Equity Feed

Strategy & Policy for the year ahead - ARC 2012

On May 19, 20, 21 around 200 Equity members gathered in Birmingham to debate, discuss and vote on the motions submitted from across the association which will shape the next 12 month of Equity's policy making, campaigning and industry contract negotiations. It was also a valuable opportunity for members representing their Branches and committees to meet each other to talk shop and drink beer!

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From the arrival at Birmingham New Street Station I was 'on the ground' making media... as I do, when I can. I can't help it. Why? I'm compelled to share. No one can be every where and remote audience engagement is a fascination of mine. This event was special. One, its a direct way I can contribute to the industry closest to my heart and two, it's an opportunity to scrutinise social media adoption and application amongst its workers and practitioners.


As the ARC (Annual Representatives Conference) is not a public event certain confidentiality's must be respected. This meant that as I was intending to blog I wasn't permitted to photograph representatives without explicit permission. I never like posed photos there for no pics with people. The Stage reported on the main debate on the agenda which will redefine the democratic structure of the union.

IMG_1737Did this mean no social media? Not in the least, Equity selectively tweeted, posted to Facebook and the hashtag #ARC2012 was initiated, monitored and engaged enabling interested tweeters to follow the main activity of the conference. The beauty of twitter is it's function as a back channel, being able to connect with fellow representatives and those unable to attend and exchange pleasantries. 

Having watched the twitter activity over the last few years it was heartening to see a mark increase of chatter before and during the conference. The interest in social media, especially twitter has increased too. The concern how ever was the development of skills with a fear of personal networks mixng with professional and fan base connection was high.

Although the FEU (Federation of Entertainment Unions) do provide web training the entry level and resulting real skills Equity members need is that of entry level, absolute beginners with access to the hardware not to mention the connectivity being voiced as the hurdles to engagement.

But it wasn't all work (read Equity's ARC reflection and motion results), there was an opportunity to play. This year the after dinner entertainment was a charity casino night in aid of ICAF (International Committee for Artists' Freedom) I did take a few pics here. It was great fun and for a great cause.



Equity have posted a short article "Equity's conference backs change" gives an overview of the serious business that was carried out over the 3 day conference. The Stage have reported on the structure change too. "Equity restructure plans gain conference go-ahead"

For me I wanted to blog to attempt to give an impression of the event itself from 'on the ground'.


From the inside out. My EquityUK journey begins.

I'm heading to the ARC in Birmingham as an observer this weekend.

A quick intro to the ARC (Annual Representative Conference)?

VoteEquityUK's ARC takes place every year, usually in the Spring.  It is normally held in London for two years running and then in a different part of the country (the members choose), This year Birmingham plays host. It is the opportunity for the Council and Representatives from the committees and branches to come together to propose and debate policy, and move forward the work of the union.  Decisions that are passed at the ARC with a two thirds majority are binding on the union and become policy. Representatives are elected and the conference usually lasts for 2 days with the agenda being broken down into debates on Recorded Media, Live Performance, Union Structure, Equality, Health and Safety, Communications and Membership Services.  Members who are not involved in a committee or branch but would like to attend the ARC can come as an Observer.

You may know I sit on the Independent Theatre Committee so why am I attending as an observer? Official representatives have voting rights and for several years I have attended in this capacity on several occasions. I have one official duty this year and that is to host a fringe session taking an up close and personal look at the much derided Equity website. Love it or loathe it, it's ours. It's not so bad it needs a little community participation but I have to admit it's not straight forward. I hope I can encourage a few represenatives to give the site, especialy the membes area a second glance.

I was asked by Louise Grainger to send a biog and a bit of blurb to give context to my session. I expect that there wil be Equity Facebook and @EquityUK Twitter activity. For me this weekend is about talking to active members. The only way I know I'm engaging with fellow members is to post and chat in the forum where access is via a password. Hope you will enter a dialogue with me. Post your thoughts. Activate the "Watch this thread" box and get notifications as they are posted.

If you aren't an Equity member you can follow the tweets and Facebook posts. If you are a member you will need your Equity membership number and your password to get the inside insight. 

