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Equity has a long history of fighting against harassment (your views, March 8)

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I am disappointed to hear that Pauline Moran believes the recent shocking revelations of sexual harassment in the entertainment industry are “an easy bandwagon” for the union (Letters, February 22. Equity has been assisting members with workplace bullying and sexual harassment since it was founded in 1930. It has helped numerous members over the years, one recent example being Helen Vine.

Pauline also implies that the ability of Equity branches to nominate and support candidates in union elections is somehow undemocratic, despite it being voted for by members in a referendum.

Pauline’s summary of the transfer of distributions from the British Equity Collecting Society back to Equity is misleading. All of the monies paid out by the union are contractual payments arising from Equity contracts and are paid to the contracting agent, as is standard practice in our industry. That agent may deduct a commission depending on a performer’s agreement with them.

Where a fee is deducted by Equity to cover the costs of distribution, the Equity Council has reduced rates from 8% for members to 0% and for non-members from 18% to 6%. As contractual payments, performers can instruct Equity to pay monies to them directly and they will be responsible for any commission arrangements as per their agency agreement.

Jean Rogers made a formal complaint within the union’s rules in 2016. Following a full investigation by a panel of Equity members, it was found there was insufficient evidence to uphold her complaint.

Christine Payne
General secretary
Equity

Musicians’ Union offers support

The Weinstein case, and subsequent allegations involving Kevin Spacey and others, has exposed the alarming level of sexual harassment and abuse that exists in the film industry.

The music industry in the UK is no different. The truth is all areas of the entertainment business in the UK are likely to harbour people in power who abuse their position, causing distress and worse for others.

The Musicians’ Union has been leading the way within the music industry in providing safe and secure channels for people who are victims of sexual harassment and abuse to share their stories.

The email address that we set up, safespace@theMU.org, has enabled musicians and other people from the music industry to share their experiences without fear of their identities being revealed and some of the emails we have received have been harrowing to read.

To tackle this problem wherever it occurs, we are making safespace@theMU.org available to anyone in the UK entertainment industry who wants to report instances of sexual harassment and abuse safely.

We can offer support and advice and total confidentiality. Together we must strive to drive this horrible abuse of power out of the UK entertainment industry.

Horace Trubridge
General secretary
British Musicians’ Union

Even the best go unrecognised

It is generally accepted that a career as an actor is probably one of the most precarious ways to earn a living. Apart from having the talent, the actor should also be a person of great determination. As an agent once said “Talent is helpful, luck is essential.”

Gary Oldman, currently enjoying great success, and an Oscar win, as Winston Churchill, was told by an interviewer at RADA “to find a new way of earning a living”.

Of course, Oldman is not the first actor to have his talent go unrecognised. Here are three other famous names whose talent was not at first apparent.

There is an agency in Hollywood that has a card about Fred Astaire that reads: “Can’t sing. Can’t act. Balding. Can dance a little.”

The great matinee idol of the 1920s, 1930s and 1940s, Ronald Colman, is listed in another agency as: “Good looking. Pleasant voice. Can’t act.”

While attending RADA, a dame of the English theatre suggested to Alec Guinness that he should “choose a different career”.

Thankfully, they stuck to their guns.

Colin Bower
Nottingham

Quotes of the week

Katori Hall. Photo: Charlie Hopkinson
Katori Hall. Photo: Charlie Hopkinson

[Diversity requires] giving up your seat at the table to people who haven’t always been allowed to sit… not on the stage, but on the board, where the decisions are made. How many black artistic directors does UK theatre have? Are we performing inclusion and diversity or are we actually doing it? Let’s see if the acknowledgment phase shifts through into the action phase.
Playwright Katori Hall (Guardian)

“Oh, he’ll always talk like there isn’t another play in him, but when we did the last one [2012’s People] it really pissed him off when anybody assumed it was in any way valedictory – so I knew he would try again.”
The Bridge Theatre’s Nicholas Hytner on Alan Bennett’s new play Allelujah! (Telegraph)

When we were leaving drama school we were prepped with the idea that we’d be pigeonholed. But weirdly it didn’t happen to me.
Actor Patsy Ferran (WhatsOnStage)

“I think we stepped on our anger for a time and I’m glad it’s back. Anger is one of the things that fuels me wonderfully.”
Playwright Bryony Lavery (Exeunt)

“When a woman gets to child-bearing age, she has to disappear or not have children and then be judged. Women find it incredibly difficult to go back to work after children. It’s not encouraged, especially in the UK.”
Actor Claire Foy (Sunday Times)

“Someone was recently really surprised to find out I have never had an agent. No agent has ever tried to sign me. I don’t take it personally. Barely any black female theatre directors I know have agents. Why would they, when the industry at large does not believe in our talent, keeps us from its main stages, and does not empower us to tell our stories or the stories we choose to tell? And so, as it always was, black women do it for themselves. This makes us stronger, and the industry weaker. We will always be our own cheerleaders.”
Director Nadia Latif (Twitter)

“I’m always asked about obstacles faced as ‘a woman in the arts’, sometimes as a BAME woman in the arts. Never am I asked about class, and although they all obviously intersect, in my opinion this is the biggest obstacle in UK theatre – right now at least.”
Poet and playwright Sabrina Mahfouz (Twitter)

What you said on Facebook

About Olivia Colman, David Tennant, Juliet Stevenson and Ross Noble picking up prizes at this year’s WhatsOnStage Awards…

Much as I admire David Tennant for Hamlet and Richard II, the best performance of 2017 was David Troughton’s Titus Andronicus. None of the nominated youngsters had to work their way through such an avalanche of emotion. He did a masterclass in anger, grief, torment and revenge.
Brigitte Uhrmann

About Martin Shaw saying: ‘Younger actors are not trained in the craft of acting’…

My graduate course was heavily influenced with voice work and breathing, so I gained projection and articulation. However, I think sometimes it’s a choice and the English language is changing whether you like that or not. Some of us are becoming a society of abbreviations and emojis.
Ric Hazlewood

Emojis have got nothing to do with enunciation, it’s just laziness.
Lucy Edelstein

I saw The Best Man in Brighton and found a lot of the dialogue hard to hear despite sitting in mid-stalls and not being hard of hearing.
Lois Pelecanos

I saw The Best Man in Cambridge and I too was in the stalls and unfortunately Martin (as much as I think he is a fine actor) was the worst offender.
Patricia Kneale-Buxton

Why are we not taught diction at school?
Barbara Hartwell

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