This is a call to action for everyone in the Low Pay/No Pay network:  Send a message to all wannabe employers; minimum wage is here to stay. A runaway success like YMBBT has to pay!  This show sold out at the Barbican last year. YMBBT represents the largest single use of unlawfully unpaid actors.  Making them pay their actors this year will be a big victory for all working actors.

AMW advises campaigners to take the job and claim the NMW. Equity is looking to support members in tribunal. Last year’s statement “If any member of Equity is involved in this production and believes that they should have received at least the National Minimum Wage, I would encourage them to come to Equity’. Support within Equity for AMW campaign has grown.   This motion was passed at the Equity ARC this summer, by the young members committee, and typifies Equity’s strengthened position on NMW. BECTU members are also encouraged to participate in this campaign.

Last year YMBBT used 200 unpaid actors, despite having £40k of funding.  This employer is the largest known theatre employer of unlawfully unpaid actors. The show sold out at the Barbican and was also charging £12 per audience member. No actors were paid.

Be a hero for your fellow actors and support your union!  Apply by email to Alex and the get in to the cast of ‘You Me Bum Bum Train’ and then call up Equity and make this massively exploitive employer pay! Get a group of actors to join this effort. The more the better.

Their Advert:

You Me Bum Bum Train needs YOU!

Previous acting experience isn’t necessary. Whether you’re a performer or just want to have fun and meet new people, there’s a role for you!

Show dates will be between Mid-September and Mid-November 2011. Perform in as many or as few shows as you like!

All performing roles are voluntary as the show is very low budget and not for profit.

Contact Alex Neumayer with your name and phone number for more info!

description of show: YMBBT is an exhilarating, participatory adventure where audience members – ‘passengers’ journey alone through a maze of live scenes featuring over 200 performers. The shows unique format makes each individual passenger feel like the entire journey has been created especially for them. By becoming the star of each scenario, individuals are transported not only physically, but psychologically. Passengers are catapulted into unimaginable situations before being returned to the outside world, breathless, invigorated and left wanting more.

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16 Responses to PAID TRIBUNAL OPPORTUNITY: You Me Bum Bum Train

  1. anon says:

    God awful name for a show. I’d be ashamed to have that on my CV.

  2. Edgar Friendly says:

    Why is the person who wrote this not named?

    Everyone involved in YMBBT is a volunteer and they can leave at any time. Up to now, including last year’s show, the Directors and Producers have been unpaid. Why do they do it? Because they want to do something brilliant and worth while, the community spirit that comes from being a part of this production is uplifting and a privilege to be a part of. £40K is a very low amount of funding to produce a show like the one at the LEB building last year, the rent of the building alone would be 75K (for 3 months) and YMBBT did not keep the tickets sales (conditions of the funding award). The whole thing survives through support in kind. The set that was built would have cost a huge amount, the management costs would have put the cost well over £170,000 without paying actors. Why target the actors for minimum payment? What about the directors and the cast managers, the technicians or the back stage team? YMBBT is a unique project that makes absolutely no money (ticket sales equal 10% of the production costs) it exists because it’s creators have had no interest in making money just creating something worthwhile and meaningful. The show provides people with the opportunity of trying acting, set building, production, whatever they want to get involved with. It is a free education and a welcoming environment. We should be encouraging organisations like these or they will die out!

    • You make your point of view clear in your response, but I don’t think you understand the nature of the law regarding NMW and the damage that shows like this do to the actors profession. There is not a legal structure in place which provides an exemption for YMBBT from NMW. Actors interested in making some money and participating in this should feel welcome to use the protection the law allows for all workers to be paid at least NMW.

      It would not be beyond the law for a group of actors to protest outside the venue where this was presented or to announce their personal decision to boycott this event. I’m sorry if this seems to rain on the parade of the organisers, but many actors feel trapped into these volunteering opportunities which legally are due NMW. If this event was in fact trawling exclusively for amateurs it would be different, of course. But YMBBT is advertising where professional trained actors are looking for work. Actors who are registered with Equity or with professional casting services are being sourced for this and they deserve to know they can claim minimum wage.

      I would not underestimate the number of directors and producers and companies building their reputation on the sweat of unpaid actors and other theatre workers. YMBBT is a flagrant example of this sort of abuse.

      And maybe I have not provided my name because I am keeping open the option of playing in the current cast and invoicing YMBBT.

      Doin it for the lulz.


    • My name is Annie Yactor. I do more good than harm.

      It’s a name that more than one can use. Why are you afraid of my anonymity?

      We maintain a high standard of fact, logic and reason.

      If you don’t like what we have to say start your own blog. Argue in favour of giving away your talent your youth and your labour. I think that would be great. Encourage more people to enter our profession and then sell themselves short.

      I look forward to commenting under your posts.

