Equity has contacted the team behind You Me Bum Bum Train, which is currently playing as part of Barbican BITE, to warn it that the production could be breaching National Minimum Wage regulations.
The show has sold out its Barbican BITE performances this month and features more than 200 unpaid volunteer performers playing to a single audience member.
You Me Bum Bum Train, which has been staged in a number of different locations since 2004, was awarded £10,000 funding from Arts Council England through Grants for the Arts in March, and was given the Oxford Samuel Beckett Theatre Trust Award 2010, worth in excess of £30,000. However, its 200-plus performers are not being paid.
Martin Brown, Equity’s assistant general secretary for communications and membership support, commented: “We have already contacted the production to warn them that what they are doing may be in breach of the National Minimum Wage regulations. If any member of Equity is involved in this production and believes that they should have received at least the National Minimum Wage, I would encourage them to come to Equity and we will get a legal opinion.”
Speaking to The Stage, Kate Bond, one of the show’s creators, explained: “If there was enough funding for the shows, then we would pay everybody but there’s only enough funding to cover the production costs, such as hiring a venue, getting public liability insurance, paying for the props – but pretty much everything is as free as it can be to make the grant stretch far enough. “But, because there are 200 performers, we cannot even pay travel expenses, which is definitely unfair on paper.”
She said the performers were not committed to performing in all the shows in the run and that the management team were also unpaid. She added that she would like to be able to pay performers at least their travel expenses by next year.
You Me Bum Bum Train runs at the LEB Building in Bethnal Green, London, until July 24.