Equity (trade union)

This article is about the British trade union. For the American equivalent, see Actors' Equity Association.
Founded 1930 (1930)
Members 38,197 (2013)[1]
Affiliation TUC, ICTU, STUC, FEU, FIA
Key people
Office location Guild House, Upper St Martins Lane, London
Country United Kingdom
Website www.equity.org.uk
The Equity building, London.

Equity (formerly known as the British Actors' Equity Association) is the trade union for actors, stage managers and models in the United Kingdom. It was formed in 1930 by a group of West End performers and, in 1967, it incorporated the Variety Artistes' Federation.

Equity was one of the last of the closed shop unions in the UK. This was criticised in 1981 by the European Court of Human Rights[2] and made illegal in 1988, with the result that it is no longer a requirement that an entertainment professional be a member of Equity.[3][4][5]

Equity requires its members to have unique professional names.[6]


Like many other British trade unions, Equity operated a closed shop policy—it was not possible for someone to join unless they had sufficient paid work, and most jobs were reserved for Equity card holders. To allow new members to join, there were a limited number of non-card holding jobs on regional productions. Whilst working on these productions, actors held a provisional membership card, and, on completing the requisite number of weeks, could apply for full membership, and thereafter work in the West End, or on film and television.

As a result of reforms of trade unions by Margaret Thatcher's Conservative government, and the introduction of European legislation, closed shop unions became illegal in the UK and Equity discontinued this policy in the 1980's. However, to join, evidence must be provided of sufficient paid professional work.[7]

In 1976, Equity introduced a policy of refusing to sell programmes to the South African Broadcasting Corporation, an action that led to a virtual blackout of British television in apartheid South Africa.

General secretaries

1930: Alfred M. Wall
1935: Geoffrey Robinson (Heap)
1935: C. B. Purdom[8]
1940: Llewellyn Rees[8]
1946: Gordon Sandison[8]
1958: Gerald Croasdell[8]
1973: Peter Plouviez[8]
1991: Ian McGarry[8]
2005: Christine Payne[8][9]


See also


  1. Equity (Incorporating the Variety Artistes' Federation): annual returns. UK Certification Officer.
  2. "Closed Shop". TalkTalk. 2013. Retrieved 29 June 2013.
  3. Barnett, Laura (15 September 2010). "Equity boss Malcolm Sinclair answers your questions". The Guardian. London. Theatre Blog. Retrieved 29 June 2013.
  4. "Equity in the 21st Century". Nerve (2). Summer 2003. Retrieved 29 June 2013.
  5. "More union trouble for Hurley". BBC News. 20 October 2000. Retrieved 29 June 2013.
  6. "Your professional name". Equity. Retrieved 29 June 2013.
  7. "How can I join?". Equity. Retrieved 29 June 2013.
  8. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 "Equity history" (PDF). Equity. 30 March 2011. Retrieved 29 June 2013.
  9. "Branch AGM – West of England Variety Branch". Events during March 2013. Equity. 30 March 2013. Retrieved 29 June 2013.
  10. 1 2 Smith, Alistair (22 July 2008). "Hamilton elected Equity president". The Stage. London. Retrieved 29 June 2013.
  11. Hemley, Matthew (15 July 2010). "Malcolm Sinclair becomes Equity president". The Stage. London. Retrieved 29 June 2013.
  12. "Malcolm Sinclair re-elected President". Equity. 11 July 2012. Retrieved 29 June 2013.
  13. "Council: Equity Council 2012 – 2014". Equity. Retrieved 29 June 2013.

Further reading

External links

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