Five of the UK’s leading drama schools including RADA and Mountview Academy of Theatre Arts have signed up to a three-year contract, committing them to improve diversity in their institutions.
The move is among the first major steps of the Diversity School Initiative, a student-founded campaign body set up to hold performing arts training institutions to account over diversity.
It has recruited five schools to become partners in delivering its mission of addressing under-representation of all kinds. The other schools taking part are the Bristol Old Vic Theatre School, Arts Educational Schools and the Guildhall School of Music and Drama.
Through the contract, the five partner schools have promised to work with the body for three years. They have signed up to undergo auditing exercises, where the campaign’s leaders will spend time in drama schools with students and teachers to gain an understanding of areas that need addressing.
The schools will provide details of the work they are doing, while the initiative will monitor the routes through which students are coming into training.
A manifesto will also be drawn up over the course of this year, through specialist events, which the partner schools will then adopt.
Diversity School co-founder Steven Kavuma, who is a student at the Royal Central School of Speech and Drama, said the partner programme was intended to create a dialogue with institutions rather than implement a one-way system.
“This is not just a student thing. We want the schools to be involved as well, and by putting together this contract it is a way of schools saying they are committed to increasing and improving diversity of all kinds,” he said.
RADA director Edward Kemp said the plans would help ensure that the work being done to address diversity is “united and creates sustained change”.
“Schools across the country run dedicated programmes to promote diversity, but we know there is more work to be done,” he said.
Mountview principal Stephen Jameson added that the partnership confirmed the school’s commitment to improving access to training, and said it was open to the challenge that the Diversity School has brought to the table.
As part of their commitment, the partner schools will host tailored events and workshops for students and teachers, organised by the Diversity School, which are intended to “create a safe and open space where students can freely discuss the challenges they encounter in their training”.
The Diversity School Initiative was founded in 2017 by a group of drama school students to enact change around diversity in the training sector. It continues to be run by these four individuals, with an advisory board that includes directors Vicky Featherstone and Gbolahan Obisesan, and theatre academic Jami Rogers.
The five partner schools were announced at an event held at London’s Royal Court, where the campaign group unveiled its first programme events.
These include a line-up of specialist talks, which will take place throughout 2018 and at which ideas for the manifesto will be created.
The first event will be held in April in collaboration with the Young Vic’s Taking Part programme and will explore the class divide in British drama training. Subsequent events include a talk with Graeae Theatre Company about ability, and a collaboration with East Asian theatre company Papergang on ethnicity and race.
Sexual harassment in training will also be addressed at a talk held at the Royal Court later this year.