Publicly funded venues ‘must give over space to minorities’

The Crucible, which is run by Sheffield Theatres. Photo: Craig Fleming
by -

Theatremakers have called on venues to open up their spaces to practitioners from a range of backgrounds in a bid to boost diversity in the industry.

Disabled, black, Asian and minority ethnic artists should be given more opportunities to work within the larger buildings, and in particular those subsidised by Arts Council England, they said.

Speaking as part of a panel on arts funding cuts and diversity at the In Battalions Festival in London last week, disabled actor Mandy Colleran said individual artists needed to “reclaim institutions” for more practical use.

“There’s been a lot of public money invested into buildings to make them accessible. They’re not white elephants, they’re just not being used properly,” she said.

Actor Jennifer Lim, who helped found campaigning group British East Asian artists, said it was an “urgent” matter for mainstream theatres to provide support for diverse artists and programme new work by them.

“As an individual artist you haven’t got the national portfolio organisation status, you haven’t got the structure or the resources in place. What you need is support in kind and space. That is a major stumbling block,” she said.

Sudha Bhuchar, co-artistic director of touring theatre company Tamasha, said touring companies could not build audiences alone, and needed venues to take on artists.

Meanwhile, Dawn Walton, artistic director of black-led Eclipse Theatre Company, said smaller, non venue-based companies should “put pressure on buildings” to let them use their space.

Walton, whose company is a resident at the Crucible Theatre in Sheffield, said: “The key thing is once you’re in a building you actually have quite loud voices. Then you can have conversations constantly about diversity, which we do.”