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New knife laws pose ‘serious threat’ to theatre industry, Equity warns

Yukio Ninagawa's Macbeth – knives are essential props for many stage productions. Photo: Tristram Kenton
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New laws aimed at reducing knife crime in the UK could pose serious problems for fight directors and stage management in the theatre industry, Equity has warned.

The Offensive Weapons Bill, which is currently going through parliament, includes a section that would make it an offence for a seller to deliver a bladed product to a residential address.

A motion put to Equity’s council by director Dan Ayling, who represents directors, designers and fight directors, states that the restriction could have “serious and detrimental effect” on the sector, particularly as some registered fight directors and stage managers often require items to be sent to their personal addresses.

Ayling told The Stage that knives required by fight directors or stage managers as props for sets would no longer be able to delivered to these addresses, which he said would create difficulties for the industry.

“While the bill is well intentioned, part of it will cause serious problems for members of the industry who I represent as a councillor,” he said, adding that many fight directors or stage managers are freelance, and use their home addresses.

“If I were a fight director, or stage manager touring, and needed stuff sent to me, it could be a real problem… it could make life more difficult,” he said.

Ayling’s motion, backed by Equity’s council, calls on the union to support a petition that has been set up online, urging the government to remove article 15 of the bill. The petition says the law will “make it impossible for self-employed tradesmen to have bladed tools delivered to their residence”.

The union will also submit evidence to a committee examining the bill.

The government has itself responded to the online petition, clarifying its position. It states the prohibition on the delivery of knives to residential addresses is limited to those that can cause “serious injury”.

In respect of other knives, it says the bill will not prevent knives being delivered to businesses run from home, and says bladed products such as fencing swords and those used for “re-enactment activities” will be exempt.

Ayling welcomed the response but said pressure still needed to be applied before the law is brought into force.

“They seem to have heard what we have said and they’re listening but it’s something we have to be aware of,” he said.

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