Saturday, 6 July 2019

Kiln's 'A Friendly Society': Community Project or Exploitation?

Guest post by Anne Aktar

I've noticed that the Kiln theatre, which is subsidised by public money from Brent council, the lottery, arts council are paying to employ a writer and director to write a community play about Brent from stories from residents. 

They have a cast of 100 who are doing this for free. LINK

Where this may be construed as getting the community involved in the theatre and giving those an opportunity to work in a professional theatre, I do feel that if this is a professionally made production, it should warrant professional pay. 

I feel these free workers are being cynically exploited by the theatre who are not displaying a duty of care and explaining fully those getting involved about their working rights, including payment, and their intellectual property rights to any of their stories and should be paid accordingly. 

It's billed as a community project for the community, however, the writer and director being employed, do not live in the locality or the borough.  There are plenty of professional writers and directors locally and throughout the borough who appear to be overlooked. 

This sets an alarming precedent for a publicly funded professional theatre to encourage the use of free workers for a professionally made profit making production. 
There is already exploitation within the acting world where actors are expected to work for free and this can only lead to more professional theatres following suit. 

Acting is becoming a hobby for those from backgrounds who are financially secure and this only adds to exclusion. 

Unfortunately, I am socially excluded from maintaining my Equity union membership as I cannot afford the annual subscription, so am voiceless in the trade union movement. 
I had been a member since 1978, in the good old days of the closed shop. 

I'm experiencing financial destitution due to the fact that many productions that used to pay performers, no longer do so, promising exposure, as payment. 

Equity are running a campaign LINK:
Equity members are professionals: skilled individuals who bring their experience and their talent to every job. They deserve to be treated with the respect workers in other industries take as a given. They deserve decent pay. That's what Professionally Made Professionally Paid is fighting for.

Low and no pay is a major issue for many Equity members. Too often performers and creatives are expected to give their time and energy for free, exchanging hard work for 'exposure' or 'CV points'.

This particularly affects members at the start of their careers, and those without savings or economic support also find themselves priced out of the industry.
I encourage new methods of including people in the arts and I agree that people should be given a chance, especially those who cannot afford drama school fees. 
However, I do also feel that those taking part should be paid professional rates for this invaluable work experience, of which the fundamental aspect should include wage experience. 

As working class people, work is embedded in our DNA, it comes naturally. 

The main barrier to working class people sustaining a career in the arts is exploitative practices such as no pay. 

I have contacted Equity head office and the local branch and I'm reaching out to the wider trade union movement to make aware of this exploitation. 

As far as I'm aware, this is a professional production not aligned to Brent Borough of Culture 2020.

I do feel the general public should be made aware that they will be buying tickets to an exploitative production.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

It`s a concern that they have chosen the term friendly society. As a theatre, I`m sure they understand the power of words and their meaning.

the Kiln clearly state on their website (
Kiln Theatre only accepts submissions from agents or by request.
Kiln Theatre employs professional actors only.

By their own admission, they only accept professional scripts and only employs professional actors.
With the debacle at the Young Viv theatre over alleged plagiarism of a script, The Kiln should reconsider their position on not paying their actors of their community play, who are by definition of The Kiln, professionals, as they state they only work with professionals. The Kiln should pay their performers professional rates and pay and credit those who`s stories are being dramatised.
The Kiln repeatedly refuses to engage with the community or debate and now it appears they are exploiting community members.