      Annie Yactor

  3. Clive Hurst says:

    Charging only £12 is clearly an indication of those running the ‘business’ being afraid – to charge the going rate… The acting profession seems to be full of those who cannot run a business properly. Stop being afraid – is my answer to these frightened people!

    People pay good money – for a good performance!

    Actors must be paid…

    Clive Hurst

  4. Anonymous says:

    If there is to be a distinction between amateurs/volunteers and professional actors (known in the trade as “actors”), YMBBT can’t have its cake and eat it. If it wants skilled labour to fix its plumbing, it pays, if it wants the building heated, it pays, yet the moment the people who actually sell the show, get people talking and leave the audience in awe (“the actors”) are brought in, YMBBT thinks it can get away with it (“ah they’ll do it for the love”). You want volunteers/amateurs? Fine. You want trained professionals who sweat their guts out in this industry? PAY THEM! Otherwise you are insulting the entire profession by implicitly stating that anyone can do their job, and consequently that there is no distinction between a trained actor and anyone else. I wonder when you applied for the 40K whether you included actors costs in the application. Of course not, because you implicitly viewed actors as slave labour. Marc

  5. Helena says:

    Although it has already been stated quite clearly by Edgar. That no-one in this show gets paid- from the organisers to the crew, cast, stage management set builders etc. I totally agree that actors deserve NMW. But this is such a huge scale project that is designed to give a few people that get to go through it an amazing experience. No-one involved is doing it for the money and people choose voluntarily give their time and can leave at any point. So if everyone knows that from the off and is in agreement then I can’t see how it is exploiting anyone.

    • I think you are missing the point. Artistic merit does not exempt an employer from the law. It is against the law not to pay wages. A company cannot contract out of National Minimum Wage. And it is everyone’s responsibility to obey the law.

      Also, theatre is a competitive marketplace, and employers who go to great pains to pay their actor-employees wages are undermined by companies that exploit actors and do not pay them.

      Why are theatre tickets not priced at levels to actually pay actors? Because ticket prices are suppressed by companies that do not pay their actors.

      Your big Bum Bum Train is leading this race to the bottom.

      And the producers’ disregard for the law does lead many people to wonder about Health and Safety on this show. I wonder if they have risk assessments in place. Do they meet minimum welfare standards and provide adequate changing facilities and toilets for staff. Who put together the fire oevacuation plan? Have you appropriate provision for first aid? If YMBBT would be willing to have a HSE inspection I wonder if the HSE would let the cast, much less the public in.

      Volunteers require the same safe working conditions as paid workers.

      Regardless of the legal responsibilities of general Health and Safety, first aid and fire codes. I would much rather see young producers who understood the fundamentals of running an honest and legal business stay in the business than these minmum wage cheats. Yet it’s these producers, standing on the shoulders of hundreds of unpaid workers who will make their names and move to the next stage of their careers. Off the sweat of unpaid actors.

      Shame on you, YMBBT.

      • Anonymous says:


        I like the spirit of the fight that you are leading here. But I think your blame is misguided. As you say, theatre is a business. In order to make the biggest return possible, investors in theatre want to create a show with the widest possible appeal. For most houses, it often frustratingly seems, this involves creating The Same Old Thing they always do. Theatre may be a competitive marketplace for those who want to hire actors to be in a production of Cats, or to vie over who can host the biggest film star on its stage, but it is not a competitive marketplace for actors and audience members who would like to do something stimulating and innovative. Whether You Me Bum Bum Train is any good, I can’t say as I have not seen it nor been involved in it. But it is absolutely a unique and compelling proposition both from the standpoint of a performer and of an audience member. With what well-paying house is You Me Bum Bum Train competing? What it offers is entirely unique and I highly doubt that the people running The Mousetrap, or those who want to perform in The Mousetrap, are in any way threatened by its existence. YMBBT is a revolutionary proposal with ambitions far beyond the scope of anything one can see – or perform in – on the West End. Clearly there is an audience for this type of work: as you said yourself, it sold out last year and now it returns for a second run. So why, if the show is so popular, is it necessary for such a production to work without paying anyone? Why is none of the money that exists elsewhere being funneled to such a creative idea? Money that would allow those involved to earn a proper wage, and which could only help to raise the quality of the performance. I don’t know. But it probably has something to do with the fact that there’s more money to be made in staging bland retreads of well-worn classics featuring a big name or two.

        So what I’m saying is – I agree with you that actors should be paid better, and that it is absolutely appalling that no one who works on You Me Bum Bum Train can make a living off of their work. But is it really fair to blame the small-budget artists who are working very hard for little money? They are creating their work in the only way they know how – with the only means available to them. To me the real question is, why aren’t there better means available to such innovators?

      • All the artistic merit in the world and that’s fab. They should have worked to get funding together to make their payroll. It’s the law.

        And the actors and technicians involved have a legal right to be paid for their time. They just need to get in touch and we will help them. And good luck YMBBT securing a publicly funded venue or Arts Council funding now.

