U.K. entertainment industry union Equity has pledged £1 million ($1.2 million) to support its members who have been affected by the pandemic-induced industry shutdown.
Equity is asking for more donations, stating that the vast majority of its 47,000 members earn modest sums and do not have savings as a fall-back option. The appeal for further donations is led by Oscar-winning “Bridge of Spies” actor Mark Rylance.
“Most of us are not famous, are not rich,” Rylance said. “We are hired for our flexibility, our willingness to drop everything and turn up. We as a union can begin now to set an example. A wonderful example of what our profession is truly about. Support for each other on and off stage. I am 60 this year, 40 years an actor and union member. I hope to meet young actors when I am 80 who ask me how we supported each other so generously during the coronavirus crisis.”
On Thursday, the U.K. government introduced economic measures to help the self-employed, though they come into effect only in June.
Equity President Maureen Beattie said: “It’s difficult enough to make a living in the entertainment business at the best of times, but now thousands of Equity members are facing the greatest financial hardship of their lives. While the government’s new scheme for the self-employed is welcome, Equity members are in dire need right now and cannot wait for all the details to be ironed out.”
Equity General Secretary Christine Payne said: “Equity’s benevolent fund is here to support members with payments to help them get through this crisis. We thank all those who can contribute to the fund as it will make a huge contribution to thousands of our members who are struggling to survive.”
The other option for U.K. creative industries workers in need is The Film and TV Charity’s coronavirus relief fund, set up with the British Film Institute with a $1.2-million contribution from Netflix and $856,000 from the BBC.