Equity, the performing arts and entertainment trade union, has launched a Comedians' Charter via an event at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival.
The document lays out a set of standards for venues and promoters to sign up to, ensuring good working practices and the safety of comedians. These include measures to ensure pay transparency, a safe working environment, late night safety, and anti-harassment and discrimination policies.
Equity says: "The Charter is a key part of Equity's strategy to unionise comedians, as we believe that the industry will only change through the collective action of performers themselves."
Points on the Charter include:
- The condemnation of any performance conducted at the artist's expense on behalf of someone else, e.g. pay-to-play and bringer gigs. Where comedians are hired to provide a professional service, they should be professionally compensated.
- Venues should communicate the available facilities in their space to acts clearly in advance, along with whether they are shared and who they are shared with.
- Clear and transparent information about parking and public transport routes, frequency and stop/station locations should be provided to all acts. Individual circumstances for each act should be discussed openly and collaboratively at the point of booking.
- Anti-harassment and discrimination policies should be clearly visible in venues, made available to acts when they are booked for a gig, and visible online when audience members purchase tickets.
The launch took place at The Stand's New Town Theatre, a venue that has already signed up to the Comedian's Charter.
Going forwards, Equity will be producing a pack for venues and promoters with comprehensive guidance on adopting the charter, including template policies, and intends to work with venues and promoters to implement the charter.
Rob Lugg, Equity's Organiser for Comedians, said: "Equity members working as comedians put together this charter through our Comedians' Network, and we're delighted that The Stand have agreed to become the first UK venue to sign up to it. In the months ahead, we'll be reaching out to venues and promoters across the country and seeking to work with them to make the Charter the industry standard. Our members will also need the support of audiences to help us achieve this by making sure that they only attend comedy gigs that carry the Comedians' Charter Mark once it is rolled out.
"However, the Charter is only one part of our strategy to improve the working conditions of live comedians. As the cost-of-living spirals out of control, adding to the enormous pre-existing pressures of accommodation and transport costs at festivals like the Edinburgh Fringe, the time to act is now. We're calling on every working comedian in the country who isn't already a member to join Equity - and just as importantly, we need many more of our members to get active in their trade union through our Comedians' Network, and through our campaigns in the months ahead to roll out the Comedians' Charter across the UK.
"By coming together and acting collectively through their union, comedians have the chance to push for real change and for a fairer and more sustainable industry."
Find out more about Equity and the Comedian's Network via equity.org.uk