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Equity calls for cap on audition fees in bid to widen access to drama schools

Two RADA students taking direction during a workshop RADA students taking direction during a workshop. The school said it welcomed Equity's planned audit of fees for auditions
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Drama schools across the UK are facing a crackdown on audition fees as part of a fresh bid to improve accessibility to training.

A motion passed at Equity’s Annual Representative Conference claimed that the acting profession should be “more representative of the population as a whole”, and that all barriers preventing this should be addressed.

Equity has now agreed to carry out an audit of the charges levied for auditions by drama schools across the UK, which can be as much as £85.

Once it has gathered the results, the union will campaign to encourage drama schools to adhere to “an agreed UK-wide cap on audition fees to be implemented”.

Speaking for the motion, Richard Grayson from the Oxford general branch said the measures set out in the motion were vital to improve diversity.

Sheila Jones, from the Liverpool and district general branch, added: “Only the well-off can afford to choose which schools they want to go to. It’s absolutely shocking.”

Responding, RADA said it welcomed Equity’s “determination to ensure the profession is open to people from all backgrounds”, claiming it was a stance it shared.

A RADA spokeswoman said the drama school charged its 2016 intake £45 to audition prior to December last year, and £85 after.

She said the school auditions more than 3,000 people a year and argued that student fees and higher-education grants did not cover the “considerable costs” connected with this.

“RADA’s audition fee covers the administrative and operational burden of the audition process and allows RADA to continue to widen participation,” she said, adding that the audition panellists needed to be properly paid.

The school has a fee waiver scheme and supports some students with travel bursaries.

Stephen Jameson, principal of Mountview Academy of Theatre Arts, said the school welcomed the research into fee caps. It currently charges £45 to audition.

“This is in line with the limit set by the government’s Education Funding Agency. We also have a network of grassroots arts organisations across the country who scout for young talent and award free auditions to those who can’t afford to pay,” he said.

Jameson also said people auditioning receive a “full day’s experience for their money”, including acting workshops.

Meanwhile, the Liverpool Institute for Performing Arts said its fees were £40.

A spokeswoman for the school said the fee waivers and travel grants could be offered, and welcomed the idea of an audition fee audit, especially if this “encourages greater transparency about audition fee charges”.

However, she added: “The audition experience can vary widely, from a few minutes to a whole day, so it’s hard to imagine a standard fee can cope with this degree of variety.”

Jane Harrison, principal at Arts Educational Schools London, said the school charged £45 to audition, but that it offered free auditions to students who might struggle with paying.

Guildhall School of Music and Drama charges £63 for its acting auditions, which it said was a one-off fee that covered all stages of an audition.

However, a spokeswoman said the school was doing a “number of things to encourage applications from talented students from lower income backgrounds”, including launching a scheme to waive the fees for target schools in east London boroughs.

Additional reporting by David Hutchison

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