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Working group established to advocate for theatre design in wider industry

The working group aims to build awareness about what it means to be a designer within the unions and the wider industry. Photo: Jakez/Shutterstock
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Professional theatre design associations will officially link up with entertainment unions for the first time, to establish a working group to improve working conditions.

The group, formed by the Society of British Theatre Designers, the Association of Lighting Designers, Equity and BECTU, aims to address issues concerning designers such as career paths, pay, diversity, bullying and harassment, and promoting an understanding of the design profession within the wider industry.

This will be the first time that all four organisations have come together to “evaluate and unpack the complex nature of current working terms and conditions for designers”.

The working group will meet every few months until at least April 2019. The group has not yet confirmed its exact proposed outcomes, but there is potential for a report to be produced on the its findings into the current climate for theatre design.

Honorary secretary of SBTD Fiona Watt said: “For professional associations to be invited to the table with the unions for the first time is very significant.

“It’s about building awareness and knowledge about what it means to be a designer within both the unions and the wider industry.”

She added: “The unions have the power, the structure and the influence to represent us in terms of negotiations, while we [the professional associations] have the knowledge and expertise about what designers are facing in the industry, so a partnership like this is important to maintain.”

Helen Ryan of BECTU said the working group would try to ensure that working agreements for theatre designers are “relevant and fit for purpose”.

She added: “BECTU has worked successfully with other professional associations in other areas, and we hope that working with SBTD and ALD will be of benefit in these discussions.”

A spokesman for the ALD said that the organisation had been “concerned” about minimum fees for lighting designers for a number of years.

He said: “The current agreements are still predicated on the old repertory system of the chief electrician lighting a show in addition to their other duties, rather than the 21st century practice of a freelance lighting designer being much more involved in the creative process of the show, balancing the artistic and technology requirements of shows that are undoubtedly more complex in every manner.

“We welcome the opportunity to discuss these issues further in order to create a modern agreement that will allow established and emerging lighting designers, as well as showing those looking to enter the industry, that is possible to develop and maintain sustainable careers as a theatre lighting designer.”

The secretary to Equity’s directors and designers’ committee, Jamie Briers, said: “Equity welcomes the SBDT and ALD discussions with the union on range of issues including pay and conditions for our members working as theatre designers.

“As we have shown through our work with other professional associations in the industry, working collaboratively enables us to broaden the base from which Equity seeks to improve those terms and conditions.”

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