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West End BAME season announced for 2018

Don Warrington, Lenny Henry and Meera Syal will advise on the West End season. Photos: Jonathan Keenan/Manuel Harlan/Tristram Kenton Don Warrington, Lenny Henry and Meera Syal will advise on the 2019 season. Photos: Jonathan Keenan/Manuel Harlan/Tristram Kenton
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A three-month season of plays centred on black, Asian and minority ethnic talent will take place in the West End, as part of a major £4.6 million diversity drive.

Lenny Henry, Meera Syal and Don Warrington are among actors who will advise on the season in 2018, which has received £478,671 in support from Arts Council England.

The money is part of a £2.1 million investment by ACE in the creation and touring of new plays by BAME theatremakers.

The Sustained Theatre scheme also aims to develop existing careers and bring fresh talent into the industry.

The centrepiece West End season will be curated by Birmingham Repertory Theatre and Talawa Theatre Company, with the former’s artistic director Roxana Silbert aiming for the season to “crash through that glass ceiling”.

“A highly visible and sustained presence in the West End is exactly what BAME theatre professionals, both established and emerging, need right now,” she added.

Commercial producers Ambassador Theatre Group and Bill Kenwright will also help to stage the season, while each play will also run in Birmingham.

Hailing the funding announcement, Henry said: “Holy mackerel, this is good news. Creativity, enterprise and inclusion in one fantastic Midlands-shaped package – glorious.”

Syal said the West End season was “exciting news for audiences and actors”, claiming it was a chance “to celebrate and showcase our best talent in some of our best theatres”.

The plays will aim to reach people who have rarely or never seen live theatre before – 9,000 reduced-price tickets will be set aside for communities with low arts engagement.

Further details about the season, including which venue it will be staged in, have yet to be announced.

Other companies to receive a share of the £2.1 million to support new BAME plays and talent include Bush Theatre, Eclipse Theatre, Tamasha Theatre Company and Tiata Fahodzi.

Arts Council director for diversity Abid Hussain said it was “vital” that the UK’s diversity was reflected “both on and off stage”.

“This programme will increase the presence of diverse artistic talent within the theatre sector in England, something we want to see embedded across the wider arts and cultural sector in the long term,” he said.

In addition, £2.57 million of ACE money will be spent on making senior arts leaders more diverse, with 20 grants supporting training placements and new senior positions at UK theatres.

Hussain continued: “Through our Change Makers programme, 20 disabled and black and minority ethnic leaders will have an inspiring and transformational opportunity to realise their leadership potential, giving them the confidence and the experience to take their next step into a senior leadership role, helping to shape the future of our sector.”


Sustained Theatre grant recipients

Bush Theatre – £295,000
Tamasha Theatre Company – £412,000
Birmingham Repertory Theatre – £478,671
Eclipse Theatre – £500,000
Tiata Fahodzi – £406,500

Change Makers grant recipients

Battersea Arts Centre – £145,875
Duckie – £127,400
Hull Truck Theatre – £110,970
Royal and Derngate and the Core at Corby Cube – £144,352
Royal Exchange Theatre – £149,627
Sheffield Theatres – £150,000
Stan’s Cafe Theatre Company – £101,700

Lighthouse Arts And Training – £140,000
The Place – £150,000
Metal Culture – £149,770

Attenborough Arts Centre (University of Leicester) – £100,756


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