ARTS COUNCIL ENGLAND DIVERSITY INITIATIVES
The Black Regional Initiative in Theatre (BRIT)
developed out of the Regional Black Theatre Initiative set up
by the Arts Council in the early 1990s. BRIT is a key strategic
fund of Arts Council England that aims at a more equitable black
and Asian theatre in England.
BRIT aims at providing a holistic approach to
change and development across theatre in England. In particular,
strategic action has been taken in three specific areas:
1. Opportunities for black and minority ethnic
theatre artists in the mainstream of English theatre.
2. Tackling institutional racism through
action in relation to governance and management practice.
3. Audience development for black and minority
ethnic work and encouraging black and minority ethnic audiences
BRIT provides a variety of opportunities for
black and minority ethnic theatre artists. A network of venues,
developed since the mid-1990s, to assist new and aspiring theatre
artists and companies in developing touring, form the basis of
Each organisation takes an entirely independent
approach to the development of black and Asian work. This includes
commissioning new work, developing artists, youth theatre, audiences
The Haymarket Theatre, Leicester has a focus
on the development of Asian work and audiences and is the first
regional repertory theatre in England to appoint an Asian co-Artistic
Director, Kully Thiarai. In Huddersfield, the collaboration between
a black arts centre and a regional presenting theatre has seen
a range of culturally diverse programming and audience development
initiatives, supported by an outreach worker. In Bristol, a similar
collaboration has seen the development of black writers.
Other activity includes a series of debates
among leading culturally diverse artists about the making of theatre
to inform thinking on the future of theatre in the 21st century.
Eclipse Conference and Report
Following the Eclipse Conference on developing
strategies to combat institutional racism in theatre in June 2001,
Arts Council England published the Eclipse Report in April 2002,
in partnership with Nottingham Playhouse, Arts Council East Midlands
and the TMA. The report contains 21 recommendations, focusing
Employment and training
Equality of opportunity
Programming of Black work
Since the publication of the report, seminars
and surgeries have taken place in every region for senior managers
and board members of regional subsidised theatres, touring companies
and a number of presenting theatres on Equality of Opportunity
and Positive Action. This has started to see a range of activities
and awareness being developed across the country.
These were followed in Autumn 2004 with regional
seminars in collaboration with TMA for chairs of boards, and surgeries
for all regularly funded theatre organisations on planning and
writing Race Equality Action Plans. This work has been evaluated
and fed into the Arts Council England Race Equality Scheme.
In depth work is also being undertaken to develop
awareness and touring of culturally diverse work to rural touring
circuits and training needs of promoters in programming BME companies.
This incorporates work with the Pride of Place companies, funded
to tour to rural areas of England.
The development of quality black work in middle
scale theatre was one of the gaps identified through the Theatre
Review. Led by Nottingham Playhouse together with Wolsey Theatre,
Ipswich and Birmingham Repertory Theatre a consortium was formed
to produce one piece of quality black work to tour on the middle
scale on an annual basis. The producing theatres are joined by
a network of presenting theatres, each one committed to programming
culturally diverse performing arts. These venues are supported
by Arts Council England Touring Department's Promoter Development
Fund, providing opportunities to share good practice, particularly
in the areas of marketing and audience development.
The first production for Eclipse Theatre, Moon
on a Rainbow Shawl, directed by Paulette Randell, toured in
the spring 2003. The second production, a new adaptation of Mother
Courage toured nationally in Spring 2004. The third production,
Sweet Little Thing, by Roy Williams will open at Wolsey
Theatre, Ipswich in February 2005 before touring nationally.
Eclipse Theatre provides opportunities for training
for individuals and black writers who wish to create work for
larger stages, as well as developing and sharing audience development
Work is being undertaken in collaboration with
Equity to ascertain the number of culturally diverse Equity members
in employment within the English regional subsidised theatre industry
over a period of six months. This will give a baseline for the
Working with Creative People the number of individuals
working in theatre will be identifies, along with their aspirations
for future development and employment in the theatre industry.
Work with BECTU has started in developing opportunities
for BME individuals to undertake training and employment in technical
work in theatre, first mapping BME individuals who have undertaken
technical training through accredited courses over the last three
years. In January 2005, BECTU and BRIT will develop an agreed
strategy for technical theatre training for BME individuals.
