Talawa MAKEs a future for the UK’s black theatre artists

Talawa Theatre Company, the UK’s primary black led touring theatre group, has launched a major initiative aimed at supporting the country’s black British artists.

With diversity issues in theatre remaining frequently discussed, but slow-changing, Talawa say that the project will provide key support at each stage of a person’s career.

Gail Babb, Talawa producer for participation & Learning, said: “Diversity projects tend to be just that – projects – and as a quick fix approach, they are not building an infrastructure.

“What we need is sustained engagement that provides artists with a pathway in to the industry, and the footholds to keep them there.”

MAKE aims to create bespoke talent development to provide for the future diversity of British theatre and it will be delivered in four stages.

ENGAGE will reach new people, who are not currently involved with Talawa or with theatre. Offering grassroots workshops, networking events and a script reading service, it is expected that ENGAGE will increase black participation in theatre by reaching new participants across the UK.

GROW will provide opportunities for artists to develop their skills and generate new work. Artists will be encouraged to access existing Talawa schemes including the Talawa Writers’ Programme (commission and attachment for emerging writers); TYPT (devising project for emerging theatre makers); Talawa Firsts (festival of work in progress); Creating Routes (a facilitator training programme) and Studio Firsts (time, space and support to create new work).

COLLABORATE will create the space for artists to take risks with peers and meet, play and build a lasting network through a series of encounters for artists to collaborate and take a risk in a supportive environment.

SUSTAIN will provide advice and support to ensure black artists thrive in the industry.

Talawa will address drop off points experienced by mid-career black artists and practitioners by offering: meet and greets with industry professionals, Talawa staff support and mentoring, free office space and rehearsal space.

MAKE is supported by the Esmée Fairbairn Foundation, and every year will work with partner organisations across the UK. 2017’s partners are Royal Exchange Theatre, Camden People’s Theatre, Voyage Youth and Sustained Theatre Up North.

Sarah Lovell, head of participation & learning, Royal Exchange Theatre, said: “We have been working closely with Talawa on many engagement projects (All My Sons and King Lear) with communities, groups and individuals from BAME backgrounds, including asylum seekers, refugees and displaced people.

“We are thrilled to be developing a more sustained partnership that continues to support and further develop this work.

To support these activities, we have prioritised working with BAME artists who are skilled facilitators, and through MAKE we will collaborate with Talawa to train even more artists in facilitation and creative practice.”

MAKE will also be supported from Summer 2017 by MAKE Online: an online platform.

For more information go to www.talawa.com

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