Bush Theatre announces programme to champion BAMER artists

The Bush Theatre has today announced UP NEXT, a new development programme to champion the next generation of visionary BAMER (Black, Asian, Minority Ethnic and Refugee) leaders and artists, in partnership with Artistic Directors of the Future and Battersea Arts Centre. Arts Council Englands Sustained Theatre Fund has pledged £295,000 towards the initiative.

Over the course of the next two years, seven members of Artistic Directors of the Future – a network organisation for the next generation of BAMER Arts leaders – will gain hands-on experience across a range of disciplines – including artistic direction, producing, programming, fundraising, marketing and production. They will also receive support through networking, mentoring and leadership development. Collectively, the group will have the opportunity to create and lead a two-month takeover season of new work at both the Bush Theatre and Battersea Arts Centre.

Designed by the Bush Theatre alongside Artistic Directors of the Future and in a partnership with Battersea Arts Centre, UP NEXT aims to drive positive change for BAMER artists, to introduce new artists and approaches to the British theatre scene, to explore and implement new approaches to organisational change, and to encourage more UK theatres to take on their own UP NEXT programme in future years.

Madani Younis, Bush Theatre Artistic Director, said: “UP NEXT is based on a shared understanding that a generation of BAMER development projects have struggled to deliver their intended impact across our sector. We needed to go bigger: No more hand holding; no more short-lived schemes; no more waiting for permission. UP NEXT will give BAMER artists the opportunity to take the keys, take the budgets, take the space and change the game at the core of our artistic institutions. It is designed to change our theatres and feed in to the succession of their leadership and I cant wait to see the results. 

Simeilia Hodge-Dallaway, Founder & Managing Director of Artistic Directors of the Future, said: “UP NEXT is a significant and vital extension to the work we carry out at Artistic Directors of the Future. We have outstanding culturally diverse leaders in our community and, through our partnership with the Bush Theatre and Battersea Arts Centre, we will be able to showcase and empower these individuals by providing a unique hands-on leadership opportunity across two of the UKs most iconic producing theatres. This project will not only support the career development of our members but it will also challenge the status quo, increase the visibility of the UKs culturally diverse leaders and introduce a new model to create positive change for generations to come. We are thrilled to be working with the Bush Theatre and Battersea Arts Centre to redress the balance of culturally diverse leadership in producing theatres across the UK.”

David Jubb, Battersea Arts Centre Artistic Director & CEO, said:“Development schemes for BAMER artists and leaders can play an important role, but unless cultural organisations provide meaningful opportunities for significant risk-taking and unless they are prepared to be changed by those collaborations, then the progress towards a more diverse sector will continue to be painfully slow. We’re really excited to have co-developed UP NEXT with Artistic Directors of the Future and the Bush Theatre and look forward to seeing if we can test a model that could be adopted and adapted more widely.”

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