So... this is me and this is what I'll be doing Sunday lunch time 12.30. As it's a biog for the programme its in the 3rd person. Thought I'd share it here too.

Caron worked as a stagemanager before retraining at a web designer in 2003. In 2006, As she realised she was not a designer social media emerged and slowly the realisation hit that being a stagemanager was harder to escape than she first thought! Caron is an event specialist with an unhealthy knowledge of social media! From creating social networks for Arts Council England’s Amb:IT:ion program and Pilot Theatre's Shift Happens conferences, live streaming interactive coverage for Architects Journal and Audiences Europe to Twitter 'conversation curation' (digital show calling) audience engagement and event support are the common theme. As a consultant Caron provides the knowledge and training organisations or individuals need to make media, connect and talk across the web in real time. 

In 2010 Caron, along with video blogger and brand advocate Phil Campbell joined forces as collaborators and set up FibreCamp an HD community web studio and 'on the ground' real time event team. Caron is an elected member of Equity's Independent Theatre Arts Committee and has been an SMA (Stage Management Association) board member and chair of Equity's StageManagement committee. 

Caron has two signature events she runs, MediaCampNottingham and Technology on Trial.

She is here at the the Equity ARC to put the Equity website on trial. In this session we will look at the site from the outside in and gain some insight in to:

   * How we can make this site work for us as Equity members

   * Master its foibles to share and promote our committee and branch activities

   * Optimise our profiles to stay better informed of Equity's activities

   * How we can share Equity's news feed with others

   * What is coming soon to make things better.

Continue reading "From the inside out. My EquityUK journey begins." »

Livescribe - old media meet new technology

"Don't add technology to way you do things. Change the way you do things when you know what technology can do" A quote I use throughout my presentations and workshops. Its part of what I refer to as foundation thinking. Thanks go to Marcus Romer, artistic director of Pilot Theatre for this line of genius.

Way back in 2007 at the launch of the newly negotiated Equity ITC contract agreement at Hampstead Theatre I had conversation that ignited my social media journey and restructured by business. It's Marcus's fault that I joined Facebook! The conversation and consequent collaboration took me in to Second Life and entwined my life irrevocably with this social media phenomenon.

I upgrade my technology when I discover features or learn of functions my current tool set or equipment can't provide. This has driven my mobile phone upgrades and it has now inspired my upgrade from paper note book to Live Scribe.

http://www.livescribe.com - cool little pen thing for those that take notes.

I can still write notes and draft blog posts. Now I can transfer the text to my computer, archive and search my notebooks. With the MyScribe app I can covert my written notes in to editable text.

Equity@Edinburgh 2009: Your voice, Your chance

Equity@EdinburghEquity is in Edinburgh from Aug 24 - 29...The Facebook group

The most important session for practitioners to influence their sector is on 27/08/09 Working in Independent Theatre – the Essentials - 1400-1600 Free (ticketed) at Festival Theatre, 13-19 Nicholson Street (venue 244).

Sadly it will be the least well attended. Social Media has no visibility in the ITC (Independent Theatre Council) contract or the Fringe contract at present I would like to see that change.

For example
  • Enabling audiences to share and promote our productions with targeted material.
  • Payments for Live Streamed performances.
  • Guidelines to protect copyright using more flexible CC creative commons licenses
  • Guidelines for online conduct within social media for company members

Please find time to fit this one in your diary. You do not have to be an equity member or working or ever worked on an ITC contract. Come and share your concerns, experiences and needs for a theatre contract for digital age.

I will be there.

Equity@Edinburgh - pt 1

During the second week of 2008’s Edinburgh Fringe Festival two members of Equity staff, Louise Grainger and Matt Clarke plus two Equity members, Peter Warnock and Me, Caron Lyon championed the trade union running workshops and a daily drop-in centre under the Equity@Edinburgh banner. We also saw around 30 shows and talked to performers and production staff during our week.

