The Arts Council England awarded five Black and Asian minority ethnic theatre-makers last year. These were Birmingham Repertory Theatre in partnership with Talawa Theatre Company, The Bush Theatre, Eclipse Theatre, Tamasha Theatre and Tiata Fahodzi. This is all encourage diversity to “flourish” within the arts sector. Andrew Lloyd Webber claimed that theatre is “hideously white” and has focused on awarding funding for diverse groups.
Why making room is important
These big hitters are spending their money on us. It has been identified that we have a lot to contribute to the arts just as much as anyone else and it’s imperative that we are giving an equal footing. Of course this footing is far from equal and there is still some way to go. Of all the BAME organisations in England, the lucky five that were given money from ACE were well deserved. And the ones who missed out on this funding still have to support BAME artists, writers, actors, dancers, etc. They somehow still have to make good theatre while on smaller platforms. It’s the many voices that still create and contribute to this big, beautiful world of storytelling. Shoutout to the ones who are making room.
I was recently given a sum of money from the Arts Council to produce, along with Tamasha Theatre a collection of monologues for auditions for young actors. Twenty five BAME writers will work with BAME young actors to come up with bespoke pieces that will be gathered in a book with the aim of being published and distributed among youth theatres and organisations. It’s all about changing what is out there for diverse actors.
One of the first things I did when I saw that I had been awarded the funding, was put a list of writers together who I thought would be great for this project. I’m in the business of supporting other emerging black and minority ethnic writers. There’s room for that. There’s room to give a hand when an opportunity comes along. I don’t know when I’ll be able to do this again, so I feel a sense of privilege and pride.
This is what it feels like: when I’ve been the only black person somewhere and then see another black person – there’s a nod or a smile. Some kind of signifier that silently says, “I see you. You’re here too? You’re doing your thing too?” And this is what I’m tired of. This is what it should be, loud at full volume. “I SEE YOU. YOU’RE HERE TOO? YOU’RE DOING YOUR THING TOO?” So, I shall make room. So make room too, please.