Patricia Cumper ends five-year run at Talawa

The Stage
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Patricia Cumper has announced she is to leave Talawa, one of the UK’s flagship black theatre companies, after more than five years as its artistic director.

Cumper took over the running of the company in 2006, at a time when Talawa was still coming to terms with the failure of its project to create the UK’s first black-led, black-built theatre in Westminster. This was followed by a series of resignations by board members and staff, including then artistic director Paulette Randall.

Cumper has re-established the organisation as a non-building based company and will leave in early 2012, following the current season which celebrates Talawa’s 25th anniversary.

Cumper said she thinks she will leave the company in a more stable state than when she joined. She told The Stage: “We’ve got lovely offices and a really nice studio, which is an exciting space for rehearsing and developing work. We have been made a National Portfolio Organisation [by Arts Council England], so I think whoever comes in will essentially have three solid years of putting on wonderful work. I think the infrastructure is in place for that and we have got a fantastic staff.”

She did not rule out Talawa being able to create its own theatre building in the future.

She added: “I think everything can open up beyond this, but realistically, we are two full-time and four part-time [staff], so to take on a capital project, as we found last time, can tip the whole company over. So, if the next person decides to move towards a capital project, it will be a long process and there will be a huge amount of infrastructure to put in place. But I think the idea of having a theatre space would be really exciting.”

Cumper, who was best known as a playwright when she joined Talawa, is planning to focus on writing when she leaves and is also considering setting up an arts consultancy.

Talawa’s 25th anniversary season will culminate in February, with a new production of Waiting For Godot featuring an all-black cast, in association with West Yorkshire Playhouse.

The position of Talawa’s artistic director will be formally advertised in July, and the new artistic director will be announced in October.

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