Diversity initiatives for UK theatres

Diversity initiatives for UK theatres - improving representation of Black, Asian and minority ethnic communities within the British performing arts sector

Resources for the theatre sector

Our directory of resources is not definitive. In relation to artistic companies, as a starting point, we have focussed on NPOs (National Portfolio Organisations). We have tried to get a good spread of companies from around the country, not just London. We have highlighted the three largest groups of ethnic minorities in the UK as they have the largest representation of theatrical work from the last few years and decades. We know there will be more organisations, and more ethnic minority groups, who we can represent.

Researching for this work has raised some interesting questions for us: what defines a diverse organisation? Some organisations have specific remits and artistic objectives embedded in their values and mission statement. For example, some are focussed on presenting work by Black voices, or presenting traditional East Asian stories. Some organisations take a more inclusive approach and reflect the stories of their diverse communities on stage. Some organisations have Black or Brown-skinned leaders at their helms, others have diverse workforces (see this Arts Council England guidance on defining ‘diverse led’ organisations).

We all need to question what our organisations’ purposes are. If promoting diversity and anti-racism practices are not embedded in our DNA, then what kind of an organisation are we? To quote Angela Davies: ‘It’s not enough to not be racist. You need to be anti-racist.’

Projects followed by an asterisk have either been run, supported financially, or provided with resources and promotion by UK Theatre and Society of London Theatre (SOLT).

We welcome feedback and additional contributions – please email ukt@soltukt.co.uk.

Background

In response to the issues raised by the Black Lives Matter movement returning to prominence, it is imperative that SOLT and UK Theatre, as well as the wider sector, resets itself by removing systemic racism, and creating clear, actionable inclusion and anti-racism policies.

The many research projects and reports published over the last few years clearly demonstrate that there are barriers to entry to the industry, and that retention, career progression and pay parity are also significant issues for workers who are Black, from an ethnic minority, or D/deaf and disabled.

Each one of us is responsible for making changes - every organisation, every member, and every individual working in the sector. This work cannot be done on behalf of the sector by SOLT/UK Theatre, although as the sector trade body we can stimulate debate, provoke actions, challenge, highlight best practice and lead. The Inclusion & Anti-Racism Working Group must champion this stance.

The first meeting of this Working Group was held on 23 July 2020.

Download the Inclusion & Anti-Racism Working Group's Terms of Reference here.

  • Creative Access: helping under-represented communities enter the creative industries and thrive when they get in
  • Get Into Theatre*: careers advice website for young people
  • Inspiring Future Theatre Day*: an annual celebration of the work theatres across the UK do to inspire young people, communities and schools

  • Theatrecraft*: the UK’s largest free careers event for anyone aged 16-30 seeking off-stage roles in theatre
Courses* (available on demand post-lockdown)

  • BEATS (British East Asians in Theatre and on Screen)
  • BEATS Directory: a comprehensive listing of British East Asians working in the screen and stage industries
  • Chinese Arts Now: producing work that explores Chinese themes, stories and art forms, and work that blends Chinese and other contemporary art forms
  • Exit Pursued by Panda: a collaborative theatre company championing East Asian writing, acting and directing
  • Moongate Productions: committed to creating and developing projects that raise the profile of, and give free reign to, East Asian talent whilst actively challenging stereotypical portraits
  • Red Dragonfly Productions: bringing classic and modern stories from the East to British and European stages
  • Yellow Earth: international touring theatre company based in London and established to raise the profile of British East Asian theatre       
       
  • 20 Stories High: making theatre with working class and culturally diverse young people, emerging artists and world class professionals
  • Arcola Theatre: creating trailblazing theatre for all

  • Battersea Arts Centre: the world’s first Relaxed Venue, with access and inclusivity embedded across all its activities
  • Belgrade Theatre Coventry: together with the diverse communities across Coventry and the region, enriching and changing people’s lives for the better through theatre
  • Beyond Face: a performance company based in Plymouth whose mission is to raise the profile and visibility of People of Colour in the Arts
  • Beyond the Canon: an initiative, led by Simeilia Hodge-Dallaway, championing ground breaking, yet forgotten and hidden plays by culturally diverse writers
  • Bush Theatre: discovering, nurturing and producing the best new playwrights from the widest range of backgrounds
  • Everything Matters: an investigative research project produced by Tangle in 2012 and still having an impact several years on. Taking place across South West England, the study captured opinions about African Caribbean theatre, volunteered by 20 theatres and arts organisations across the UK’s largest and most rurally dispersed region, and one of its most mono-cultural areas. 
  • Hackney Empire: a variety theatre for the 21st century that embraces a local and global community of artists and audiences
  • LIFT (London International Festival of Theatre): bringing international theatre all over London every two years.

    LIFT stands for radical empowerment and inclusion, and promotes international perspectives, understanding that difference makes us stronger

  • Parents and Carers in Performing Arts: research investigating the impact of caring responsibilities on those working on-stage and off-stage
  • Photo library featuring people of colour in off-stage roles  
  • Selina Thompson: an interdisciplinary performance company based in Birmingham    
  • Stage Sight: case studies* from arts organisations working on improving off-stage representation
  • Stage Sight: useful guides and documents* to help you demonstrate best practice for achieving a more representative off-stage workforce
  • Tiata Fahodzi: a theatre company for Britain today and the Britain of tomorrow
  • Young Vic Theatre: presenting high quality work at low prices for some of the most diverse and engaged audiences in London
  • Akram Khan Company: embracing an artistic vision that both respects and challenges Indian kathak form and contemporary dance
  • Ballet Black: aims to bring ballet to a more culturally diverse audience by celebrating Black and Asian dancers in ballet
  • Boy Blue: the UK’s most prominent street dance and hip hop performance company
  • Breakin’ Convention: international festival of hiphop dance theatre   
  • Phoenix Dance Theatre: creating dynamic, diverse and relevant work that embodies the Company’s rich Caribbean history and shines a light on cultural narratives which are often overlooked or untold    
  • Shobana Jeyasingh Dance: founded by Shobana Jeyasingh, whose work is noted for both its intellectual rigour and its visceral physicality
  • Tavaziva: renowned for its beautiful and dynamic hybridization of contemporary, ballet and African dance, Tavaziva was established in 2004 and is led by Zimbabwean-born Bawren Tavaziva

  • ZooNation: The Kate Prince Company: ground-breaking storytellers creating original music and dance to inspire the next generation of theatregoers and theatre makers

  • Audience Diversity Academy: helps you and your organisation build long-term relationships with new audiences
  • The Audience Friend: connecting people who rarely go to arts events, or people on low incomes, from BAME backgrounds, with disabilities, and key workers   
  • Black Ticket Project: an initiative creating cultural access points for Black young people across England 
  • East Asian Ticket Club: an engagement scheme to encourage and increase East Asian participation across the arts in the UK 
  • Mousetrap Theatre Projects*: running a wide range of theatre-going programmes and education projects for young people, families, state schools and youth groups
  • Creative Mentor Network: a tailored consultancy and programme design for businesses who want to strengthen diversity and inclusion in their organisation

  • Green Parkspecialist recruitment consultants recruiting diverse and inclusive workforces

  • Inc Arts: addressing how best to build diverse agency and growth within the sector  
  • Sour Lemons: consultancy services: creating inclusive environments so diverse talent can thrive
  • Tonic Theatre: supporting the arts to achieve greater gender equality and diversity
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