Tara Arts founder Jatinder Verma is stepping down as artistic director after 40 years.
Verma said it was an “exciting time for a new generation of artistic leaders” to continue Tara Arts’ work.
“The past 40 years have seen British theatre take on the challenge of embracing difference, with a host of new writers, directors, performers and designers. I feel privileged to have played a part in changing the landscape of modern theatre,” he said, adding: “While cultural diversity has increasingly become an accepted norm, the challenge of diversity, sadly, remains as acute as ever. Connecting worlds seems to me a necessary mantra for our times; it is certainly what I intend to continue to work on in the years ahead. This is an exciting time for a new generation of artistic leaders to continue the “connecting worlds” story of Tara.”
Verma founded the company in 1977, when it was based at Battersea Arts Centre. The company was formed in response to the racist murder in 1976 of Gurdip Singh Chaggar, with a mission to make connections across cultures through theatre.
Its inaugural production was Rabindranath Tagore’s anti-war play, Sacrifice, staged at Battersea Arts Centre in the summer of 1977.
Over the past four decades, Verma has supported Asian theatre artists including Sanjeev Bhaskar, Paul Bhattacharjee, Kumiko Mendel and Nadia Fall, as well as companies such as Tamasha, Kali and Yellow Earth.
The company has toured around the UK and internationally and co-produced with theatres including the National Theatre, where Verma was the first non-white director of a production.
Responding to his decision to step down, London mayor Sadiq Khan praised the director for promoting cross-cultural theatre.
“Jatinder’s vision and dedication to championing inclusion and diversity have opened up the theatre and changed the landscape of the stage in London and beyond. Tara Theatre has always held a special place in my heart, and I know that Jatinder’s legacy will continue to inspire artists and audiences for generations to come,” he said.
Arts Council England director of theatre, Neil Darlison, said Tara Arts had been “extraordinarily influential in British theatre” under Verma’s leadership.
“Both he, and the works he has created, have inspired theatremakers and audiences alike. In addition to this, his unstinting energy means he leaves an award-winning theatre in Earlsfield – a brilliant legacy for Wandsworth, for London and for the next leader of this company. I look forward to whatever he does next,” he said.
Tara Arts chair Naresh Aggarwal said Verma had “firmly set Tara on the map of modern British theatre and I am confident his legacy will be built upon by his successor”.
In 2016, Tara Arts opened a reconfigured base in Earlsfield, south London.