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:This article is about the trade union Equity. For other uses, see Equity

Equity (formerly 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 Endmarker performers.

Equity was the last of the closed shop unions in the UK. This was made illegal in 1981; it is now no longer a requirement that a professional actor be a member of Equity.

Equity can only have one actor with any particular name on its books. This has resulted in several stage names, such as David Jason (born David White), David Walliams (born David Williams), Mark Lamarr (born Mark Jones), Frank Skinner (born Christopher Collins) and David Tennant (born David McDonald).

General Secretaries



Like many other British trade unions, Equity operated a closed shop policy - i.e., it was not possible to join until you had had sufficient paid work, and most jobs were reserved for Equity card holders. In order 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 therefore work in the West End, or on film and television.

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

Exchange of actors between UK and U.S.

Under current rules, a British or American producer who wants to bring a British actor to New York must seek the approval of American Actors Equity, just as British Equity's approval is needed to bring an American actor to London. In theory the two unions try to balance the exchange, but over the years it has been charged that the provisions for exchange have been unevenly applied. Many feel that the restrictions should be ended or loosened, while others feel differently, claiming that the flow of talent across the Atlantic is mostly one way, from East to West. While established stars are normally admitted automatically under common visa exceptions, the problem arises with non-star talent.

Anti-Apartheid policy

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

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