Andrew Lloyd Webber has called for diversity to be placed alongside talent as part of the “key criteria” when awarding grants to drama school students.
His comments follow a column by Lyn Gardner arguing that drama training needs to adapt to help shatter the industry’s class ceiling.
In a letter to The Stage, Lloyd Webber said: “To date, the debate has focused on increasing diversity on stage and of course this is important. Yet for me, the lack of trained diverse talent coming through is equally, or even more, critical.
“Bursaries, scholarships and grants would help remove the financial barriers. I call on everyone – foundations, trusts and individuals – to include diversity, as well as talent, as a key criterion in awarding funding.”
Lloyd Webber added: “I passionately believe theatre is at serious risk of being sidelined and becoming irrelevant if it fails to reflect the diversity of the UK population. And that must include class.”
Lloyd Webber is a vocal supporter of increasing representation in theatre. The Andrew Lloyd Webber Foundation’s 2016 study, Centre Stage, which criticised the industry’s lack of diversity, argued that drama schools should make half their places accessible to students from low-income backgrounds, and called on all funding bodies to make this part of their decision-making process.