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Chorus of pay disapproval – how The Stage reported Equity’s ARC 50 years ago

Front page of The Stage on May 22, 1969
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May 22, 1969: Just as The Stage has been doing this last week, 50 years ago we were covering developments at the Equity annual representative conference.

In 1969, the union was complaining of “poverty level wages for chorus boys and girls”.

We reported: “Working conditions for actors were severely criticised, yet again, and it was highlighted that very many chorus singers and dancers have to live on minimum salaries, below the national poverty line. More than 2,000 chorus boys and girls have a minimum pay of £12 a week in the provinces and £17 in London.

“Hamish Wilson declared: ‘The national poverty line is £10.8.0 for a single man and £12.14.0 for a married man. This means that some of our members on the provincial £12 minimum are being paid 14 shillings below the poverty level.’ The meeting unanimously passed a resolution urging Equity to press for immediate increases.”

Elsewhere in that issue of The Stage, there were other parallels with recent events in London theatre, with news that Maggie Smith was returning to the stage to play Mrs Sullen in The Beaux’ Stratagem at the National and the musical Man of La Mancha was being revived in the West End with Richard Kiley as Don Quixote.

If you’d like to read more stories from the history of theatre, all previous content from The Stage is available at the British Newspaper Archive in a convenient, easy-to-access format. Please visit: thestage.co.uk/archive

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