Actors and theatre staff are being urged to make sure they have made arrangements to vote in next month’s election, amid warnings that those working away from home on Christmas shows could be disenfranchised.
The election will take place on December 12, 44 days after it was confirmed last week, meaning it will fall mid-way through many pantomime and Christmas show runs.
Matt Hood, Equity’s assistant general secretary, described the election date as “inconvenient for many”, adding: “For our members, many of whom will be working away from home on tour, in panto or filming, it runs the real risk of them losing their right to vote.”
Director Zoe Waterman, who is currently in rehearsals for Theatr Clwyd’s pantomime, said that of the 10 actors in the show’s cast, eight need to make arrangements to ensure they can vote.
Some of these had left rental accommodation to do the job, she said, meaning they must register to vote using a new address.
“There is time to do all of this if they act now, but it requires them to be proactive. It is absolutely vital that we get the message out to those in rehearsals across the country – for the theatre industry to have a voice in this election we must mobilise everyone to ensure they are registered to vote, and that they have a postal or proxy vote if they are away from home. This can be a difficult thing to organise when you’re away from home and in a busy rehearsal process,” Waterman said.
She added: “This is a vital election for all of us in the arts – whatever your political persuasion, the outcome of Brexit will have huge repercussions on our industry one way or another, along with wider issues around funding for the arts, arts in education and the rights and responsibilities of those of us who are self-employed. We are a huge industry and it is really important that we aren’t disenfranchised by this timing.”
Waterman said theatres could assist individuals by printing the relevant forms for those who need them, and ensuring that everyone has time to go and vote on election day if they are registered locally.
Thomas Hescott, chief executive of Stage Directors UK, reiterated the inconveniences that the added bureaucracy could cause.
“November and December is an extremely busy time of the year for our members, many of whom are working away from home on Christmas shows. The short notice means many of our members are already away working and so have little opportunity to organise postal ballots.
“We are concerned that our members will struggle to be able to vote in such an important election,” he said.