Sheffield theatres get backing to reach out to more diverse audiences

Angela Wynter and Ashley Zhangazha in Eclipse Theatre's production A Raisin in The Sun at the Crucible Studio
Angela Wynter and Ashley Zhangazha in Eclipse Theatre's production A Raisin in The Sun at the Crucible Studio

Sheffield Theatres has won a £150,000 boost from the Arts Council for its work in bringing more black and minority ethnic staff and audience members into its theatres.

The Change Makers funding will enable the theatre to appoint Javaad Alipoor, artistic director of Bradford-based theatre company Northern Lines, as an artist in residence.

It will also help to increase diversity in all areas of its work, making a real and lasting difference to the organisation and the industry as a whole.

Drawing on Javaad’s experience, Sheffield Theatres will focus on increasing its engagement with black, Asian and minority ethnic communities and artists, creating significant changes in its audiences, programming, recruitment and integrated casting.

Additionally, three new trainee jobs will be created to increase diversity within the workforce.

Sheffield-based Eclipse Theatre, the country’s leading black-led national touring company, has also been awarded £500,000 by the Arts Council to work with 10 other organisations to deliver a programme supporting more than 1,200 black artists in the North.

The Sustained Theatre funding will support Eclipse's work to increase the artists' access to local, national and international networks and opportunities.

Eclipse artistic director Dawn Walton said: “This funding award is a testament to the work Eclipse has undertaken to change the theatre landscape both on and off stage – to better reflect the diverse demographic of our society.

"We have consulted dozens of black artists working in theatre in the UK and they all said the same thing – they feel as if they are working on the periphery of the industry; constrained by an archaic ‘top-down’ approach to theatre programming, leading to a glass ceiling in terms of scale of work they can produce.

"We also spoken to our audiences who’ve said they want to see new work but there just isn’t enough on offer."

Sheffield Theatres’ new artistic director Robert Hastie said: "I am thrilled to be welcoming Javaad to Sheffield Theatres to take up the post of artist in residence.

"Arts Council England’s Change Makers programme will make a vital difference to organisations across the country as we continue to challenge ourselves to better reflect the places we live in on our stages and in our companies.

"I am proud that Sheffield Theatres is a part of this fantastic initiative and incredibly excited to be collaborating with Javaad, whose passion has been inspiring audiences and artists across Yorkshire.’

Javaad said: ‘Sheffield is a city that means a lot to me. It is a proud city full of history, passion, ambition and guts, and Sheffield Theatres embodies each of those qualities in the work they do.

"I’m looking forward to spending some real time in the city, contributing to it and this organisation by making theatre and working within the team.

"On a more personal level, it is a huge honour to be recognised as part of a generation of diverse artists and leaders who are working to make the leadership of the cultural industries more representative of the country itself.

"The timing is auspicious too, just as Robert Hastie is moving the theatre into new territory; the experience of working with a director and inspirational leader like this, is going to be invaluable to me."