Agreement reached between Equity and SOLT to support West End

Society of London Theatre (SOLT) and Equity have  announced that they have come to an agreement to support actors during the current suspension of West End shows due to the COVID-19 crisis.

The new agreement provides the best possible framework for the long-term job security of performers and recovery of the West End during these unprecedented circumstances, and is strongly supported by all involved as the best way forward for the industry. It covers every eventuality and perspective, from long-running musicals to plays with limited runs, productions yet to open and shows still in rehearsal when the shutdown began.

Julian Bird, Chief Executive of the Society of London Theatre, said:

‘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, said:

‘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.’

Under the new agreement, casts currently under contract are able to continue on that contract, and have the opportunity to re-commence rehearsals or performances with revised dates once the shutdown ends. This demonstrates the industry’s commitment to ensuring actors and performers still have a job once theatres reopen.

In addition, SOLT and Equity have been lobbying DCMS and the Treasury since the shutdown began, ensuring the voice of the theatre industry is heard, and joining other organisations lobbying for support for the freelancers and self-employed who make up a significant proportion of the theatre workforce. The government’s resulting Self-Employment Income Support Scheme will provide financial protection for many actors and creatives. SOLT and Equity will continue to lobby for those who the scheme does not support.

There is currently no clear indication from government when theatres will be allowed to reopen, but it is clear that some productions will need longer than others to regain their foothold. Producers are therefore contingency planning for their individual shows.

Any reopening dates suggested by individual shows and producers at this stage are speculative, and not representative of the industry as a whole. West End performances are currently cancelled until 31 May, and will continue to be cancelled on a rolling basis while we await further guidance from government.