You Me Bum Bum Train comes under fire from actors union

Actors' union body Equity has questioned Arts Council England's (ACE) decision to grant £150,000 to immersive event series You Me Bum Bum Train, following concerns its actors are not being paid.

You Me Bum Bum Train states is attracts a wide range of volunteers
You Me Bum Bum Train states is attracts a wide range of volunteers

You Me Bum Bum Train is an immersive, personalised, theatrical experience, notorious for asking participants not to reveal what happens in the show after they have taken part.

Equity claims that its organiser is advertising for dancers through sites used by professional artists to find professional work. 

The union is also unsettled that ACE has financed the experiential project, which is taking place in London until 30 November, given that it is charging high prices for tickets. 

Stephen Spence, assistant general secretary at Equity, said: "It’s not right that a company generating significant revenue from sell-out productions, as well as receiving money from taxpayers doesn’t pay professional performers. It’s struggling artists and reputable employers hit by government cuts who suffer when work which is professionally made is not professionally paid."

Actors as volunteers

Darren Henley, chief executive of ACE, responded to a letter from Equity, stating that while the event attracts the interest of professional performers, "they take part in the capacity of volunteers".

You Me Bum Bum Train has echoed the ACE’s assertions. A spokesperson for the company told Event: "You Me Bum Bum Train’s volunteers are in their right to leave the show at any point during a show night without giving any notice. Everyone is welcome to take part in the production no matter what their profession and we don't require any time commitment from those who choose to be involved.

"You Me Bum Bum Train doesn't seek out performers with any previous performing experience. Anyone who is willing to be a part of the performances are welcomed to come on board. Some of the performers might well be experienced or professional performers, but most are not (and those who are, are not compelled to be there)."

It also stated that the show is a not-for-profit venture that relies on arts funding. The organiser claims that without support from volunteers and pro bono suppliers, tickets would need to be priced £2,000 for the show to break even.

The spokesperson added: "Instead of scaremongering and relying on hearsay, we suggest that those at Equity who have a problem with You Me Bum Bum Train come down and volunteer and see what takes place: they will then understand how ridiculous it is to suggest that the volunteers are being exploited."

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