Equity Launches Campaign to Save North Shields' Exchange Theatre

In a letter to the mayor sent this week, Equity criticised the council's purely “commercial decision”.

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Equity, the performing arts and entertainment trade union, has called on the leader of North Tyneside Council, Mayor Norma Redfearn DBE, to intervene in the pending eviction of The ExchangeTheatre charity from its home of seven years.

In a letter to the mayor sent this week, Equity criticised the council's purely "commercial decision" which "does not represent a real investment in the cultural value to the local community."

The call comes as Equity, representing 47,000 creative workers across the country, launches a campaign to 'Save the Exchange,' with a petition to North Tyneside Council that has already passed 850 signatures.

The Exchange Theatre charity has leased the Saville Exchange building from the council for the past seven years but is due to be evicted by 17 April following the council's decision to award the lease to a commercial company. The council has not provided any support for the charity to find a new venue.

The charity has successfully hosted local community groups, arts and culture exhibitions and theatre productions in the region and is a valuable part of the local cultural scene, employing many of workforce on union pay rates.

Equity's three demands to Mayor Redfearn and North Tyneside Council are:

1. Ensure that work is not lost during the change of leaseholder; 2. Offer The Exchange Theatre charity the support they need to find a new venue; 3. Ensure that the work produced in the Saville Exchange building is done utilising agreed trade union terms.

Equity has also tabled an emergency motion to the Trades Union Congress' Northern regional conference, taking place this Saturday in Newcastle. The motion criticises the local council for the decision it has taken, and calls on it to pause the eviction and offer financial support to The Exchange Theatre charity whilst it finds another venue in the local community.

Dominic Bascombe, Regional Official for North East, Yorkshire and Humberside, said: "We appreciate that the council is seeking commercial investments, but this should proceed on the basis that a venue offering real cultural value is maintained or at least supported in finding an alternative place, or even better, properly supported to work within a commercial setting.

"The focus of North Tyneside Council seems to be on buildings rather than enhancing the cultural value on offer. This is simply wrong. We know that when arts and culture is diminished there is a long- lasting impact on local communities.

"We are also keen to secure commitment from North Tyneside Council that all work taking place at the Saville Exchange and cultural venues across North Shields will operate under agreed trade union agreements."

The full letter to Mayor Redfearn can be found here: https://drive.google.com/file/d/1tq_P-AAo_g-eNgAqkweVeyfZC9y2-MUC/view?usp=sharing


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