Ellie Peers has been appointed the new general secretary of the Writers’ Guild of Great Britain (WGGB), a trade union representing professional writers in TV, film, theatre, radio, books, poetry, animation and videogames.
Peers takes up the role, effective immediately, having been the acting general secretary of WGGB since May 2016. She stepped into the job when previous general secretary Bernie Corbett stepped down after 15 years.
Peers said challenges she would broach in her role would be to ensure writers' voices were heard during Brexit negotiations and to address diversity at all levels.
She said: “I am delighted to be taking up this role at such a crucial time for writers – to ensure their voices are heard during the Brexit negotiations, and as the digital landscape continues to change at such a rapid pace. The union owes a huge debt to my predecessor Bernie Corbett who was adept at staying one step ahead of the game in ensuring writers’ rights and livelihoods were protected at all times.
“I will endeavour to continue that work, as well as meet the new challenges writers face. If we want the industries in which writers work to flourish we need fresh stories, told from different perspectives. I want to address the under-representation of writers at all levels – women writers, BAME writers, LGBT+ writers, writers with disabilities and those from poorer backgrounds."
Prior to her general secretary role, Peers was assistant general secretary of WGGB for three years. She had previously spent 15 years working for trade unions including for UNISON and Unite, and also spent a decade working in the film and TV industries.
Her achievements at WGGB include negotiating a new script agreement with the BBC for television and online, helping to boost screenwriters’ rights; negotiating a 75% pay increase for writers working under WGGB’s Pact television agreement as well as "regular" pay rises for writers working in film, TV, radio and theatre; and challenging broadcasters on equality and diversity. She also has led on WGGB and joint union campaigns, including Creating Without Conflict, Free is NOT an Option and BBC Love It Or Lose It.
Peers' appointment means that all senior posts at WGGB are now held by women, joining president Olivia Hetreed and chair Gail Renard. The latter, Renard, welcomed Peers as "a powerhouse for us both in the UK and internationally", adding she had steered the Guild "from strength to strength".
The union is currently commissioning a gender equality survey covering film and TV, which will form the basis of a campaign tackling under-representation of women writers in these sectors. WGGB’s research shows women write 14.6% of UK films and 32% of prime-time and continuing drama series, as well as 31% of new stage plays.