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Equity elections – meet the candidates for president

Dave Eager, Jean Rogers and Malcolm Sinclair are the candidates for president of Equity Dave Eager, Jean Rogers and Malcolm Sinclair are the candidates for president of Equity
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Equity elections are underway, with members being asked to vote on a new council and for the union’s next president. The Stage asked each of the candidates what they thought were the pressing issues for the sector, and what they could bring to the role of president. Voting closes on July 6.

Dave-Eager-2009-001Dave Eager

What are the big issues facing the industry, and what would you do to address them?

Arts funding is a national issue close to my heart. The lion’s share of subsidy is not only disproportionately allocated to London, but the money that reaches the regions is also disproportionately allocated. The regions have traditionally powered new dramatic initiatives, stimulating artistic development in London, but now they are generally subjugated to feed off its populist cast-offs. In the short term, this may seem good for London-based actors, because talent, ability, creativity and activity is forced to remain in London, but in the long term the starvation of the regions will prove to be detrimental to our profession. Many of us, across all age ranges, genders and backgrounds, are not able to afford to live in London. Objectivity and opportunity, throughout the UK nations and regions, in the allocation of arts funding, is an essential matter for Equity to pursue vigorously because centralisation has been proven not to work.

As president, it would not be my role to promote my personal views. I am happy to express them, so others know where I stand, but when presiding at meetings I must dismiss my views and attitude to ensure that council has considered all opinions and options. This will enable them to reach a fully informed decision. At the same time I will uphold the principle that matters of a party political or sectarian nature, as well as unfair discrimination, have no place in Equity. As president, I will strive to ensure that all issues are determined in this way.

What qualities would you bring to the role of president?

I believe I have a different approach because I was brought up in Manchester within a strong trade union community. My father was a brass foundry worker. This gives me a combination of determination coupled with a sense of fun and love, which we all need in our profession, to spur us on whatever the circumstances.

I believe that the president’s authority originates from all members equally and fairly. I am not influenced by the celebrity culture that currently holds sway within the media. I recognise that today’s unknown member is only a phone call away from being a star. For me, any individual member’s issue carries equal importance within Equity. Consequently I do not see myself, as president, being a leader directing members but as a standard bearer proudly carrying Equity’s banner, designed and approved by members and the council. I need no reminding that Equity is a member-led democratic association, so as president my role would be to ensure that all members’ views are represented and expressed, as fully as possible, at council and throughout all Equity’s committees and branches.

Jean-RogersJean Rogers

What are the big issues facing the industry, and what would you do to address them?

There are two issues that affect our members acutely. One reminds me of the situation at the beginning of the 20th century when syndicates moved in, buying up successful London theatres such as the Lyceum, having no experience or understanding of the arts, but sensing there was money to be made. The other is the way the majority of workers in our industry are treated as commodities and their basic human rights and dignity ignored. Both situations leave our members among the poorest in society.

I am 100% behind Equity’s Professionally Made Professionally Paid campaign, as the low pay/no pay attitude leads to the undermining of our precious collective agreements. Making small but significant inroads into the new emerging technologies, particularly the games area, fringe theatre and festivals with guidelines, protocols, small basic contracts and dialogue, is the key to turning the situation around.

Members also need to be encouraged to report illegalities, breaches, insults and bullying, in the firm knowledge that it will all be in confidence.

I applaud the work done by Equity, under Malcolm Sinclair’s watch, to strengthen the committees and make them more dynamic and effective, but it is time to look at the rules governing the presidency. At present there is no restriction on the number of terms that may be served. To improve gender and diversity, I would advocate a maximum of two terms (four years).

What qualities would you bring to the role of president?

Equity is now talking loudly about monitoring gender, diversity, equal opportunity and true representation of society’s make-up on our stages and screens. I have long worked for this and am proud to know my beloved union has nominated me for a TUC Women’s Gold Badge.

As a jobbing actress who has survived over 50 years in theatre, radio, television, the odd film and commercials, I know how hard it can be as a young performer, a mother, a single parent and now as an older actress to keep working, with your dignity and self-respect intact while believing you can change things for the better.

The formation outside Equity of Parents in Performing Arts and Equal Representation for Actresses 50/50, along with Act for Change, show us we need to be stretching out to performers and other creatives in an informed, inspiring manner. Now, 70 years since our only female president Beatrix Lehmann was elected, I want to finally open the door to diversity and representation in the leadership.

Malcolm-Sinclair-HeadshotMalcolm Sinclair

What are the big issues facing the industry, and what would you do to address them?

I am standing again as there is a lot to do. We’ve achieved a good deal over the last two years: major advance on low pay/no pay in the fringe and student films, new simpler joining criteria, inclusive casting policy launched, backing Parents in Performing Arts, fighting for the BBC, successfully resisting central government arts funding cuts, the ENO chorus fight, and most importantly a new student coordinator to focus our work for those in training, and a full-time equalities officer. In fact, this council and leadership have done more for diversity and equality than ever was done previously. Quite rightly, as there was a lot of catching up to do.

For the future: we must fight to protect the BBC and Channel 4. We have to support local government to prevent local funding being decimated. At the end of the year, the Equity website is being revamped and this is a huge issue for us, we have to get it right and that means getting our younger members involved, as they get it in a way that perhaps some of us don’t.

The union is in a good place: record membership at nearly 41,000 and rising. This is partly due to our efforts but also because, for a lot of us, our professional life is becoming more difficult, and more and more of us realise that belonging to a union is essential for our professional health.

What qualities would you bring to the role of president?

I am not comfortable talking about my own qualities, but the main job of president is chairing meetings, and I am a fairly good chair, I would say.

The thing I am most happy about can be seen in the ballot papers for the new council. There is now a whole new wave of activists, young members and members from all backgrounds, who want to be part of the union. I think I have been part of that change.

Jean and Dave have many more years of wonderful service to the union – I am a relative new boy. But I think I have been able to connect the union to the profession in a way that was not happening sufficiently before. I think that is what I can do and can offer.

I do a range of work: I am currently in a musical, and am about to begin a new play. I have done a range of stuff and have managed to connect with younger members of the profession in a way that I don’t think Dave and Jean have been able to do. This is, in a sense, essential, as of course they are the future.

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