Gbolahan Obisesan, artistic director and CEO of Brixton House, the new theatre being built on Coldharbour Lane in Brixton, is one of more than 400 signatories to a letter urging leading theatres and producers to take action for a more inclusive British theatre.
The letter, from Black actors and other theatre workers, said hopes had been raised after many theatres and producers posted messages of support for the Black Lives Matter movement, adding: “this optimism was tinged with the realism of our lived experience whilst working alongside many of you and the times when you have failed us”.
Research by Arts Council England found that in 2015 only 5% of some London theatres’ employees were from a BAME background. More than 40% of Londoners are from minority ethnic backgrounds.
The letter sets out a series of measures the industry should take “as a signal of intent to create anti-racist workplaces”, in areas including recruitment, reviews and outreach.
On outreach, the letter says young people now in the education system “must not be dissuaded or denied access because of the colour of their skin or their parents’ financial situation”.
It calls on both subsidised and commercial theatres to identify pupils and young people from minority and disadvantaged backgrounds to take part in educational performances and workshops.
In an interview with The Guardian last month Gbolahan Obisesan, who is a playwright and actor, warned that diverse talent does not trust the theatre sector and that the pandemic means “already disenfranchised creatives of colour and freelance artists will be even more under-represented and pushed out; meaning moving away from the industry completely. The social economics of people being priced out of buildings and shows will persist, and audiences and auditoriums will become devastatingly whitewashed.”