SOLT and Equity reach agreement to support actors during lockdown
| By Nicholas Ephram Ryan Daniels
The Society of London Theatre (SOLT) and Equity have managed to reach an agreement on supporting actors during the West End shutdown caused by COVID-19, which has recently been extended to 31 May 2020.
SOLT and Equity announce support for actors during coronacrisis
A new agreement between SOLT and Equity has been reached to help performers during the suspension of West End productions and is regarded as the best framework for maintaining long-term job security for actors and other performers during these unprecedented times. The agreement has received strong support from all those involved and has been called "the best way forward" for the theatre industry. It covers every perspective and eventuality from established musicals that have been running for a long time and plays that have limited runs to shows yet to open and productions still in rehearsals after the shutdown was announced.
Julian Bird, Chief Executive of the Society of London Theatre, commented: "Equity and ourselves have worked tirelessly since the shutdown to protect jobs and address the needs of our West End workforce during this crisis. We all need to work together to ensure that we can get through this as an industry, and are ready to welcome audiences back into our theatres as soon as possible."
Hilary Hadley, Head of Equity's Live Performance Department, commented: "It is only by our closely working together that we have managed to develop this Agreement, which provides a route map for our West End producers, performers and stage management. It is our joint hope that this new Agreement will see the West End Theatre industry through this bleakest period and enable the smooth resumption of the rehearsals and performances which were so abruptly stopped by COVID-19."
What's under the new agreement?
Under the new agreement, all cast members that are on a contract are able to continue under said contract and have the opportunity to participate in rehearsals and performances with postponed dates once the lockdown is over. This measure is to ensure that actors and performers will still have a job to go to once the ban on attending UK theatres is lifted.
Additionally, SOLT and Equity have been lobbying the Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport (DCMS) and the UK Treasury since the shutdown started in an effort to support freelancers and the self-employed who form a significant proportion of the workforce in UK theatre. The government's new Self-Employment Income Support Scheme will help with such protection for many actors, musicians, and other creatives.
Advice from the government on when theatres will be permitted to reopen has yet to be announced, but a number of productions and theatres will need longer than others to regain their foothold in the industry and many producers are now contingency planning for their own productions.
Currently, all West End performances are cancelled until 31 May and may continue to be cancelled on a rolling basis until the government issues further guidance.