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Initiative to tackle lack of diversity on theatre boards expands nationally

Simeilia Hodge-Dallaway, founder and chief executive of Artistic Directors of the Future
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Leading theatres in the north of England are to come together with diverse theatremakers in a bid to tackle the lack of representation on boards.

Led by Artistic Directors of the Future, the event takes place today (October 2) and marks a roll-out of the organisation’s strand of work dedicated to diversifying the board members of UK theatres.

ADF, which was set up to increase the number of diverse artistic directors of mainstream theatres, said it recognised that trustees had “the ultimate responsibility to recruit and appoint artistic directors”, but the chairs and trustees themselves were rarely from black, Asian and minority ethnic backgrounds, especially in the north.

The event, called Diversifying Regional Theatre Boards, is being held at Sheffield Theatres, in association with Arts Council England, and follows an inaugural session at London’s Battersea Arts Centre in 2016.

It will bring together the leaders of 30 national portfolio organisations with 30 diverse theatremakers to address the issue collectively, by discussing the barriers that prevent diversification at board level and developing strategies for implementing change at theatres.

This will include a training session led by Charlotte Jones, chief executive of the Independent Theatre Council, and provocations from directors including Javaad Alipoor, Amanda Huxtable and Nazli Tabatabai-Khatambakhsh.

It is being described as an “action-focused event”. Theatres will commit to submitting action plans to ADF a month after the event, detailing how they intend to implement change.

Simeilia Hodge-Dallaway, ADF founder and chief executive, said she hopes to continue the events in other areas of the country in future.

She said: “We are delighted to make this unique opportunity available to the north in response to the low levels of BAME chairs and trustees across the theatre portfolio in the north.

“We believe that it’s time to stop just talking about change and have designed an event that will bring together a group of people who want to make change happen.”

In addition to the events, ADF is also developing a BAME board bank that can be used by theatres, and will be hosting annual board away days for trustees, artistic directors and senior executives from a range of organisations.

The Arts Council, which has partnered with ADF, said it was “keen that the boards of our national portfolio organisations diversify and reflect contemporary England”.

“We’re pleased to support this opportunity for culturally diverse practitioners and trustees, chairs and leaders of theatres in the north to come together to look at ways of addressing the lack of BME trustees.”

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