PERFORMERS united yesterday to condemn a catalogue of woes facing the stage and screen — including funding cuts to the arts, chronic low pay and the dearth of black and ethnic minority representation.
Theatres, broadcasters and other arts centres are not just hurt by national and local funding cuts but from sponsorship as patrons are forced to balance the books, delegates attending actors’ union Equity heard.
In a bleak outline of the challenges facing the industry by the all-party parliamentary group for performers, its chairwoman Kerry McCarthy said total government spending on arts is a miniscule 0.05 per cent but brings in far more.
The Labour MP said the future of many theatres were at risk because of the ongoing cuts to the arts, as highlighted in Equity’s My Theatre Matters campaign.
But when quizzed by a delegate she could not promise that a future Labour government would protect arts funding.
Ms McCarthy praised Equity’s campaign against “low pay and no pay” and criticised a culture that expects actors to work for free.
She said it was vital to get a grip on low pay so acting did not become the preserve of amateurs or the priviledged.
Equity young members’ committee vice-chairmwoman Nicola Hawkins said: “I have been paid with cake for my skills.”
The lack of black and ethnic minority representation across the industry was also highlighted, with unnerving figures from Creative Skillset network showing that the number working in broadcasting has declined by a third between 2006 and 2012 to account for just 5.4 per cent of the workforce.
Both the British Film Institute (BFI) and the Arts Council were criticised for not keeping figures on the number of BAME workers or even carrying out any equality monitoring.
Equity assistant general secretary Martin Brown told the Star: “They must start monitoring talent.
“Until they have proper figures we can never know how bad black and ethnic minority representation has become.
“But it’s a generally held belief that it’s heavily weighted towards men and caucasians.”
Stressing the importance of pay he added: “All of our members aspire to make acting their principle income.
“We are not trying to put fringe productions out of business but we are strongly against the exploitation of hard-working actors by larger companies that could afford to pay more but choose not to.”