Coronavirus: Theatre leaders warn progress on diversity could ‘fall by the wayside’ due to COVID-19 | Ents & Arts News

More than 60 artistic directors have called on the government to help ensure the COVID-19 pandemic does not push back the progress made on diversity in the industry in recent years.

Arts leaders including Kwame Kwei-Armah, of the Young Vic, Cassa Pancho of Ballet Black, and Yamin Choudury of Hackney Empire have expressed their concerns in a letter to Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden.

Citing stars including Idris Elba, Dev Patel, John Boyega and Cynthia Erivo as just a handful of British actors who have gone on to become international names, the letter says steps must be taken to ensure this continues.

British actor Idris Elba speaks to the media ahead of the "Defeating Ebola: Sierra Leone" conference in central London, on October 2, 2014
The group have cited stars such as Idris Elba and Cynthia Erivo (below) as examples of the ‘great British success story’
Cynthia Erivo

The world of arts and entertainment is just one industry hit hard by the coronavirus crisis, with theatres, cinemas and other venues closed.

“Throughout the last decade, British theatre has led the world with regard to the black, Asian and ethnic diversity on our stages,” the letter says.

“Many of those actors are now international names: John Boyega, Idris Elba, Gemma Chan, Dev Patel, Cynthia Erivo, Daniel Kaluuya, Benedict Wong, Cush Jumbo, Letitia Wright, the list goes on.

“Equally as exciting, the last few years have seen an explosion of world-leading black, Asian and ethnically diverse artists transforming major UK theatrical organisations, from touring, to off-West End, to pioneering regional theatres and cultural institutions.

“Our programming choices have demonstrated that inclusivity is a major contributor to our success.

“The COVID-19 crisis threatens all aspects of the theatrical ecology, but catalysed by the revelations of the racial disparity in the health crisis, this group of black, Asian and ethnically diverse artistic leaders call on the government and the sector to ensure the progress we have collectively made does not fall by the wayside.”

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The letter says that any taskforce set up to discuss the future of the arts must include consultation from black and Asian leaders.

“We insist that ethnic diversity is protected and celebrated in policy going forwards and propose that any taskforce or group gathering to speak about the future of our industry seeks out consultation from black, Asian and ethnically diverse leaders to ensure this commitment,” it says.

“We are a great British success story, and will be essential to the arts returning at full strength and playing its part in our nation’s recovery.”

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