance styles including dance, music and theatre.

This year’s selection of shows focus on themes including life and death, loss, violence and drug addiction, as well as exploring everyday life through the lens of emerging parenthood and family.

Performances will also delve into Scottish traditions, exploring how they embody culture while questioning the concept and nature of a country.

The 18 shows selected for the 2023 festival are part of more than 250 funded by the Made in Scotland showcase since its inception in 2009.

Christina McKelvie, Minister for Culture, Europe and International Development at the Scottish Government, said the programme gives “Scottish talent a well-earned opportunity to perform on the international stage”. 

“Together, the Fringe and Made in Scotland help nurture and encourage the exceptional creative talent that flourishes in Scotland, showcasing the creativity and innovation that’s right on our doorstep,” she said.

The showcase is “the main mechanism through which Scottish government supports local artists at the Edinburgh Fringe”, said Shona McCarthy, Chief Executive, Edinburgh Festival Fringe Society.

“It has been a vital platform for artists from Scotland to have their work seen, promoted and presented alongside their international peers.”

Equity General Secretary: “We need to win bigger”

23 May 2023

Equity leader warns industry bosses of £1m strike fund in speech calling on sector management to cooperate with union to progress workers' rights.

PRS Foundation initiative generates £22m for UK music industry

16 May 2023

A grant scheme run by PRS Foundation has generated more than £22m for the UK music industry over the past decade, an evaluation report has found.

To mark a decade of its PPL Momentum Fund, a new report commissioned by PRS Foundation details how it has helped musicians including Little Simz, Sam Fender and Kae Tempest.

Launched in 2013, the fund has awarded more than £5.2m to artists across the UK.

The fund provides "career-boosting grants" of between £5,000 and £15,000, and is targeted at a pivotal time in the creative and business development of artists.

The report reveals that almost half of grantees are of Black, Asian or other ethnically diverse heritage, and more than half of grantees are based outside London.

Joe Frankland, CEO at PRS Foundation, said that 10 years of the fund was a "fantastic milestone".

He added that the fund has been "a vital stepping-stone for so many incredible artists who have gone on to top the charts, sell out shows around the world and scoop multiple music awards".

Nurturing the next generation of creative talent

Architects view of Roundhouse Works
16 May 2023

There’s a wealth of talent and ambition in the UK’s younger generation but, if we ignore their needs, we’re at risk of losing a generation of creative talent, writes Tina Ramdeen.

Equity secures trial of five-day rehearsal week

15 May 2023

A new five-day rehearsal week is to be trialled across the subsidised and commercial theatre sector as part of new agreements secured by performers' union Equity.

A working party has been established between Society of London Theatres (SOLT)/UK Theatre and Equity to develop plans.

The trial will begin across six organisations in the subsidised sector: Northern Stage in Newcastle-upon-Tyne, Curve Theatre in Leicester, Hull Truck Theatre, Sheffield Theatres, Chichester Festival Theatre and the New Vic in Newcastle-under-Lyme.

The initial trial will finish by Christmas 2023, with Equity hoping to roll it out more widely afterwards.

Equity Industrial Official Charlotte Bence said the trial "will incorporate lots of different types of production – including children’s shows and pantomimes – so we can unpick what that way of working will look like across different scales of shows".

The five-day week is part of a raft of new agreements on pay and conditions brokered by Equity, that also includes the sector's first code of conduct for digs.

The quality of accommodation has become a big issue for theatre workers, with Equity members regularly reporting unsafe accommodation.

Equity general secretary Paul W Fleming said the negotiations had also delivered "strong percentage increases in minimum rates of pay, the payment of touring and subsistence allowance four weeks in advance, and good increases to swing and understudy payments".

Classical ensemble announces closure after ACE funding loss

A member of the Psappha ensemble during a performance
10 May 2023

Psappha said the loss of £250,000 a year funding from Arts Council England has proven 'too great a challenge to overcome'.

Derbyshire theatre unveils expansion plans

04 May 2023

Plans have been announced to transform a Grade II-listed theatre in Glossop, Derbyshire.

Partington Theatre has said it is hoping to purchase the vacant former NatWest Bank which sits next-door to the venue in the centre of the town.

The Manchester Evening News reports that the bank closed two months ago, but the theatre wants to bring it back into use as a performing arts centre, including new facilities for thespians, musicians and the wider community.

Mark McDonough, Chairman of the board of trustees for the theatre, said: “Purchasing this building would see our little theatre expand with more community space, rehearsal and storage areas, and most importantly make the theatre truly accessible to all. 

