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Clockwise from top left: Kwame Kwei-Armah, Indhu Rubasingham, Yamin Choudury, Lynette Linton

Clockwise from top left: Kwame Kwei-Armah, Indhu Rubasingham, Yamin Choudury, Lynette Linton

Black, Asian and ethnically diverse leaders in theatre industry sign an open letter to Oliver Dowden

Kitty Underwood

By Kitty Underwood First Published 1 June 2020, Last Updated 1 June 2020

Last week, Black, Asian and ethnically diverse individuals in the theatre industry signed an open letter to the Culture Secretary.

Leaders and founders of cultural institutions and artistic directors joined together to celebrate the success and power of Black, Asian and ethnically diverse artists across the UK, and to warn that this success is especially at risk due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Together, they also call for a protection and celebration of diversity in government policy going forwards, and suggest that groups meeting to speak on the future of the theatre industry make sure they hear from Black, Asian and ethnically diverse industry leaders.

You can read the full letter below:


Dear Oliver Dowden, Secretary of State for Culture,

Throughout the last decade, British theatre has led the world with regard to the Black, Asian and ethnic diversity on our stages. Many of those actors are now international names: John Boyega, Idris Elba, Gemma Chan, Dev Patel, Cynthia Erivo, Daniel Kaluuya, Benedict Wong, Cush Jumbo, Letitia Wright, the list goes on.

Equally as exciting, the last few years have seen an explosion of world-leading Black, Asian and ethnically diverse artists transforming major UK theatrical organisations, from touring, to off-West End, to pioneering regional theatres and cultural institutions. Our programming choices have demonstrated that inclusivity is a major contributor to our success.

The Covid-19 crisis threatens all aspects of the theatrical ecology, but catalysed by the revelations of the racial disparity in the health crisis, this group of Black, Asian and ethnically diverse artistic leaders call on the government and the sector to ensure the progress we have collectively made does not fall by the way-side.

We insist that ethnic diversity is protected and celebrated in policy going forwards and propose that any task-force or group gathering to speak about the future of our industry seeks out consultation from Black, Asian and ethnically diverse leaders to ensure this commitment.

We are a great British success story, and will be essential to the arts returning at full strength and playing its part in our nation’s recovery.


Keith Saha – Co-Artistic Director, 20 Stories High

Matthew Xia – Artistic Director & Joint CEO, Actors Touring Company

Kenneth Olumuyiwa Tharp CBE – Director, The Africa Centre

Farooq Chaudhry OBE – Co-founder & Executive Producer, Akram Khan Company

Mehmet Ergen – Artistic Director, Arcola Theatre

Cassa Pancho MBE – Founder, Artistic Director & CEO, Ballet Black

Tarek Iskander – Artistic Director & CEO, Battersea Arts Centre

Anisa Morridadi – Founder & CEO, Beatfreeks

Corey Campbell & Justine Themen – Co-Artistic Directors, Belgrade Theatre

Hannah Azieb Pool – Artistic Director & CEO, Bernie Grant Arts Centre

Alix Harris – Artistic Director, Beyond Face

Amit Sharma – Deputy Artistic Director, Birmingham Repertory Theatre

Arike Oke – Managing Director, Black Cultural Archives

Kenrick ‘H2O’ Sandy & Michael ‘Mikey J’ Asante – Co-Artistic Directors, Boy Blue

Gbolahan Obisesan – Artistic Director, Brixton House

Naomi Sumner Chan- Artistic Director, Brush Stroke Order

Lynette Linton – Artistic Director, Bush Theatre

An-Ting Chang – Artistic Director & CEO, Chinese Arts Now

Vinna Law – Artistic Director, Cognatus Theatre

Chenine Bhathena – Creative Director, Coventry UK City Of Culture Trust

David Tse – Artistic Director, East Zest Productions

Amanda Huxtable & Shawab Iqbal – Artistic Director, CEO & Executive Producer, Eclipse Theatre

Iskandar Sharazuddin – Co-founder, Ellandar Productions

Adrian Tang – Artistic Director, Exit Pursued By Panda

Maria Oshodi – Artistic Director & CEO, Extant

Abdul Shayek – Artistic Director & CEO, Fio Cardiff

Lucy Sheen – Founder & Artistic Director, Foundling Productions

Aisha Khan – Co-Artistic Director, Freedom Studios

Yamin Choudury – Artistic Director, Hackney Empire

Dominic Garfield & Joseph Barnes-Phillips – Co-Artistic Directors, HighRise Theatre

Suba Das – Artistic Director & CEO, HighTide

Karena Johnson – Artistic Director & CEO, Hoxton Hall

Ben Qasim Monks – Executive Director, Improbable

Anj Handa – Chair of Freedom Studios & Founder of Inspiring Women Changemakers

Sepake Angiama – Artistic Director, Institute of International Visual Arts

Indhu Rubasingham – Artistic Director, Kiln Theatre

Zhui Ning Chang – Co-Founder, Lazy Native

Kully Thiarai – Creative Director, Leeds 2023

Stella Kanu – Chair, Eclipse Theatre & Executive Director, LIFT Festival

Deborah Sawyerr – Deputy Executive Director, Mercury Theatre, Colchester

Daniel York Loh & Jennifer Lim – Founders and Co-Artistic Directors, Moongate Productions

Ria Parry – Co-Director, The North Wall

Sharon Watson – Principal & CEO, Northern School of Contemporary Dance

Clarissa Widya – Artistic Director, Papergang Theatre

Alex Chang – Co-Founder, Paradox House

Michelle Yim – Artistic Director & Producer, Red Dragonfly Theatre Productions

Pravesh Kumar – Artistic Director & CE, Rifco Theatre Company

Kathy Williams – Director, RJC Dance

Roy Alexander Weise – Co-Artistic Director, Royal Exchange Theatre, Manchester

Pawlet Brookes- Founder, Artistic Director & CEO, Serendipity

Kevin Shen – Co-Artistic Director, Special Relationship Productions

Prema Mehta – Lighting Designer and Founder, Stage Sight

Michael Buffong – Artistic Director, Talawa Theatre Company

Suzann McLean – Artistic Director & CEO, Theatre Peckham

Nadia Fall – Artistic Director, Theatre Royal Stratford East

Ailin Conant – Artistic Director, Theatre Temoin

Natalie Ibu – Artistic Director & CEO, tiata fahodzi

Anna Nguyen & Mingyu Lin – Co-founders, Trikhon Theatre

Justin Audibert – Artistic Director, Unicorn Theatre

Vicki Amedume – Artistic Director, Upswing

Tuyet Van Huynh – Co-Founder, VanThanh Productions

Doreen Foster – Director, Warwick Arts Centre

Melanie Keen – Director, Wellcome Collection

Kumiko Mendl – Artistic Director, Yellow Earth Theatre

Kwame Kwei-Armah – Artistic Director, Young Vic


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