Kwame Kwei-Armah has claimed black creatives are working in “one of the best times ever” in UK theatre’s history.
Speaking at RADA for the Methuen Drama modern play series’ 60th anniversary, the Young Vic artistic director said: “I sincerely believe in my heart that this is one of the best times ever to be a black creative.
“It’s one of the most exciting times […] People are listening in a way they didn’t 10 years ago, 20 years ago and history has taught us that they certainly didn’t listen any time before that.
“We all have to be ambassadors for the thing we love […] We have to evangelise for this form, we have to say there are so many young brilliant black women writers talking about things that we didn’t even think white people would allow us to talk about on their stages.”
He added: “We have wonderful artistic directors who are black and female and Asian and female, males who actually listen with a cultural ear, not just an ear of cultural tourism.”
When asked how to improve access to theatre for disadvantaged young people and ethnic minorities, Kwei-Armah urged industry professionals to “advocate on every platform that we can find, to say that everything in this country belongs to you, and that there are people doing the thing that you might realise tomorrow is for you”.
Kwei-Armah was joined on the panel by playwright James Graham, literary agent Mel Kenyon and Fuel Theatre director and producer Kate McGrath.
Kenyon, head of theatre at Casarotto Ramsay literary agency, cited education and social media as the key to improving access for young people.
She said: “We have to invite in outreach programmes, schools have to be able to afford to take children to the theatre, they have to be able to give them music classes and drama classes. If we strip all of that away we are reducing access, and, at the moment, that is what we are doing.”
She added: “We as theatre practitioners keep trying to open the doors, and strangely the government keeps closing them again. I think social media is an extraordinary thing, and may create a degree of accessibility and promise that nothing else can.”