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Leading directors hit out at ‘appalling’ pay

Dominic Cooke. Photo: Manuel Harlan Dominic Cooke has criticised the ‘liberal intelligentsia’ for being too elitist. Photo: Manuel Harlan
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Dominic Cooke and Paulette Randall are among leading directors who have criticised poor levels of pay in their sector.

Their comments come as it has emerged that industry body Stage Directors UK is preparing to introduce a “groundbreaking” rate card for the sector that aims to improve pay levels among directors.

SDUK chief executive Piers Haggard said the rate card would “concretise all the arguments” the body has been making since it launched in 2014, and added that the card would empower directors to negotiate pay increases. The rate card will be launched in the autumn alongside standard contract terms for directors.

Cooke and Randall are featured a new promotional video for Stage Directors UK, which also features contributions from Nicholas Hytner and James Macdonald.

Last year, a survey from SDUK suggested that half of directors earned less than £5,000 a year.

Speaking in the video, Cooke states that directors are perceived as being very powerful.

“The reality is they are working on some of the lowest levels of pay,” he says.

Randall adds that fees for directors have not changed over the past 10 years, claiming that pay had come to a standstill.

“It’s appalling really because I am still doing the same job – if not better – but not getting paid enough,” she states.

She adds: “We do need to start talking about money and the truth is… I hardly ever mention it to people is because it’s so appalling.”

Haggard told The Stage that Equity minimums for directors were low and often neglected, and below the going rates in the industry.

“Going rates are more relevant and the going rates that SDUK is complaining about are much higher than Equity minimums. So we are trying to get the going rates up. The rate card will give a coherent structure, right across the industry, from fringe all the way to the top, and provides a meaningful structure based on some principles,” he said.

SDUK’s video also features Bush artistic director Madani Younis, who states that the industry has to ensure the next generation of directors is coming through, and that they are paid well. He expresses concern that the industry will become the “domain of a chosen few”.

In the video, Hytner praises SDUK as forum to “share wisdom, experience and injustices” and can make sure those injustices stop.

Equity this week struck a deal with the Society of London Theatre to secure a minimum pay deal for assistant directors working in the West End.

Responding to SDUK’s claims that its minimums are below the going rate, Equity said they provided “a floor below which rates cannot fall”.

Assistant general secretary Stephen Spence said: “Of course, some directors will have higher rates as a result of individual negotiation. The key aspect is that these are not promulgated minimums, they have been negotiated with the employers and are binding meaning that they are not a wish list but will have a real impact on the ground.”
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