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Talawa launches Make scheme to support black artists in theatre

Heather Agyepong rehearsing for a production by Talawa Young People's Theatre. Photo: Lidia Crisafulli Heather Agyepong rehearsing for a production by Talawa Young People's Theatre. Photo: Lidia Crisafulli
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Black-led theatre company Talawa has unveiled plans to improve the diversity of British theatre through a range of schemes.

Called Make, the initiative aims to provide support at four career stages and claims to represent a “meaningful and sustained response” to the slow-changing issue of diversity in UK theatre.

The first stage, Engage, aims to reach people not currently engaging with Talawa or theatre. It is made up of grassroots workshops, networking events and a script-reading service.

Existing schemes such as the Talawa Writers’ Programme and Talawa Firsts will be brought together under a section of the scheme aimed at providing opportunities for artists to develop skills and make new work.

Risk-taking within theatre will also be addressed, with a strand specially created to give theatremakers the opportunity to meet and collaborate, while black artists will also be given support and advice in the fourth part of the programme. This will include meet and greets with industry professionals and the provision of free office and rehearsal space.

Gail Babb, Talawa producer for education and learning, said Make would offer black artists opportunities to develop over a long period of time and as their careers develop.

“Diversity projects tend to be just that – projects – and as a quick-fix approach, they are not building an infrastructure. What we need is sustained engagement that provides artists with a pathway into the industry, and the footholds to keep them there,” she said.

Alongside the opportunities that Make offers, a new online platform will advertise jobs, allow artists to ask and respond to questions and connect with each other. This will launch in the summer.

The programme is supported by the Esmee Fairbairn Foundation and will work with different partner organisations each year to deliver. Partners in 2017 include the Royal Exchange, Camden People’s Theatre, Voyage Youth and Sustained Theatre Up North.