New performing arts body launches in Scotland with 'cultural independence' aim

Performers and arts industry workers are launching a new trade union in Scotland in a bid to secure "cultural independence".

Stage and screen star David Hayman is among those backing the new performing arts body Cairn,
Stage and screen star David Hayman is among those backing the new performing arts body Cairn,

The collective has been formed in the wake of a bitter row over the running of the long-standing union Equity and its approach to Scotland.

Cairn will be open to anyone working in the performing arts in Scotland, including actors, dancers, directors, designers, producers, stage and managers, models and voice artists.

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An official announcement on the launch of Cairn said it would be a fully democratic, member-led and a transparent organisation.

Actor Andy Clark speaking at the launch of the new performing arts body Cairn at the Tron Theatre in Glasgow. Picture: Eoin Carey

It has been launched more than a year after threats of a breakaway from Equity emerged.

The union was rocked by a series of resignations from its Scottish committee in protest at the treatment of long-time official Lorne Boswell, who lost his jobs following a cost-cutting restructure imposed as the industry grappled with the financial impact of the pandemic.

More than 250 performing arts workers are said to be involved in Cairn, which is aiming to secure full trade union recognition and certification.

The announcement from Cairn stated: “Cairn is symbolic of the cairns which were, originally, unique to Scotland; a collective undertaking built and maintained over years, offering guidance, direction and shelter.

“Cairn aims to improve the working conditions of performance workers and allied trades practising in Scotland and to raise awareness of the contribution its members make to the cultural landscape, public life and Scotland’s economy.”

Actor Carol Anders said: “I’m joining Cairn because I think actors and arts practitioners in Scotland need their own identity, their own voice and, to my mind, having our own union will bring us a step closer to the cultural independence many of us have wanted for a long time. I cannot wait to have my Cairn card in my pocket.”

Producer and director April Chamberlain said: “At a time when more than ever we need our voices heard, it's great to welcome a new, inclusive, grassroots organisation committed to supporting and representing people in our industry.”

River City star Frances Thorburn said: “Cairn is vital – I’m delighted it’s here. Here’s to a new and bright way forward for all the performance professionals in Scotland.”

Actor David Walker said: “I’m looking forward to being a part of the new journey with Cairn and working for fairness and success for all in the arts.”

Asked previously about the prospect of a breakaway union being set up, general secretary Paul W Fleming said: “Equity is stronger in Scotland today than before Covid, thanks to the hard work of activists, staff, and the strategic direction taken since the pandemic.

"Equity has more members in Scotland now than at the start of 2020, and has formed eight new collective agreements in the last six months alone.

“Equity is focussed on winning meaningful pay rises for our members at a time when increases in the cost of living are exceeding 10 per cent. As the only union which bargains for the creative workforce in the performing arts and entertainment industries, the stakes have never been higher and we’ve never fought harder.”

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