I’m Alice, a percussionist and drummer, mostly working in theatre and freelancing on orchestral gigs, plus a bit of teaching. For the last few years, I’ve been the drummer for Six the Musical in the West End, as well as covering the Keys/MD chair when needed.
I had previously been quite involved in local politics in my free time and had become a passionate trade unionist, as I learnt more about the history and class politics of this country. Between this growing interest and the fact that I’d found the MU to be really helpful across all my areas of work, I started to engage more with how our Union works and what we as members can and should be doing to make it even better.
As things changed in wider politics and I lost faith in something which had previously inspired me, I diverted my energies into union work instead and have become active on several committees, including my Regional Committee (RC) in London.
Regional Committee meetings help to make the running of the Union more transparent
Regional committees form an extra level of communication, consultation and accountability between the Executive Committee (who is the governing body of the MU) and the members.
This enables us to discuss issues that might affect a certain part of the country more than others or in unique ways; to gather opinions and suggestions from more members; and to make the running of the Union more transparent and easier to understand for everybody who joins. Hopefully, this means every member is better represented and feels heard.
The union is a massive team of about 33,000 people (it’s members), and its direction and actions are determined by all of those people - when we get involved.
The main misunderstanding I encounter from other members is the idea that the union is just a small group of people in an office somewhere, running the organisation like a company, and that we as members might sometimes use that company’s services like a customer would.
In fact, the union is a massive team of about 33,000 people (it’s members), and its direction and actions are determined by all of those people - when we get involved.
We discuss a wide range of regional specific issues during the RC meeting
We have a meeting every three months and since the COVID pandemic, these have all been carried out on Zoom, which makes it easier for everyone to fit it into their schedules.
There are a few formalities to the meetings, such as checking that the minutes from the previous meeting are accurate and whether anybody has a vested interest in any of the items on the agenda (so that they can step out when we reach that discussion, so that it can remain neutral and fair). Then we work through any issues that have arisen in the last couple of months.
We hope to illuminate a clearer chain of communication and empower members to feel able to raise issues with us, so that positive action can be achieved for them.
In our case, in the London RC, this might include: requests from theatre producers for special work or pay arrangements; updates on ongoing negotiations with London’s orchestras and venues; reports from the EC; queries submitted by individual members which need discussion; and the planning of events or opportunities for our members in London.
At our last meeting we had a wide-ranging discussion on how we might be able to encourage more activism from members. Two of our main goals were focused on connecting members with each other to foster a stronger sense of teamwork and mutual help, and connecting members with the committee members. We hope to illuminate a clearer chain of communication and empower members to feel able to raise issues with us, so that positive action can be achieved for them.
Conversations can lead to real results
It can be difficult to make meaningful progress on topics if we have little or no input from members. We need a diverse cross-section of the membership to be involved in order for the right decisions to be reached. For this reason, I would encourage every member to continue discussing issues that affect them with each other but, more than this, to then take those thoughts one step further by communicating them to the committee members.
It’s not a big-time commitment, and the more people who chip in, the less of a burden it is on anyone.
I really hope that even more members will be interested in getting involved in one of the committees, so that those conversations can lead to real results. It’s not a big-time commitment, and the more people who chip in, the less of a burden it is on anyone.
Do get in touch with your regional organiser if you think you could find a few hours a year to contribute to your regional committee.