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Tamasha: Reflecting a nation of change and creativity

Posted on 08 December 2016

Valerie Synmoie, Executive Director of Tamasha Theatre Company, on how they have been supporting diverse theatre makers for 25 years.

After joining Tamasha in 2012, I soon came to realise the full breadth and depth of the work that Tamasha does to support predominantly BAME artists. Tamasha’s flagship Developing Artists (TDA) programme, now in its 12th year, is truly exceptional and unique. I can think of few other touring theatre companies that have such a longstanding and evidenced commitment to diversifying the national talent pool.

A woman in a bright turquoise top holds up her hands
Kiran Sonia Sawar in 'My Name Is'. Photo © Helen Maybanks

TDA annually delivers paid placements, mentoring, showcases, workshops and networking events. In the last 5 years alone, Tamasha has provided developmental opportunities to well over 1,500 artists. Our TDA network currently stands at over 2,000 artists, and is undoubtedly one of the most culturally diverse in the UK. As a recent workshop participant summed it up: “It was great how many different cultures there were… London is a multicultural metropolis and here is a place where all those differences create a reality. You don’t see workshops in London like this.” 

Recently we have been focusing in particular on providing sustained support for BAME writers. We do this through our writers group, which provides a year-long programme for emerging writers from a range of backgrounds to build their talent, connections and experience. Alongside that, we have now also developed programmes to support emerging BAME producers, as we feel there is a noticeable dearth of diverse talent coming through the ranks in this field, and Tamasha is well placed to address this.

theatre needs to reflect and resonate with all communities not just a few

During 2015-16, Tamasha:

  • Provided 69 developmental opportunities for emerging diverse artists, ranging from an assistant director bursary for our main production, to writer and actor training workshops, artist networking events and production observerships.
  • Set up a new BAME producers mentoring programme, supporting the development of 3 BAME-led new theatre companies and providing the Producers of these companies with paid placements at three key London venues (Albany, Richmix and Soho Theatre). As a result, one of these Associate Companies has recently been awarded Grants for the Arts funding to support a programme of work over two years, and is collaborating with a fellow Tamasha BAME producer. And, the third producer has been awarded a place on Eclipse’s Producer School.
  • Established a second cohort of our TDA Writers’ Group, with 8 new BAME writers selected. During 2015-16 the group also benefitted from a week long writing workshop to provide intensive support and mentoring. We have recently recruited our third year of writers, bringing the total of those we have supported over the past three years to 24.
A female actor stands on a stage lit by brightly coloured boxes
Blood. Photo © Robert Day

Other key activities:

  • A Regional Young Theatre Directors Scheme (RYTDS) supported programme for emerging diverse directors in Coventry, in partnership with the Belgrade Theatre.
  • Supporting 3 TDA artists to apply to Grants for the Arts to produce their own productions
  • Supporting  10 TDA writers to deliver workshops in schools in London and Derby with funding from the Migration Museum, leading to the creation of 5 new pieces of work
  • Delivering 3 Scratch nights to support emerging writers to showcase new work in development to audiences and gain feedback on their work.

We monitor our activity on a regular ongoing basis as part of our routine monitoring through funding agreements and we report back to our Board on progress.

Close up of an actor in costume - 1940s style jacket and bowler hat
Charlie Folorunsho in 'The Arrival'. Photo © Robert Day

For us at Tamasha, the objective is and has always been to enable new and diverse voices to be heard. We feel this is critical to the lifeblood of theatre in the UK; theatre needs to reflect and resonate with all communities not just a few. We don’t ‘do’ diversity: that’s just who and what we are.

It would be easy for me to wax lyrical about how we contribute to the Creative Case, but perhaps this might be best left to leading cultural commentator Yasmin Alibhai Brown, who so eloquently described Tamasha as:"a mirror reflecting a nation of continuing change and creativity, of mixings and mergings. British culture needs reminding it has always been global. Tamasha’s stirring and audacious work makes sure the nation never forgets what it is." 

Learn more about Tamasha's work on their website