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Guildford Fringe Theatre Company adopts minimum wage policy

Helen Hart and Anthony Fagan in the Guildford Fringe Theatre Company's production of Cinders in 2013. Photo: Matt Pereira Helen Hart and Anthony Fagan in the Guildford Fringe Theatre Company's production of Cinders in 2013. Photo: Matt Pereira
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A fringe theatre company in Guildford has pledged to pay all its actors at least the national minimum wage from now on as it looks to strengthen the town’s fringe scene.

The Guildford Fringe Theatre Company was founded in 2012 by actor Nick Wyschna and has up until now been working on a profit share model. However, Wyschna said he hoped the move to paying set wages would prove that fringe companies can thrive outside London.

“When I first set [the company] up, because Guildford is a very middle-class place, I thought we were going to be targeting the student market, but actually we’ve been getting that audience who want to see something different and don’t necessarily want to sit in a prestigious theatre where they’ve got to put their drinks in plastic cups. It sounds silly, but it has made a difference,” he told The Stage.

“There’s almost a ‘no rule’ thing going on on the fringe, and I think if people can capitalise on that, they can get larger audiences,” he added.

Wyschna said he felt there was a place for profit share on the fringe, but that fringe theatre companies “need to be far more honest” about how money is spent in order to allow the sector to thrive.

“I feel like there is a lot of dishonesty going on, which is where bad reputations come from. As long as you run it properly and honestly with an open-book policy, I think there is a place for profit share. We are lucky enough now though to have managed to build up enough money in the bank to offer set wages, which was always my plan,” he said.

The company, which stages mostly new writing, performs in a 60-seat space at the Star Inn in Guildford.

The new rates will see all performers and crew involved in a production paid at least the national minimum wage, per hour, for the rehearsal period and for performances.

Wyschna said he had had discussions with Equity around payment, but had decided not to take up its fringe theatre agreement.

Earlier this year, the union said it wanted to push to roll out the agreement to more companies outside London.

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