Belgrade Theatre scoops UK Theatre award for Promotion of Diversity

Posted on 11 October 2016

The Belgrade Theatre has picked up a prestigious UK Theatre award for the Promotion of Diversity at a glittering awards ceremony held at London’s Guildhall on Sunday 9th October. The Theatre’s Associate Director Justine Themen and Director of Communications Nicola Young were at the Guildhall to accept the award, judged by a panel of theatre and industry experts.

The award recognises the theatre’s commitment to improving diversity across all aspects of the theatre’s work including its workforce, communications and programming. Also nominated in the category of Promotion of Diversity, was Eclipse Theatre Company and Oldham Coliseum.

Over the past year, the Belgrade has succeeded in increasing the representation of Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic people amongst its workforce as well as offering work placements and internships as a platform for young people starting a career in the theatre industry. In May 2015, the organisation also recruited a full-time Audience Development Assistant, who acts as the theatre’s main representative for engaging with and attracting diverse audiences.

The theatre also continues to run its free 10 week playwriting programme, Critical Mass which aims to develop writers from Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic backgrounds, giving a voice to under-represented communities and telling stories that bear witness to the city’s diverse communities.

Earlier this year, the theatre staged its first professional production of a play to be produced as part of the Critical Mass programme. Red Snapper, written by Liz Mytton, featured an all-female cast and followed the lives of five women and their husbands at the time of Jamaican independence. The production was nominated in the category of Best Touring Production at the UK Theatre Awards has also recently been nominated for Alfred Fagon Audience Award celebrating talented Black British playwrights of Caribbean and African descent, writing in Britain.

Red Snapper was one in a series of plays to be part of the Hidden Histories Season in Spring 2016, presenting new and rarely performed treasures from the world of drama. This included Lorraine Hansberry’s A Raisin in the Sun about a working class family living in America on the cusp of the civil rights era; Wipers, a play by Ishy Din highlighting the contribution of South Asian soldiers during the First World War and Bring on the Bollywood, a feel-good Bollywood musical produced in association with Phizzical Theatre. This unique season told stories from another time and place, giving a voice to writers from diverse communities both here in the UK and across the wider world, as well as attracting new audiences to the theatre.

The Belgrade’s Associate Director Justine Themen said, “Theatre and the arts play a crucial role in building understanding across difference, and promoting community cohesion, something that is all the more important in the light of the challenges that the UK faces post-Brexit – so we are particularly pleased to have been presented with the UK Theatre Award for the Promotion of Diversity in this year, 2016. We will continue to build on these strong foundations to ensure that the Belgrade Theatre is a home to all the communities of the City of Coventry.”

The annual UK Theatre Awards are hosted by the UK’s leading theatre and performing arts membership organisation, who support the industry by promoting excellence, professional development, and campaigning to improve resilience and increase audiences across the sector.

Nominations were made and voted on by industry experts who have been invited to serve as panellists by the Chief Executive of UK Theatre. The Management Panel included Fiona Allen, President of UK Theatre and Chief Executive of the Birmingham Hippodrome, Julian Bird, Executive Producer of the UK Theatre Awards, Dawn Farrow, Founder and Managing Director of Boom Ents, Alistair Smith, Editor of The Stage and Deborah Williams, Producer, Writer, Performer and Director.

The awards were compèred by award-winning actor Lesley Manville, with a performance from Clare Burt and appearances from guest presenters including Dame Eileen Atkins, Owen Teale, Laura Pitt-Pulford, Don Warrington and Preeya Kalidas.

Also among this year’s UK Theatre Award Winners 2016 was Belgrade Theatre alumni, Ian McKellen, who was awarded the Outstanding Contribution to British Theatre. His illustrious career started in 1961 when he got his first job in a Belgrade production of A Man for All Seasons. He went on to appear in a further 15 Belgrade productions before moving on to perform in theatres around the country and on the big screen in numerous Hollywood blockbusters.

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