My primary purpose for me being selected by the Equity Independent Theatre Arts Committee was to deliver a workshop “Social Media, Networking and making the web work for you”. Peter delivered the Voice workshops "Make your voice heard" and due to popular demand a second voice workshop was added.There was also "Speed Networking", "How to get ahead in acting", "Movement for actors", "How to get ahead as a theatre director" and "Equity - What's it all about?" More than 150 people took part in the workshops and many made use of the free advice available in the drop in zone.

It has been my ambition since withdrawing from full time stagemanagement and becoming a web designer to be in a position to pass on the astonishing findings of Social Media development over the past few years and help creatives make the web work for them in an industry where money is so tight. My approach to Web 2.0 and Social Media enables solo practitioners and small companies to develop rich dynamic, easy to maintain and control web presences at little financial cost.

My workshop lasted 2 hrs at The Roman Eagle Lodge and was attended by around 25 delegates. The session content was divided in to 3 sections recapping as the workshop progressed. I covered a lot of ground introducing them to many new sites and services. The aim of all the presentations I have done over the past few months is to ignite creative thinking around how these services and sites can be used to Get Noticed, Get Connected, and Get Work.

Two services featured as practical demonstrations with the audience using their mobile phones to experience social media in action. I like a bit of hands-on stuff.

SpinVox, a voice to text service enabling voice to text updates for Blogs, Social Networks, memos to email and mass voice to text message distribution called Blasting. Try it they provide a nifty demo. Call this number 0845 040 6699 follow the instructions, leave a short voice message and in a short time, normally less that a minute it pops up as in inbound text message. Brilliant. Signing up for the service is easy too, and…. FREE. Hurrah.

The other live demo was with Swarm, a private mass texting platform for team communication, little trickier to explain but potentially very powerful for company communication and audience engagement. Check it out.

Take a look at the workshops structure. Here is the Slide Show embedded from Slideshare an on line archive of slideshow presentation.

Through out my time in Edinburgh I used QIK to stream video content to the web ready for embedding in to my blog posts on my return. I demoed this to the delegates too. Here they are!

Yawn! Beware it's contagious.

After my last post "The most boring blog post ever" it was in preparation for this. The boring things in life are often the most essential. Water is probably the most obvious. We add flavour, fruit juice, cordial,  add milk, mash a flimsy paper bag with leaves in to it, heat it up or add ice to cool it down. Its the h2o that our bodies need. Without it we overheat, dry up, wither and die.

So in essence boring things are often quite important for our fundamental well being!

On Saturday when the mail landed on my door mat there it was, the summer edition of the Equity Journal. For many Equity Members it's instant recycling fodder and this one contained a double whammy, an envelop containing the voting papers and candidate statements for the Equity Council and President. (You may now Yawn!)

CouncilElectionsGraphic Every two years Equity members elect the Equity Council — the governing body of the union. Candidates for the Equity Council standing in this election are active members of Equity keen to give that little bit more. They are the voice of members in the union and they make crucial decisions about what the union does — for example the contracts Equity agrees with employers and the campaigns that run on behalf of members are discussed by the Council before any action is taken.

I confess that in previous years (I've been an equity member since 1995) I have not voted. I did vote in the last round of elections. I just found it all too confusing and with so much to read through I'd get to the end thinking "I don't know who any of these people are, why should I care who sits on the council". Admitting that bureaucracy bores the pants of us is no shameful thing but in Equity I am starting to feel the mood changing.

Equity is in great shape - working for better pay in the West End, negotiating payments for the use of members work on new media platforms and campaigning for better funding from the Government. Their confronting of the Arts Council was inspired.

With more candidates than ever standing for the Equity Council, your vote is even more important. Perhaps it is a sign of how much Equity has been doing in recent years that so many members want to get involved in steering the union's future.

There is a 25 per cent increased in the number of members standing for election to the Equity Council in 2008 compared with two years ago and an unprecedented 50 members standing for just 17 seats.

The funky wave of interactive Social Media specially Facebook is giving active Equity members new voices. Equity now has a Facebook profile, the West End fair Pay campaign has a Facebook group, The Bristol and West area branch has entered the Social Web arena and members in Hants and Dorset who don't have thier own area branch have begun a campaign to get one using a Facebook group to raise awareness and gather supporters. Council Election candidate Esther Ruth Ellis has created a Facebook group to gather her supporters around her.

