By Pauline Jefferson
23rd January 2017
The contract is signed, work dates put in my diary, and once again I feel happy that work still comes my way. This is because I belong, after 30 odd years, to a cooperative actors’ agency; TAG of course, The Actors’ Group. Formed in 1980, it was the first actors’ cooperative agency outside London. Five experienced actors from the Manchester area got together, all committed to cooperative ethics and wanting to take control over their careers, and with no money but great enthusiasm, went ahead with their plan.
An advert was put in “The Stage” (or was it a local paper?), I read it, replied and joined. All had to be Equity members. Eager to learn about being an Agent, and to share our experiences of life in general as well as in the acting profession, a tiny office space was found in Newton Street, Manchester. An old typewriter appeared, a phone, an old Gestetner duplicating machine from a Liverpool hospital (I’ve seen these in heritage museums – wonder what happened to ours?) We bought basic equipment of paper and pens.
With duties of finding work, advising, negotiating contracts, publicity, treasury, supporting members going through a ‘low’ period (as constantly happens in our profession), being an agent is hard work; but it is also fun. Going home with a sense of having boosted someone’s career is a great feeling. The number of members increased. One person manned the office for one week, plus the Monday following for continuity. Our glorious Gestetner (you can tell I loved this old machine) worked bravely as we cut stencils, inked pads, fed in paper, turned a clanking handle. We soon outgrew our tiny and very busy office and now, after three moves, we are in a large, airy, modern place, still in central Manchester.
Over the years, TAG members have worked in all branches of our profession; theatre, TV, film, radio, commercials, musicals, tours abroad etc. Nowadays other professions use roleplaying more and more in their training, and we enjoy this work too. At one time, some years ago now, three TAG people were working in three London theatres (The National Theatre, the Old Vic and the RSC) at the same time.
So, you see why I am proud and happy to still belong to TAG. Our present members, especially the younger ones, are more multi-talented than we older ones. They have to be in this age of miraculous technical innovations – always possible on film and TV but now also regularly used in theatre productions. The future of our acting profession should be an exciting challenge. Good luck everyone.