Just after the end of the Second World War in Europe, actors’ union British Equity held its first peacetime annual general meeting 75 years ago this week (May 31, 1945).
At the meeting, then president Lewis Casson observed that the result of the recent period of crisis was that theatre’s standing within society had never been higher.
We reported: “Lewis Casson, as president, welcomed members on what he described as a historic occasion. Apart from the improved international situation, an enormous step theatrically had been taken in establishing a change which, he hoped, might be permanent. The government, in the creation of the Entertainments National Service Association, the Council for the Encouragement of Music and the Arts and kindred institutions, had given official recognition to what had been always assumed: that the theatre has a definite national importance...
“Llewellyn Rees, the general secretary, declared that the prestige of Equity had never been higher. Ministers and managers alike consulted the Association on all matters affecting the profession. During the last five years, membership had risen from 1,714 to 5,197. A deficit of £630 was changed into a surplus of £850. Minimum salaries had increased by 33.3% and those of choristers by 40%. A 50% increase in minimum rehearsal payments for the West End had been established.
Ballet and opera contracts had been adopted, and film and stage managers’ contracts had been drafted and were in course of negotiation. The provision of entertainment to the Forces during the war had received tribute from Ministers.”
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