        You really should have run a legal business.

        Annie Yactor

  6. Anonymous says:

    Dear Any Actor (aka Annie Yactor)

    Why haven’t you the intestinal fortitude to acknowledge yourself with your real name. You’d get more respect. What on earth are you afraid of?

    Why don’t you actually speak to Kate and Morgan about this . They certainly won’t hurt you and you may be better informed.

    If you are a paranoid you have my genuine sympathy. Life can’t be too good for you.

    Peter Brightmore (Real name) 07981701585

  7. Tina Bishop says:

    Thanks for a very interesting blog. After reading this it made me consider how to approach a personal project I want to do. I am still unsure about the right was to go about it.

    I am an artist. I have performed unpaid and paid before.
    I want to create a performance involving other people (they don’t need to be professionals). I am not sure about whether I should charge the public to see this performance. After reading this article I have some concerns that are unanswered. What would be the best approach?

    1. Do I NOT charge to see the performance and try and raise funds another way?
    2. Do I NOT charge and use only NON-professional performers as volunteers?
    3. Do I charge and share any profit with all the performers, professional and non-professional?
    4. What if there is no profit – do I pay all performers anyway take the loss myself?
    5. If anyone, non profession or professional offers to do it for free for me should I insist on paying them?

    What is the best and fairest way to approach this project? Any advice gratefully received.

  8. mike says:


    I attended YMBBT last night and it is one of the most innovative and enjoyable prodcutions I’ve ever been to. I know that I’m late to this debate, but I’ve got to say that when I was reading around this morning I was surprised by the level of vitriol reserved for the show re: not paying “actors”. Of course they have the right to be paid for their work, but they also have the right to volunteer to do unpaid work. I’d be interested to know how many genuine complaints you’ve had from Equity registered actors who volunteered and then wanted to be paid? (not manufactured by your own campaign) Most people I spoke to last night and beforehand who had been invloved as volunteers were members of the public who wanted to contribute to something unique and challenge themselves – not professional actors. (The point of the show is that I was “the lead actor” in the scenarios – are you seriously suggesting that I pursue the producers to be paid?)

    I’d be concerned if unions (and I hasten to add that I’m not some anti-union fascist, I was a longstanding officer for the NUJ during the BBC strikes etc.) started dictating when and how I can volunteer my time. Each year I still devote time, money and effort helping charities/NFPs make films to raise money and awareness – are you seriously suggesting that I should either (a) stop doing this, damaging smaller charities, to make a stand? or (b) bill a charity that has so little money for my time? I enjoy doing it, it is hugely valuable to the charities and it has a positive social impact – what’s wrong with any of that. I can see a very clear distinction between paid work (as a Director I always paid the extras/actors that worked with me, but not members of the public who volunteered) and informed volunteering. I find it hard to believe that members of Equity can’t – perhaps I have a little more faith in actors ability to make decisions themselves.

    I fully agree with you that a level of exploitation exists in the creative industries in regards to work experience, unpaid work and “forcing” people to work for free in order to get their feet on the ladder – I went through it myself at the beginning of my career. However, that is completely different to volunteering and I think that you’ve aimed your gun at the wrong target in this instance, and in doing so slightly undermined the extremely valid points that you are trying to achieve elsewhere in the industry.

    BTW – Health & Safety at YMBBT last night was better than it was at most of the large broadcasters and major indies I worked for, but I assume that you’ve attended one of the performances to research?


  9. Rizzle Sticks says:

    Funnily enough, I volunteer both for a Union as a staff representative at my place of work, and for YMBBT. I sense many of the people who volunteer for YMBBT would have loved to have been paid for their contribitions, but come along anyway to contribute their time. It’s this spirit that keeps the show going, plus many audience members end up returning as volunteers, again, their spirit keeps the show going.

    YMBBT receives public funding and as such is subject to stringent minimum standards, there are health and safety briefings at the start of each show, and risk is managed well.

    References to the law and legal right to minimum wage in this instance seems curious. People volunteer their time here in the same way as one might volunteer to run a football team, and if there’s a charge to watch that team, the funds might be put into maybe buying kit, or if a FA grant is obtained, perhaps used to improve the pitch. I’m not sure an explicit volunteering role is seen in the eyes of the law as employment.

    Funders are attracted to this type of project precisely because of the volunteer contribution, it means the funder is getting more back for their buck, it means the show can sustain itself throughout its run, because the funding is used for set up costs, but the volunteers will ensure the show will run for as long as people are willing to show up and help out.

    In terms of my own Union work, my focus is on employers who continually abuse their workforces, or seek low cost alternatives to maximise their profit margin. Ultimately, if an organisation is making a profit on the back of failing to pay its workers, then it deserves a campaign to expose its practice. But an organisation that makes no surpluses, exists mainly through public funds and the goodwill of its’ volunteers, is a poor target and the campaign against them a misguided one.

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