Working with the National Rural Touring Forum
and Pride of Place companies, BRIT, together with a number of
BME artists has developed an strategy to develop awareness of
culturally diverse artists, attendance at decibel Performing Arts
Showcase, training where appropriate, and opportunities for commissioning
and touring BME work to rural areas.
South Asian Theatre Touring Consortium
Working with Arts Council London a consortium
of venues has been established to programme and promote South
Asian theatre. At the centre of this is a focus on audience development
for the venues and touring companies. The consortium will also
increase opportunities of touring companies profile in the London
area. The consortium is supported with two bursaries for a South
Asian Audience Development worker and a South Asian Producer.
2004 saw a major pilot partnership between BRIT,
ROOTS, BBC Radio Drama, Local Radio and regional theatres in Birmingham,
Leicester and Hampstead. This has developed new voices and writers
from community groups for local and national radio, and seen three
commissions for Radio 4 to be broadcast in May 2005. Each theatre
has established relationships with new writers that may lead to
future commissions, as well as opportunities for audience development.
A training programme, through Eclipse Theatre,
has seen the development of 10 BME writers, five of which are
now attached to regional theatres, Contact, West Yorkshire Playhouse,
Birmingham Repertory Theatre, Wolsey Theatre, Ipswich and Nottingham
Through BRIT, three black/Asian writers in residence
will be based at Birmingham, Ipswich and Manchester Contact/Peshkar,
the latter developing skills in participatory and youth theatre.
The aim of the decibel legacy development programme
is to establish effective mechanisms for supporting artistic excellence
within the BME-led sector and to identify a number of key organisations
and individuals with the potential to play a strategic role in
strengthening the sector. We have undertaken a scoping exercise
into development best practice to identify what has worked well
and what has not. decibel is working with 21st century organisations,
Race Equality Scheme and the Capital department of Arts Council
Race equality scheme
For the arts to play a vital role the Arts Council
believes the arts need to be relevant to the many, not just the
few. The Race Equality Scheme is the primary mechanism for the
Arts Council to achieve the race equality goals as stated in the
Arts Council's Corporate Plan 2003-06. The scheme states that
the Arts Council will:
promote good practice and cooperation
in race equality across the organisation;
make sure that local, regional and
national organisations are consulted when identifying good practice;
consult regularly on new policy developments
with target groups, for example through appropriate staff networks;
consult with other staff groups to
encourage wider ownership of the race equality agenda;
conduct annual staff attitude surveys
that highlight where Arts Council England stands in relation to
make sure that all Arts Council policies
take race equality into consideration;
support Black and minority ethnic
artists and organisations as necessary to enable them to create
and develop projects that encourage their greater confidence and
self-sufficiency in developing arts for their own communities
and for society as a whole.
The scheme includes an action plan, which details
how the Arts Council will incorporate the principles and commitment
in the race equality scheme into all other Arts Council policies
Stages of Sound
Stages of Sound is a pilot project between the
BBC and Arts Council England. The aim of Stages of Sound is to
generate ideas, talent and open up a debate about cultural diversity.
Pathways for writers, actors, directors and producers will be
created from grassroots communities through to regional theatres,
local radio and commissions for national radio networks. This
project is a deep talent search.
The pilot project will take place in London,
Birmingham and Leicester. There will be one project per region.
Writers will work with community groups to write a radio script.
Each play will receive a rehearsed reading in the regional theatre;
some of the script will be broadcast on local radio. A commission
from each region will generate work to be broadcast on BBC Radio
4 in May 2005.
The regional theatres to be included in the
project are: Hampstead Theatre, London, Birmingham Repertory Theatre
and Leicester Haymarket.
The project will be managed by Shabina Aslam,
BBC Radio Drama Diversity Director, assisted by a co-ordinator,
who will be based at the Arts Council. Each regional project will
be managed by a working party made up of a Radio Drama producer,
Roots Co-ordinator, local radio producer and a Literary Manager/Artistic
Director from the regional theatre. Dramaturgical support will
also be available from the BBC Writers Room.
The Roots Co-ordinator will act as a grassroots
facilitator for the project in their region. The writers will
receive dramaturgical support from the Radio Drama producer/Literary
Manager. Essentially, though, each regional working party will
be responsible for and have ownership of their project.
The writers will be chosen by the regional working
parties and will be invited to apply to the project. This project
will build on writing development initiatives made by Arts Council,
England and BBC Writers Room by providing further training to
new Black and Asian writers. The writers will be nominated by
the regional theatres, BBC Writers Room, and Arts Council England.