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UD, The Head Wrap Diaries, The Place_Two performers embracing on stage.

Black Lives Matter: We Reflect

Stephen Crocker looks back at the work Norwich Theatre have undertaken to improve equality, both on and off-stage, in our community.

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Three years ago we made a conscious decision to change, bringing more diversity into our work, and to collaborate with new voices. From this we started our Creative Matters programme, which for two different months each year, give a whole organisational focus on exploring the stories and people connected to an important topic.

THE SUIT_BALLET BLACK, BARBICAN,Choreographer; CATHY MARSTEN

Each season has seen a huge amount of variety being embedded into our creative programme, ensuring our work becomes more inclusive. We have been lucky to work with incredible companies & creatives, including Acosta Danza, Ballet Black, Nelson T Gombakomba, Phosphoros Theatre, Racheal Young and Uchenna Dance. We have learnt a great deal, especially with regards to the seasons which focused on Black British Identity, and on Refugees and Asylum Seekers; though we recognise we still must expand our knowledge and educate ourselves further.

Acosta1_246 low res

The performances we have scheduled have become more representative of different cultures, but this work goes further. Away from our stage, this year we have been officially recognised as a Theatre of Sanctuary. This national movement recognises organisations who provide a place of safety, hospitality and support for refugees and asylum seekers. Through this process, we have been able to assess who we are, who we work with and how we work. It is about providing a warm welcome to everyone, it is about supporting voices to be heard and stories to be told.

Male actor holding a cloth.

Last week, we stood together with six other venues in the city of Norwich, to make a pledge to condemn all forms of racism and to use our platform to champion Black voices and Black creatives. We want to be more proactive in engaging new audiences, improving the diversity within our staff/volunteer base and make new partnerships. There is still lots more to do and this pledge, plus our statements on social media, are all part of that ongoing commitment. In the next few months, we hope to share more about this work.

Stand-up Comedian Nelson Gombakomba performing on stage.