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Student campaign to ‘name and shame’ schools without diversity

The Royal Central School of Speech and Drama. Photo: Patrick Baldwin
The Royal Central School of Speech and Drama. Photo: Patrick Baldwin
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A group of drama students has set up a campaign to address the lack of diversity in UK drama schools.

The Diversity School Initiative aims to hold schools accountable for their decisions concerning diversity and seeks to support students who feel under-represented.

It will also lobby drama schools to develop more inclusive curriculums, faculties and student bodies.

Founder Steven Kavuma told The Stage: “Students are annoyed, upset, angry and frustrated that their schools don’t represent them. There aren’t enough diverse students, lecturers or texts studied. We felt the need to do something about it, to challenge and to hold schools accountable for their decisions.”

He added: “If, year-in, year-out, we keep producing white, middle-class students to go into the industry then our industry will end up being white and middle-class - which it is. We will name and shame schools that are not diverse.”

Currently in the second year of a degree in applied theatre and playwriting at the Royal Central School of Speech and Drama, Kavuma said that he founded the company based on his experiences at Central.

He explained: “Out of 90 students I was the only black male in my year. All the full-time lecturers on my course were white, so I was constantly told about things through the white lens. One student in a lecture said ‘racism doesn’t exist anymore’ and there wasn’t anyone in that room who could challenge it.

“I’m paying £9,000 a year – the same as everyone else – and they are getting more out it than I am in terms of what I’m studying. I want a level playing field, and at the moment that isn’t there. The percentages of black, Asian and minority ethnic students applying to drama schools are really low. Drama schools have neglected those students.”

In response to Kavuma’s initiative Central’s director of learning said: “Steven Kavuma was until recently the black and ethnic minorities officer in our student union. Steven’s campaigns on behalf of the student union and through his own Diversity School Initiative highlight crucial issues affecting the creative industries and drama schools. His campaigns have been provocative and opened up useful dialogue between students at Central and with a range of staff.”

She continued: “We are fully supportive of Steven and of other students taking on proactive roles within the sector. We are proud to support the next generation of makers, practitioners, producers, actors, directors and more to push forward and contribute to social change.”

Alongside Kavuma, the organisation’s core team consists of James Easey and Maame Atuah, both at Central, Mumba Dodwell at Arts University Bournemouth and Sanjay Lago at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland.

Membership of the initiative is free and open to anyone attending a drama school, about to attend or who has recently finished a course, as well as to people who are “passionate about accessibility” to drama schools.

The initiative will officially launch on June 14 at RADA, where Kavuma will explain the organisation’s plan for the next five years.

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