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World Live Performance Conference - Workshops Reports

In order to address more topics and to give more opportunities to the participants to take the floor, the organisers of FIA second World Live Performance Conference decided to also have workshops during the event. The idea was that smaller groups would make it easier for participants to discuss their experiences and the challenges they face. On the afternoon of the second day, the delegates had to decide between three workshops:

  • Workshop #1 – The Artists as Activist – Union Growth & Member Engagement in a Hostile Environment
  • Workshop #2 – Child’s play
  • Workshop #3 – “Low Pay – No Pay”

The first workshop ‘The Artist as Activist – Union Growth & Member Engagement in a Hostile Environment’ gathered Robert Deskins (ballet dancer, CAEA, Canada), Sercan Gidisoglu (Head of international relations department, AUT, Turkey), Hywel Morgan (Actor, Vice chair of the Equity Stage Committee, UK) and Melissa Robinette (Actress, AEA Eastern Regional Vice president, USA). Karan O’Loughlin moderated the workshop (Arts et cultural sector organiser, SIPTU, Ireland). The panellists described their experience in becoming active in their union. They discussed the fact that if good union services could help increasing and maintaining membership, creating or supporting the mentality of “What will the union do for me?” was dangerous and self-defeating. Instead, performers should realise that solidarity is what will make the difference. The panellists highlighted the fact that despite the fear of some younger performers, being involved in a union in a constructive and honest way usually led to respect from employers in the industry. Panellists and participants also discussed ways to grow and retain membership. Among the several proposals: creating young performers committees, using social medias for information and campaigning, having a dedicated recruitment and retention organiser, etc.

Download the detailed report of Workshop #1

Workshop two was entitled "Child's play". Its focus was on child performers who in many countries are allowed to work in the entertainment industry in compliance with international law and under special conditions – despite a general ban on child labour – as it is felt that art and culture could not properly reflect real life otherwise. Children and adolescents deliver the same professional output as their grown-up counterparts but require special safeguards and care, including appropriate legal protection, in light of their young age and vulnerability. Participants included Simon Burke, former President of Equity Australia, MEAA, Meltem Cumbul, President of AUT, Turkey, and Arden Ryshpan, Executive Director of CAEA, Canada - all of them chid performers previously in their respective countries, as well as Grigory Ostrovskiy, Assistant General Manager, Russian National Circus Company, Russia. The discussion centred on the importance of providing a safe and balanced work environment for children and adolescents in the entertainment sector, either by law or by collective bargaining, whilst enabling them to maximise their professional experience in these early days. Many inspiring best practices where shared about how trade unions have successfully met this challenge, including by engaging positively with the parents, who may sometimes put their personal aspirations before their children's need for a balanced and normal childhood. FIA is working with Katherine Sand, its former General Secretary who was also present at the workshop, to finalise a practical toolkit to help performer unions around the world engage in this area, elements of which were premiered at the Dublin conference.

The last panel ‘Low Pay, No Pay’ gathered Zoe Angus (Director of Australian Equity), Denys Fouqueray (Actor, Délégué général SFA, France), Mary McColl (AEA Executive director, USA) and Stephen Spence (Assistant general secretary, Equity, UK). Neel Lykkegaard Andersen moderated the workshop (Chief of the legal office of DAF, Denmark). The panellists briefly presented the situation in their country regarding the ‘Low Pay/No Pay’ phenomenon and discussed their recent actions with regard to the issue, including two major campaign conducted by Equity UK ‘Professionally made, professionally paid’ and by AEA in the county of Los Angeles for 99-seat theatres. What has emerged from the discussion is that ‘Low Pay/No Pay’ is a very common issue and one rather difficult to tackle. One of the main problems is that for many actors being on a stage is more important that being paid. Unions must discuss with their members, especially actors/producers and make them aware that performers are workers that do deserve to be paid. Unions need to choose a side and find ways to better protect their members working in this often unregulated area.  

Download the detailed report of Workshop #3