Equity (British trade union)

Equity, formerly officially titled the British Actors' Equity Association, is the trade union for actors, singers, models, performers, directors, choreographers, designers, stage managers, and other creative workers in the United Kingdom. It was formed by a group of West End performers in 1930 and incorporated the Variety Artistes' Federation in 1967. As of 2017, it has approximately 43,555 members.[2]

2018 Equity Master Logo Core Purple on White.svg
Founded1930 (1930)
HeadquartersGuild House, St Martin's Lane, London, England, WC2H 9EG
48,176 (2019)[1]
Key people

Equity was one of the last of the closed shop trade unions in the UK. This was criticised in 1981 and made illegal in 1988, resulting in it no longer being a requirement that an entertainment professional be a member of Equity.[3][4][5] Equity requires its members to have unique professional names to avoid confusion with other performers.[6]


Equity was created in 1930 by a group of West End performers, including Godfrey Tearle, May Whitty and Ben Webster. They were advised by Robert Young, the "Actors' MP".[7] Like many other British trade unions, Equity operated a closed shop policy, so it was not possible for someone to join unless they had a record of sufficient paid work and most jobs were reserved for Equity card holders. To allow new members to join, there was a limited number of non-card holding jobs on regional productions. Whilst working on these productions, actors held a provisional membership card, and could apply for full membership on completing the requisite number of weeks, subsequently allowing them to work in the West End or on film and television.[8]

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 their closed shop policy in the 1980s. However, to join Equity in the present day, evidence of sufficient paid professional work must still be provided.[9] In 1976, Equity introduced a policy of refusing to sell programmes to the SABC, an action that led to a virtual ban of British television in apartheid-era South Africa.

The Clarence Derwent Awards are theatre awards given annually by Equity on Broadway in the U.S. and Equity UK in London's West End.


The Equity building in London

General SecretariesEdit

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ "Equity: annual returns (PDF format)" (PDF). GOV.UK.
  2. ^ Equity (Incorporating the Variety Artistes' Federation): annual returns. UK Certification Officer.
  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. Archived from the original on 5 September 2012. Retrieved 29 June 2013.
  5. ^ "More union trouble for Hurley". BBC News. 20 October 2000. Retrieved 29 June 2013.
  6. ^ "Equity – Equity Name". Equity. Retrieved 2 July 2018.
  7. ^ Cochrane, Claire (2011). Twentieth-Century British Theatre : Industry, Art and Empire. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. pp. 78–79. ISBN 9780521464888.
  8. ^ Simkins, Michael (2003). What's My Motivation?. London: Ebury Press. pp. 69–70. ISBN 0091892295.
  9. ^ "How can I join?". Equity. Retrieved 29 June 2013.
  10. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v "Equity history". Equity. 30 March 2011. Retrieved 29 June 2013.
  11. ^ a b Smith, Alistair (22 July 2008). "Hamilton elected Equity president". The Stage. London. Retrieved 29 June 2013.
  12. ^ Hemley, Matthew (15 July 2010). "Malcolm Sinclair becomes Equity president". The Stage. London. Retrieved 29 June 2013.
  13. ^ "Malcolm Sinclair re-elected President". Equity. 11 July 2012. Retrieved 29 June 2013.
  14. ^ "Council: Equity Council 2012 – 2014". Equity. Retrieved 29 June 2013.
  15. ^ "Actor Maureen Beattie becomes second female president in Equity's history | News | The Stage". The Stage. 1 May 2018. Retrieved 7 August 2018.
  16. ^ "Equity – Equity announces first female President since 1946". www.equity.org.uk. Retrieved 7 August 2018.
  17. ^ "Alfred M. Wall". The Stage (2989). 12 May 1938. p. 1.
  18. ^ "Branch AGM – West of England Variety Branch". Events during March 2013. Equity. 30 March 2013. Retrieved 29 June 2013.
  19. ^ "Equity - Equity elects new General Secretary". www.equity.org.uk. Retrieved 16 October 2020.

Further readingEdit

External linksEdit