If you have a vote. Consider using it. Your selection will make a difference. This time more than ever.

The most boring blog post ever.

Is PR the art of making boring subjects interesting or at least creating the illusion they are?

I guess some subjects are easier to promote than others.


Is the art of PR about finding audiences and presenting information to the people who will be interested in the information being PRed? Is that even a word? Well its a concept and you know what I'm getting at.

The trade union for the entertainment industry, Equity is gearing up for Council Elections. The American presidential campaign is nothing compared to this.

Is this the most boring blog post ever? Its going to get worse!

MediaCampBucks & Equity's ARC in one weekend - Part two

Equity's ARC (Annual Representatives Conference) took place on the 18 and 19 May 2008 in London. I was overwhelmed by the interest in my work with social media and in particular on line forums and communities.

I attended this years ARC representing Equity members who are stagemanagers. The Stagemanagement Committee's motion to the ARC about implementing Skype, was accepted by a majority vote as a viable communication method which once instigated will lead to members of committees attending meetings from outside London or whilst away on tour with greater ease and regularity. The Equity website was a hot topic throughout the weekend. People's fear and uncertainty of the Internet is so prolific I took great enjoyment calming fears and quelling anxiety. I think many went home with a little more confidence in technology ready to start exploring the benefits of social media.

It may be hard to believe for some that Equity does not have any form of conference calling available or that applications such as a forum discussions on the website are not yet available. What you have to remember is that this is a work force who do not have a PC on their desk, or a desk for that matter and for the majority who have a PC at home they spend much of their working lives on tour or living in digs with no Internet access. These are the IT curious its just not part of their world. For them the journey is just beginning and for a community so geographically remote from each other the Internet is a gift beneath the Christmas tree that has yet to be unwrapped. Mobile phone web access will be a revelation when they own devises capable and web sites optimized to look at.

It was with the magic of wi-fi and with my trusty laptop I had the opportunity to introduce the IT curious to Second Life giving them a guided tour around Pilot Theatre's Second Life presence. The set designers especially saw the potential of Second Life and 3D environments. I often struggle with business people to convey the power and potential of the 3D web or virtual worlds but here they all got it immediately it was a breath of fresh air.

It was directly in response to the conversations about social media, social networks and Internet security fears during the ARC and their desire to see a functioning social networking application that I came home and created one to give an opportunity to experience first hand a private social network and participate in its growth.

Screenshot01 I'd been considering setting one up using the Ning.com platform model ever since joining the Association of Virtual Worlds. Now I saw it as a way to demonstrate what services I could offer to Equity and other clients by inviting them to take part in one. I could also unite my diverse networks in to one place.

During my career I have collected and recorded my contacts in indexed books and business card files. I have used many time and again and passed names on too. My Indexed books are invaluable as they contain all the businesses I have done business with and the items or services they provided me, and for which production through out my time in stagemanagement and props acquisitions all around the UK. Since turning my eye to the business world I have received business cards like never before. What do I do with them all?

I am a great believer in the purposeful expansion of a business network.

Screenshot02 I have groups for the events or organisations I wish to network with and share with others. I do not wish to take traffic from anyones web site so I encourage members to use my network as a hub. I will also be introducing members to other web 2 platforms with short tutorials written specifically with the community's needs in mind. I'll also be looking at helping them unify their online presence and promote them selves online building a profile to harness the social media channels they develop as their confidence in the Internet grows.

Feedback to me, Is this going to be useful place?
So for my blog readers I would like to invite you to join too. Sign up today.

Living wage in the West End?

How can anyone live and support themselves on £381 a week before tax and NI in London?
Equity are campaigning hard and negotiating harder for Actors and Stage Managers through out the West End who are engaged on Equity contracts. Exclusive news reported in The Stage is the beginning of a public media awareness of wages for theatre workers in the UK. Did you know they were paid so little? This is if they are on a union negotiated contract at all. So many theatre workers because of the working hours or just low rates of pay are working for less than minimum wage.

