Article by Alix Harris, Director
The idea of Beyond Face came about a few years ago when I was working on various diversity projects in the city. I noticed that there was a distinct lack of Black and Asian young people appearing in theatres and arts spaces in the city. The idea of a company just for black and minority ethnic (BME) young people remained a thought for a couple of years.
Last year I met with Bid Mousaku from Eclipse Theatre. They were bringing their show Sizwe Banzi to the Theatre Royal and he asked me why I still remained in Plymouth as BME artist? I told him that it was because of the young people I work with and how important it is for them to have role models as that wasn’t something that was available to me when I was their age. I told him about my idea for the company and he said that just from his first visit to Plymouth, it needed to happen in the city.
From that I applied to Real Ideas Organisation’s New Waves funding scheme to do some research and development workshops with BME young people in the city. The results found that many of them were to afraid to audition or turn up to a class in the city because they were afraid of being judged by their skin colour. They weren’t aware of theatre and dance companies that existed who were professionals with the same skin colour as them. They wanted to be more involved in the arts but their skin colour was holding them back. From this Beyond Face was born.
“In Plymouth there is a lot of racism especially with Asians girls that are Muslims and wear their head scarf, they get called all types of names and the main line that is thrown about a lot is “go back to your country” and that’s what makes them feel alone and they can’t stand up to nothing like plays in school because of their colour or where they come from and their religion and socialising with their school mates because society in Plymouth does not approve of things like this, so that’s why I think this company will be good for them to all meet up have fun meet new people and do plays and things they love to build their confidence up. This company can change who they are to a more confident person.”
– Young Person, at a consultation workshop
There are two key strands to Beyond Face that intertwine; a professional BME theatre company and a BME youth company. The aim is to make professional work that is more visible and encourages BME young people to access arts and culture in the city. A significant objective of the project is that the two activities will work towards increasing the diversity of audiences in Plymouth through making work and going to see performances.
The youth company will be launching in the summer, and the professional piece opened the Plymouth Fringe Festival and will be developed in the Autumn – watch this space for Beyond Face’s work.