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Bush Theatre boss complains white voices are dominating diversity debate

Madani Younis, artistic director of the Bush Theatre. Photo: Stephanie Methven

Madani Younis has complained that white arts leaders are given more credit in the media for speaking out about diversity than people from black, Asian or minority ethnic backgrounds.

Younis, who is artistic director of the Bush Theatre in west London, said he was growing tired of what he described as a “white narrative” in terms of speaking about diversity.

“It is becoming tiresome that we BAME artists have to sit and listen and be the subject of a white narrative for our equality,” he said.

Younis was speaking at a panel discussion as part of Brexit Britain and the Arts, an event held at the National Theatre and organised by Artistic Directors of the Future, which works primarily with BAME directors.

He continued: “When it comes to this debate about diversity in the arts, actually the most impactful headlines seem to be those given by men and women running these institutions who don’t look like us in this room. And that is the problem with our sector, that somehow more weight is being given, I think, to men and women who have been engaged for the shortest time in this debate but given the most credit for just jumping on the bandwagon, in my opinion.”

He added: “There are voices in this room that have spoken to the ideas of diversity and change in eloquent, powerful, engaging ways that are never given the space by The Guardian, the Evening Standard. We are never seeing those voices being acknowledged and yet it is those, by and large, that have white privilege on their side that are allowed to speak on the ideas of diversity and are applauded for it in ways that we never are. And that to me is a tragedy of working in the arts.”

Other panellists at the event included shadow arts minister Chi Onwurah, Javaad Alipoor, who is artistic director of Northern Lines, journalist Yasmin Alibhai-Brown and NT director of communications Martin Prendergast.