New awards to recognise black talent in British theatre

New awards have been announced to recognise black talent in the performing arts across the UK.

Black British Theatre Awards

The Black British Theatre Awards aim to tackle “imbalance of talent” and raise awareness of black talent and black productions.

They were announced this week at an event at Century Club in London’s West End by Solange Urdang, chief executive of leading performing arts school Urdang Academy in north London.

The awards have 24 categories including best male and female actors and supporting actors, best musical or play and a host of awards to recognise the work that goes on behind the scenes. There will also be a category to recognise people who identify, nurture and develop budding talent through the stage school process.

The awards will be announced as part of a gala night in October. The categories will open for nominations on May 1, 2019. Nominations will be for productions staged between 1 August 2018 and 1 August 2019.

Urdang said: “We need an ongoing, concerted effort to raise awareness of the imbalance of talent.”

Omar F Okai, co-director of the awards, noted that the performing arts world had seen a real, positive change in the approach to black talent in the past decade but the most progress had been in the film business.

“All that hard-fought effort to raise awareness is really paying off,” he said. “ Hamilton , In the Heights, Nine Nights and the work of people such as Kwame Kwei-Armah and Sharon D Clarke have made a massive difference.

“We are seeing all-black or predominantly black casts attracting audiences and fans from every walk of life. This is really closing the divisions.”

However, both Solange and Omar said there was no room to sit back and be complacent. Two major black West End shows have announced closing this month and will be replaced by productions dominated by a white cast.

“This is not a bad thing,” Urdang added. “But it highlights a real need to keep raising awareness of black talent and black productions.”

To qualify for the awards, productions must have a cast where at least 50% are of the African diaspora and of mixed-black African and Caribbean heritage and/or the production should be based on black subject matter.

In categories for individuals, performers need to be of the African diaspora and of mixed-black African and Caribbean heritage, born or raised for the large part of their life in Britain or resident for at least three years.


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