"This is a very exciting opportunity which would make a huge difference to not just the theatre and its patrons, but to the entire Glossop community.”

Birmingham Hippodrome to create in-house musical theatre

02 May 2023

The theatre will develop original musical theatre in a new department also offering skills development and employment opportunities. 

Graeae reopens artist development programme

28 Apr 2023

Theatre company Graeae has reopened applications to its artist development programme for disabled creatives, Beyond.

Deaf, disabled and neurodivergent artists are being invited to apply to the programme, which works to remove barriers and support the development of under-represented creatives.

The next edition of the programme will run from September 2023 to March 2025 and support 20 artists in total.

The scheme is open to applicants at all career stages, with a commitment to creating live performance as a performer, writer, director, producer, designer or technician.

To deliver the next round, Graeae is teaming up with the seven venues nationwide - Cast, Derby Theatre, Liverpool Everyman & Playhouse, Hull Truck Theatre, Nottingham Playhouse, Octagon Bolton and Shakespeare North Playhouse in Prescot – which will each offer tailored development support, advice, training, mentoring and use of creative spaces to the chosen artists.

“[These venues] will ensure that Deaf, disabled and neurodivergent artists are at the heart of everything and not on the side-lines,” Graeae Artistic Director Jenny Sealey said.

Selected artists will also receive micro bursaries, networking opportunities and support with funding applications.

An expression of interest form is open until 26 June, with more information on Graeae’s website.

Charity Commission finds 'breach' in Actors' Benevolent Fund election process

25 Apr 2023

A Charity Commission investigation into a leadership row at the Actors’ Benevolent Fund has found there was a “breach” in the election process for its new trustees.

The row dates back to early 2022 when a group of long-standing trustees complained about former general secretary Jonathan Ellicott’s handling of the charity’s finances.

Then, in a meeting in February, ten trustees including former president Penelope Keith, and Siân Phillips and James Bolam, were removed.

A new leadership was elected in December 2022 at the charity’s AGM, but a dispute followed regarding whether they were legally trustees.

A spokesperson for the Charity Commission said: "We have worked extensively over recent months to help the Actors’ Benevolent Fund overcome a bitter dispute that has not served the interests of the charity’s members or beneficiaries and has been harmful to the charity’s reputation and its ability to operate effectively. 

"Through our investigations, we have concluded that, while there was a breach in the process of the trustee election held at the charity’s AGM in December 2022, those who received the most votes should now be appointed as trustees."

The breach was a decision to close, rather than adjourn, the charity’s AGM.

The Charity Commission spokesperson added: "To allow the charity to operate, we have therefore used our powers to appoint as trustees those individuals who received the most votes from the membership.”

Concert for musicians in need hit by copyright charges

25 Apr 2023

A London charity concert for musicians in need has been hit by a copyright claim from the Performing Rights Society (PRS).

The event held at Cadogan Hall on 1 April was in aid of Help Musicians and starred Dame Evelyn Glennie and BBC Radio 4 announcer Zeb Soanes.

While it mostly consisted of humorous arrangements of out-of-copyright classical pieces, PRS is charging the organisers more than £1,000 for two short pieces by Earl Okin that are still in copyright.

The royalties would amount to nearly half of the charitable earnings from the night. 

The event's organiser, Rainer Hersch, said the move by PRS was “pretty shocking, especially given this concert and the beneficiary, Help Musicians, which is the backstop for freelance musicians in this country”.

Okin, meanwhile, said he does not want the money and that he will donate it to the charity if he receives it.

A PRS spokesperson said: “We are working with the composers whose works were included in the 1 April concert at Cadogan Hall to ensure that they can identify all earnings from this concert.

“From our experience, this makes onward donation simpler for all involved.

“PRS for Music works closely with Help Musicians, including recently co-ordinating efforts to support music creators through the pandemic."

City of London arts project generates £40m for UK economy

25 Apr 2023

The New Diorama Theatre Broadgate initiative offered repurposed office space to independent and freelance artists. 

Campaign aims to boost recruitment of young creative talent

A young producer works on film set
21 Apr 2023

New initiative asks cultural organisations to pledge one training or entry level role each year to boost early career opportunities for producers and creators.

Why are disabled people asked to work for nothing?

Pull Up sharing by Delson Weeks, Blink Dance Theatre
18 Apr 2023

In a survey of disabled arts professionals, Unlimited found 87% had been asked to do something for nothing. Lucy Peters asks Jo Verrent: When will the sector stop exploiting disabled creatives and acknowledge their value?


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