Why do we need a separate theatre for Black work? Convener(s):Erica Campayne Participants: Gareth C, Micheal Twaits, Sheila Ghelani, Abi Anderson, Helen, Lewis Jarfoot, Because: It would be a way of capturing black actors – one director in the group said not many black actors attended an audition held for a Shakespeare play It would allow different stories to be told Provide a dedicated space for black people – artists and audiences - to come forward and create their work/attend performances. A beacon for black theatre But: does this have to be a built theatre Cannot the current theatre venues provide more diverse programming This is an issue of having the right person in the position of responsibility. And this should not have to mean a black person. e.g Fix Up at the NT, a percentage of seats were reserved, with a ‘B’ for black audiences, as the marketing manager said that black people tend to book nearer the time of a performance or show up on the door. 75% of these tickets were indeed sold to first time black audiences, which was viewed as a financial loss when in fact it was a great opportunity to get black audiences into the theatre venues who would pick up a programme. Programming should be the main focus - black people do attend the theatre! E.g the series of commercial Jamaican plays which feature a protagonist called Oliver, they regularly tour Nationally to venues like Catford Broadway and Hackney Empire. Black people do attend these performances but it is an issue of class. Would a good black theatre not mimic the current middle class white theatre? Or would a great black theatre create a completely different type of work and experience. Black people do go to the theatre when the work is good and of interest to them. But what do they want to see and who are they. Race/class. Black middle class people do go to the theatre, but the working class do not. Or they attend ‘We will Rock you’ – which may be surprising but was unintimidating entertainment. The Big Life also succeeded in engaging a very mixed class audience of black people. Entertainment and musicals. Would not a theatre run by black people, performing black plays primarily for a black audience create the current situation of exclusion? Maybe not, and if it does it would be a positive experience of entering a space of a different ethnic majority. Fear was mentioned as a person’s response to being in nightclub of a black majority as a result of not knowing the ‘rules’ and concern as being identified as an ‘outsider’. But there is also the issue of excitement of being in a new cultural environment. Also, the audiences who attend would be dictated by the piece and therefore there would be diverse in response to that. What would the space be like? E.g Unicorn theatre. Would it be possible to design a space which overcomes the obstacles for black audiences in attending? Is that nessecary? Cannot other theatre venues just improve their own programming and marketing processes to improve access. What do we mean by Black work? There is already the problem of subsided theatres complaining that some work are not ‘black enough’ The writer despite race or gender should be allowed freedom to create work. Something like the Drill Hall theatre – which is a gay and lesbian theatre but you just wouldn’t know it. The same also for this recent season of work at the NT which has not staged work by a gay or lesbian writher/company but has staged work with gay and lesbian issues which have not alienated any audience members. The £4 million spare from the Talawa project could be spent on current venues to develop their programming and ways of consistently engaging diverse audiences. When venues change then companies will change – opening up their work and taking more risks with the work they diverse. Also having more license to experiment and work with new writers. Young people: A black theatre venue would present itself as a beacon of black theatre. It would no doubt get consistent coverage in The New Nation and The Voice to capture audiences and could also become the first entry point for black children as it would be a theatre that they would know about and feel comfortable approaching. But maybe not, we do not want an environment of segregation. Instead of a venue what could be needed is raising the profile and communication of black companies within schools. Recommendations: That the £4 million spare from the Talawa project be spent on current venues to develop their programming and ways of consistently engaging diverse audiences. Send this report to Talawa Send this to Nick Hytner, National Theatre Create a lobby group who actually writes letters to the venues about their programming Create a website which profiles the work of black theatre companies across the UK. An active website with archival evidence of productions including work with young people; listings of current organisations and plays and also lesson plans for teachers and Workshop leaders.