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New musical theatre group to champion women writers

Bella Barlow and AC Smith, who are partnering with London Playwrights' Workshop to launch Women’s Musical Theatre Initiative. Photo: Eulanda Shead Bella Barlow and AC Smith, who are partnering with London Playwrights' Workshop to launch Women’s Musical Theatre Initiative. Photo: Eulanda Shead
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A development initiative aimed at boosting the number of female musical theatre composers has been launched, following research that revealed the sector is dominated by men.

In July, The Stage revealed that three-quarters of musicals staged in the West End over the past decade had no women on their writing teams.

In response, London Playwrights’ Workshop, which was set up to support emerging writers, is launching Women’s Musical Theatre Initiative in partnership with composing team Bella Barlow and AC Smith.

Its aims are threefold: to hold showcases for female musical theatre writers, to host masterclasses where writers can develop their skills and to create workshops where people new to writing can be supported to develop their skills.

It will begin with a cabaret night celebrating female songwriters, which will run on February 12 at the Pheasantry in London. This event will showcase the work of new female writers and raise funds to support WMTI and future activities.

The cabaret will include songwriters such as Rebecca Applin, Kate Marlais – recently named composer in residence at the Lyric Hammersmith – and Alex Young, who recently appeared in Follies at the National Theatre.

They will be joined by musical theatre star Caroline Sheen.

Smith said: “I was shocked to read the statistics reported in The Stage. It seemed like female musical theatre writers were practically invisible. My immediate thought was: ‘We have to do something about this.’ As someone who works in ‘straight’ theatre and is also a book/writer lyricist, it’s been consistently surprising to me to see how far musical theatre has lagged behind in terms of achieving more equal representation of women and BAME artists.”

She added: “It saddens me to think how many talented voices aren’t being heard – either because their talents weren’t taken seriously and developed or may never have been tapped in the first place.”

Barlow added that the aim was to do “something a bit different and mix things up”.

“We also want to make sure that some of the incredible writers we’ve met get their work seen more widely,” she added.

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