Banner image by Alex Lui

The Diversity School logo 

     

An invitation from Mumba Dodwell, Head of Outreach, Diversity School Initiative:

I am a core member of the Diversity School Initiative, a non-profit organisation aiming to bring about better representation and inclusion. We aim to hold drama schools accountable and support drama school students whilst in training.

I joined the team in late 2016 after attending a rousing event called Dear White Central at Central School of Speech and Drama. This was put on by a disgruntled student, Steven Kavuma (who is the founder of the initiative). He felt that Central was not supporting nor creating an inclusive environment for its diverse students. During the event we heard some anonymous testimonies from students who had experienced discrimination, racism and prejudice.

I went to a university where I graduated with a BA (hons) from an accredited acting course. I remember spending my summer during my final year of high school researching drama schools and lining up auditions. I was wrecked with nerves every time I headed for them. As soon as I’d heard from my university that I’d been offered a place, I took it. I had been offered a place on a foundation course at a drama school but after repeatedly walking around cold building, feel insignificant and not seeing myself reflected in the panel or students, I thought I’d be better go to a place where they were people who looked like me.

Now I enjoyed my course, my tutors were supportive but I soon realised I had to find those in the industry that reflected me both past and present. I knew that I had to be proactive and did not have the luxury of relying on my tutors and curriculum. None of the materials we looked at came from people of colour bar Augusto Boal. Coming up to my graduation I felt very alone in the process of preparing for the industry. I worked hard at researching black british actresses whose careers I could emulate.

When I graduated I was shocked to hear that diverse students in drama schools where experiencing what I was experiencing. While I went to university far from the epicentre of theatre, I was surprised that those who were, with such great contacts and resources at their fingertips where not feeling supported in some the top drama schools in England.

Steven’s experience is not unfamiliar, many diverse students manage to walk through the doors thinking this is the stepping stone for a fruitful career and yet find they are not reflected, in the curriculum and staff and feel afraid to say speak up. You may think that since drama schools are producing statistics of better diversity that things are good but we are finding that students are not being supported or being validated by the system.

Diversity School Initiative is challenging UK Drama Schools and have started by partnering up with five drama schools and we are working directly with them in tackling these issues. We are holding talks, workshops as well as going into higher institutions and sharing our network and resources with others in bettering the system. But what else could be done? How can drama schools actively make improvements themselves? What other schemes do you know about in the UK or elsewhere that have had an impact? What’s been your experience? Whether you work for a drama school, are a student of any practice or someone making your way in the professional world, come to this event where you set the agenda and let’s work together for better, more diverse drama education.

See you there.

This event is fully wheelchair-accessible, and hearing boosters are available to borrow on the day. Additional access support is available on request, eg BSL interpretation or support for blind & partially-sighted participants. We welcome neurodivergent participants. See our access information page for more details, and contact us at [email protected] or call 020 7240 4556 for any queries and requests.