Continuing our Low pay/no pay week, which today focuses on internships, the Old Vic’s John Richardson defends the theatre’s unpaid positions
The issue of low pay, or indeed no pay, is an incredibly important one. We applaud The Stage for shining a light on the practice of internships in the theatre world and across the board of the creative industries. Martin Bright’s piece is one side of the debate surrounding this issue. We felt it was important to give our perspective.
We are very proud of our internship programme at the Old Vic. We believe that our scheme provides a rewarding opportunity for volunteers from all walks of life to gain hands-on experience in a theatre environment. Our internships contribute to participants’ understanding of the theatre industry, and provide the opportunity to meet creatively-minded peers, thus also benefiting the wider arts community.
When BECTU recently challenged us on our internship scheme, we replied immediately. We receive no public funding and, as a charitable trust, we are committed to respecting our legal obligations, as well as creating volunteering opportunities for those who want to work in the arts. When we obtained legal advice last year on national minimum wage legislation, the advice we received approved our current practices. We continue to assess our procedures and seek regular legal assurances to ensure that our programme fully complies with current legislation.
Bright writes that the Old Vic pointed out that it “is a charitable trust, as if it is not at the same time a money-making operation”. He may not know that any money the theatre company makes is ploughed back into the trust, which supports all our education and community work, our mentoring of young creative talent and the upkeep of our 200-year-old building. And he doesn’t mention that the Old Vic receives no public subsidy, whereas all but one of the institutions he cites are subsidised to the tune of £60 million between them.
We are pleased with the success that our interns have subsequently had in the theatre, but that is only one strand of our work. Through our Old Vic New Voices programme and the volunteer scheme at the Old Vic Tunnels, we continue to reach a wide range of people, including many from under- privileged backgrounds, and we are enormously proud of what we have been able to achieve without subsidy.
John Richardson is producer at the Old Vic
- The Low pay/no pay special issue of The Stage is on sale now.