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London’s King’s Head extends flat-rate pay to creative teams

Adam Spreadbury, artistic director of the King's Head Theatre Maher at The Stage Awards 2015 and New Year Party. Photo: Eliza-Power Adam Spreadbury-Maher, artistic director of the King's Head Theatre. Photo: Eliza Power
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London’s King’s Head has become what is believed to be the first unfunded pub theatre to commit to a fair pay agreement for creatives.

The fringe venue has also introduced a radical new gender policy, which pledges that half of creatives hired will be those who identify as non-male.

In 2015, the pub theatre committed to paying actors a flat rate of £275 a week. Under a new agreement drawn up with Equity, the same rate will now be extended to directors, designers and all offstage workers.

Artistic director Adam Spreadbury-Maher said: “This isn’t a policy, it is a culture change.

“It is possible to have a sustainable fringe theatre. We still get no money from the bar, we still have 110 seats, but we looked at our business model and said, ‘How can we run our business so we can pay actors and creatives?’

“If a director is working on a main show, we will pay for every week they work. This may include a week of casting and a week of preparation.”

Spreadbury-Maher added that it was “incredible” for a fringe theatre to be able to make such a commitment.

He said: “We’ve always tried to do something like this but we have never formalised it before. We are coming out and saying, ‘We commit to this.’

“We are the first fringe theatre to do this, and it is a natural progression. The audience cares about this, and it is another reason to turn to them and say: ‘Keep buying tickets.’”

An Equity spokesperson said: “We are delighted to have reached a comprehensive agreement for our creative team members working at the King’s Head Theatre, and welcome the announcement of their renewed commitment to equalities.

“The King’s Head Theatre has been leading the way on ethical fringe pay for years, so it’s fitting that they are the first theatre to sign up to a creative team agreement.”

The venue has also drawn up plans to ensure greater diversity within its staff, aiming to fill 10% of its artist and creative roles with people from non-white British backgrounds, an equal proportion with people with disabilities, and 65% of its roles with young people aged under 35 by 2021.

The King’s Head has also committed to having a 50% non-male board. This is alongside the new gender policy, again believed to be a first among fringe theatres, which commits to hiring 50% non-male creatives.

Spreadbury-Maher said: “This covers everything from lighting directors and sound designers to stage management.

“There is a lot of dialogue going round saying the situation is ‘so bad’ and there is a lot of finger-pointing going on, but we can lament the situation or we can do something about it.

“While being a smaller theatre, the King’s Head has an opportunity to make a difference.”

He added: “If you say ‘I’m not going to do it because the talent is not there’, then that is really lazy.

“Creatives are where the problem is. Even in our own house, it’s not as bad as it could be, but there is room for improvement.

“It’s not a chicken-and-egg situation; if you tell the industry we want more female sound designers, that will help, but if you are female the industry tells you to be a set designer or costume designer.”

Alongside these new policies for pay and gender equality, the King’s Head has also pledged to dedicate 50 hours per year to help mentor emerging companies about ethical employment.

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