Nearly three years ago, the Andrew Lloyd Webber Foundation approached The Stage to ask us to help with an embryonic idea that the charity wanted to develop.
It had just published a report that labelled the theatre industry “hideously white” and recommended counteracting the situation by developing an online resource for young people without existing connections to discover how to pursue a career in theatre.
The Stage had been writing a lot about the problems the performing arts faced in terms of the lack of diversity on stage and screen, and I was also in the middle of researching a report for UK Theatre that identified how the offstage workforce faced similar challenges. In addition, in-house at The Stage we were engaged in an ongoing process diversifying our own pool of writers – both in terms of gender and ethnicity.
So, I jumped at the chance: here was an opportunity for The Stage to put our money where our mouth was and support our industry to make the positive changes we were regularly exhorting it to make.
It was from this germ of an idea that Get Into Theatre developed. Since then, with the generous support of ALWF, the Society of London Theatre and UK Theatre, we’ve devised and built the platform with input from a wide range of voices across the industry, as well as from young people to find out precisely what they needed to know.
It has been a lot of work – especially for our outreach director Ahmet Ahmet who joined us to work on the initiative.
As we launch today, we believe we have created something that will have a positive effect on many young people’s lives and help theatre develop an engaged, skilled and representative workforce. This will stand it in good stead in future and hopefully plug some of the skills gaps it faces, especially off stage.
Get Into Theatre will only really succeed – and have the positive effect we all want it to have – if enough young people find out about it and engage with it. This becomes increasingly important – but also more difficult – as the arts in schools continue to be undermined.
But, we believe that a one-stop shop such as Get Into Theatre can direct young people from all backgrounds to the many great initiatives that already exist in theatres and training institutions but are currently not easy enough to discover – especially if the industry embraces the initiative.
Please help us spread the word and support Get Into Theatre in any way you can.
Alistair Smith is the editor of The Stage. Read his latest column every Thursday at thestage.co.uk/author/alistair-smith