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Kerry Michael: ‘We need a MOBO Awards for BAME theatre’

Kerry Michael, Theatre Royal Stratford East Kerry Michael, artistic director at Theatre Royal Stratford East
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Theatre Royal Stratford East artistic director Kerry Michael has called for a new awards ceremony to celebrate black, Asian and minority ethnic theatre.

The director was speaking at The D Word conference at the Unicorn Theatre in London, where he also stressed the need for more BAME critics to review for national publications.

Discussing the lack of recognition for culturally diverse work in mainstream theatre, Michael proposed a “regular, sexy, expensive” new awards show specifically to commend BAME theatre, in the vein of the MOBO (Music of Black Origin) awards for the music industry.

“We need to celebrate the achievements of culturally diverse work,” he explained. “Too many intelligent people don’t know what great work is going on in this area. So we need to fast-track our celebrations. We need to fast-track our own success. We need an award, and all the razzmatazz that goes with it.”

Referring to the London Evening Standard Theatre Awards and the Laurence Olivier Awards, he continued: “If it’s going to take time to get more profile in those established circles, let’s do what the music industry has done with the MOBOs, and come up with our own for the arts.

“If we can achieve a slice of the success of the MOBOs then we will have made a huge achievement. And when the ‘People of Colour Awards’ become so exciting and sexy they become mainstream like the MOBOs, maybe, just maybe, the job is almost done.”

The director also called for an increase in the number of BAME critics writing for mainstream publications.

He explained: “We need more people of colour setting the critical debate. Wouldn’t the theatre sector be so much more exciting if there were more people of colour serving as our national critics? Imagine how refreshing that would be for all of us.”

Michael praised blogs for creating “fresh voices”, but claimed that a number of them were “a long way off maturing”.

“My theatre relishes creating culturally specific work, and I regularly cannot find someone from that culture to review it nationally,” he added, suggesting a solution to the lack of BAME critics may lie in a lobby or thinktank to help fast-track people into prolific roles in arts journalism.

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