Exclusive: West End performers are willing to take industrial action if London theatre managers do not agree to a 44% minimum wage hike being demanded by Equity.

The trade union is currently pushing for the existing basic pay rate for actors working in the West End to increase from £381 per week to £550. A new second minimum wage of £650 is also being sought for performers who are required to work on Sundays. To read the full article click here

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Theatre industry declares no confidence in Arts Council

I get so frustrated not being able to be at the heart of what makes me tick. This Arts Council fiasco would in the past have left all like me, either out of "town" or on the road, seething and blustering, quietly raging at our colleagues or mumbling on the tour bus at the injustice and the nerve of it all and the... well, a good stomp around the building, the kicking of the odd flat, the rough man handling of a light or two and stubbed fingers to boot before a pause for a well earned cup of tea before the half... ha ha.

Thank you Facebook. Well thank you active members of Facebook who are equally miffed at the current state of affairs in the arts. Since discovering the numerous Save our Theatre facebook groups and creating the Save theatre in the UK meta group it has been heartening to see the membership of these groups rocket. One group "Stop the Cull" is particularly impressive with 1,120 members. Some venues under threat have high sign up numbers. Derby Playhouse with 5,321 and Bristol Old Vic with 2,234 at the time of writing this blog entry.

This (below) is the press release from Equity published today following the much anticipated meeting at The Young Vic Theatre where nearly 500 people turned up meaning the event was standing room only. If you attended I'd like to thank you for representing me. I am sure that goes for the many performers, production creatives and theatre staff up and down the country who live by the adage "The show must go on". This is and will, I hope always be true. However we'd like to be able to feed our selves and keep a roof over our heads. This is hard enough without funding instability and cuts. Another blog entry for a later date I feel!

This response enlivens my sense of hope in my professions sense of self worth and a vigor to stand up and fight. Thank you again to everyone who added their physical presence to the meeting, even if you did have to stand!

The official Equity press release reads:

Image001_4 In a packed meeting at the Young Vic Theatre, London, today (9 January 2008) representatives from across the England’s theatre industry declared they had no confidence in the work of the Arts Council England (ACE) and its proposals to cut funding to more than 190 arts bodies from April this year.

The meeting, organised by Equity, was addressed by Peter Hewitt, Chief Executive of ACE, but his attempts to explain the rationale behind the decisions taken by the funding body were rejected by an audience of almost 500 at the standing-room only event. The gathered audience of performers, creative workers and representatives from many of those theatres facing cuts were particularly angry about the very brief consultation period (just five weeks which included Christmas and New Year holidays), the secrecy with which the proposals had been produced and the failure of the Arts Council to make explicit the criteria by which some theatres had been chosen over others.

Amongst the speakers were actors Malcolm Sinclair, who criticised the culture of over-management of the arts, and Patrick Malahide who criticised ACE for lacking a coherent intellectual strategy and actor/director Sam West, who made an impassioned plea for a number of smaller companies whose work would be curtailed by these cuts.

Addressing the meeting, Christine Payne, General Secretary of Equity, welcomed the extra money the government had made available to the Arts Council over the next three years, but said:

“We have a right to know how that money is being spent. We are extremely concerned about how these decisions are being made. Who are the judges? And what criteria are being used? There appears to be a distinct and perhaps deliberate lack of involvement from professional theatre practitioners in the decisions process currently used by Arts Council England. The process is not open, it’s not transparent, there is no dialogue with the theatre community.”

“Unless Arts Council England not only listens to the concerns of people here today but actually takes action to respond to them then the credibility of Arts Council England could be fundamentally and possibly irreparably damaged. We demand a thorough review of the process and procedures used by the Arts Council in reaching funding decisions, and until that review is completed the status quo should apply and the current funding process should cease.”

The meeting ended with a vote of no confidence in the Arts Council England moved by veteran actress Miriam Karlin, which was passed unanimously.

For further information contact:

Martin Brown
Head of Communications and Membership Support
Equity, Guild House, Upper St Martin’s Lane, London WC2H 9EG
T 020 7670 0259  F 020 7240 6341
E www.equity.org.uk  E www.tvischanging.com