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Letters of the week

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Equity’s duty to youngest actors

Where were the chaperones and where was the Scout leader when the young scout was taken to Jimmy Savile’s dressing room? Who was responsible for escorting the child to the dressing room? Or was it Savile himself who invited the child, possibly with the permission of an adult who should have been looking out for the minor?

The duties of a licensed chaperone in charge of a child performer include never letting that child out of sight or earshot for a moment.

Any situation involving children, whether it be on a working film set or with members of an audience, needs the protection and guardianship of vetted, responsible adults.

It is being considered that for amateur productions children won’t require licences or licensed chaperones. As amateurs don’t receive payment for performing, this loophole is already becoming apparent on professional productions. Children are appearing in shows bypassing the licence process because they are unpaid, ahead of the new child licensing procedures being announced or enforced. The Department for Education informed me this week that although the consultation papers are with government ministers, there has still been no date set to announce the changes.

Although steps are being made in the right direction by bodies such as Equity, improvements in protection for children are paramount.

I wish to congratulate Equity for at last allowing children into the union from the age of ten. As an Equity councillor I campaigned relentlessly to open membership to children. Despite my original proposal being rejected in 2008, I am delighted to see Equity’s U-turn on child membership.

After making enquiries I was informed that a child’s membership costs the same as an adult’s, and they are entitled to equal benefits apart from voting until they are 16. Adult performers have always had the backup of Equity on pay, working conditions or contractual issues. Until now, children have not had this same protection afforded to them.

While I applaud Equity’s move to acknowledge child performers, my present concern is how specialised they will be and if they will work closely with the borough councils to ensure children are protected on all levels.

Although the local authorities in charge of licensing child performers are concerned with the children’s welfare and protection, they are not involved in monitoring their contracts and payment and are not wholly au fait with the entertainment industry. I believe this has left a big black hole in looking after child performers’ best interests and Equity needs to fill this void by representing children fully.

To continue safeguarding children it is necessary that Equity acts as an umbrella body, overseeing all children’s involvement in the entertainment industry, whether they be performers or audience members. The recent Savile allegations highlight serious flaws that have existed in child protection.

Although Equity has opened its doors to children, there is still much more work to be done. The umbrella isn’t fully open yet.

Teri Scoble
Choreographer and former Equity councillor
Email address supplied


On trend and Off-West End

We often hear that London lacks venues similar to those found Off-Broadway.

Looking at your London listings in the November 8 issue (page 32) I note the Print Room, Catford Broadway Studio, Theatre 503, Rada Studios, Landor Theatre, Southwark Playhouse, Gate Theatre, Jermyn Street and Arcola Theatre Studio 1.

The previous week there were the Finborough Theatre, Blue Elephant, Southwark Playhouse Vault, Arcola Studio 2, Young Vic Maria, Camden People’s Theatre, Union Theatre.

Not forgetting the Bush, Battersea Arts Centre, Hammersmith Riverside Studios, King’s Head Islington, Barons Court, Greenwich, Polka and many more.

Perhaps we are not so badly off as we thought we were.

Tudor Williams
Brymore Close


Use your vote or lose influence

In 2000 I wrote two lengthy articles deploring the failure of the Equity membership to vote either in elections or referenda. A turnout of one tenth can be construed as apathy. Consequently, members have had less and less influence on decisions, and even on day-to-day business.

Now we have another referendum on an altogether unnecessary rule change – cost to membership, about £25,000 – with the sole intention of reducing, even further, the authority of the council. As in previous role change referenda, the majority will be meagre but trailed as an overwhelming endorsement.

It doesn’t have to be like that. The membership has the opportunity to vote until the end of November. The referendum paper and reply paid envelope are included in the journal. It’s all to hand, it’s all free. Come on, you 39,000 members – vote. And vote “no”. And don’t forget to post it!

Victor Platt
Clavering Avenue
London SW13


Strictly’s scene setters are stars

While every week in Strictly Come Dancing, the contestants, professional dancers and judges receive their fair share of plaudits, may I ask for a special round of applause for the technical team who work so hard behind the scenes?

Every week, for each individual dance, the unseen crew works wonders by creating the right atmosphere for the specific performance.

So to the technical team of Strictly Come Dancing, who contribute so much to the success of the show, my sincere congratulations and a well deserved score of ten out of ten.

Colin Bower
Hall Street


We need to look beyond race

We seem to be tying ourselves in knots on the issue of racial casting (Letters, November 8, page 8). May I cite the example from the recent production of Macbeth at Sheffield’s Crucible Theatre? The part of Ross was taken by Ashley Zhangazha – probably the best thing about this very lacklustre production.

Ashley was taking a part which the writer clearly intended for a white actor – there being no black noblemen in Scotland in the 11th century. Should he have been given the part? Would it have been acceptable for him to ‘white up’? Was the whole play miscast as there wasn’t a Scot among them?

We seem to be more concerned about the ethnicity of actors than their ability to fill their roles, which won’t help theatre one little bit.

Jack Massey
Email address supplied

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