Writers from across the UK gathered at our fourth online AGM on Wednesday 29 November 2023.
The past year has been another busy one for union staff and activists, negotiating and campaigning for writers in TV, film, theatre, audio, books, animation, comedy and videogames.
Issues that have dominated the agenda in 2023 have included a new policy position statement on AI, our solidarity with the WGA strike, a successful campaign to Save Channel 4, and a continued campaign against the closure of BBC Doctors, a response to arts funding cuts, the cost-of-living crisis and ageism in our industry, plus equality and diversity work such as the launch of a new Access Rider and member networks for under-represented groups.
Other recent union wins for writers, including successful negotiations on pay, the launch of new best practice guidelines, and details of WGGB’s events and annual awards, can be found in the annual report.
Looking to the future, attendees at the AGM heard from WGGB General Secretary Ellie Peers on forthcoming activity: new terms for streaming (which she described as a “Wild West”), the renegotiation of the TV and film agreements, our screenwriting credits agreement, and introducing digital terms in our theatre agreements.
“All this work will result in better terms and conditions for UK writers,” said Peers, speaking at the AGM. She also highlighted how the WGA strike not only resulted in a global show of solidarity between writers, and in the UK the “largest WGGB writers’ demonstration in recent years” but that it “brought home the importance of having up-to-date minimum terms union agreements with the WGGB.”
Other upcoming priorities for WGGB, Peers outlined, included looking at ways writers can be compensated for data mining in AI and how their copyright can be protected, plus introducing AI terms into our agreements. AI is a particular issue for authors and videogames writers. WGGB would also be looking at compliance around our theatre agreements, issues faced by non-broadcast audio writers, increased investment in scripted drama, and pressing our public service broadcasters to maintain pathways for writers into the TV industry, particularly since the decommissioning of Doctors and the demise of Holby. Peers added that we will continue to campaign for increased funding for independent UK films, and to lobby on the Cultural Test to ensure that productions that are given UK status for tax relief have lead UK creatives on the project.
She also spoke about the union’s ongoing work on equality, diversity and inclusion, and highlighted the recent Project Diamond Creative Diversity Network report which showed that there is no improvement in commissioning women and other under-represented groups, plus union plans to campaign and lobby on this issue.
Other lobbying on the horizon includes around the Media Bill, AI Bill and Good Work Review, as well as banging the drum to all parliamentary parties in a General Election year on the importance of the creative industries.
She also reported that WGGB members are becoming increasingly engaged across committees, events and training. There are so many more ways for members to get involved, she pointed out, and thanked the assembled writers “for being so actively involved in your union … we are bigger than ever and stronger together.”
The AGM also saw the election of a new Chair – current Deputy Chair Emma Reeves picked up the “virtual gavel” from outgoing Chair Lisa Holdsworth who has reached the end of her term.
Reeves said that Holdsworth’s work in this voluntary role over the past four years were “enormous shoes to fill”, and called on members to come forward to fill vacant EC posts, or get involved in other ways. “It’s our Guild … our voices should all be heard.”
Stepping down, Lisa Holdsworth said that the past year had seen an “extraordinary” amount of work for activists and staff, and singled out successes such as the launch of the WGGB New Play Commission Scheme, our work around AI and the response of the membership to the WGA strike in showing their solidarity. “I felt really proud to be a WGGB member during this time.” She also thanked “every Doctors writer who engaged with us and our campaign” and echoed Ellie Peers’ words on recent Project Diamond data, promising that WGGB would be mounting a “strong and robust response” on tackling equality and diversity in the creative industries, “which we will not shirk from.”
She signed off by saying it had been “an absolute honour and pleasure” to have stood as WGGB Chair and to have met “so many writers and others who care so passionately about writers.”
Motion (a) Palestine Israel and various amendments were debated and after lengthy debate the following motion was carried:
Motion: The AGM calls upon the WGGB Executive Council to deepen existing relationships and foster new ones with our sister unions in the region, and with writers working in Palestine, Israel and the diasporas, who have faced significant attacks and intimidation in their pursuit of truth, peace and a positive creative future. As writers, we believe in the pursuit of cultural resistance to the ongoing violence as a means of freedom of expression. We ask the WGGB to work with organisations such as Freedom Theatre, Jenin and MENA (Middle Eastern and North African) Arts to this end.
In her closing remarks, incoming Chair Emma Reeves paid tribute to what “unites us as writers”, and urged members to “go forward in solidarity to make our union stronger.”
WGGB Craft and Regional reps and Officers presented individual reports (you can read all these in the annual report).
Results of recent WGGB elections were announced. The full list of WGGB Executive Council representatives will be available in the Contacts section of our website shortly.
The following vacancies still exist (members who are interested should email email@example.com and put the relevant vacancy in the subject field).
- Deputy Chair
- North West (Manchester and Lancashire)
- South West (Devon and Cornwall)
You can see a summary of the AGM on Twitter @TheWritersGuild #wggbagm
Photo of previous in-person AGM: Em Fitzgerald