Workers Theatre group rallies Scotland to support its diverse artists

Nathanael Williams

Playwrights and artists unite to give a voice to underrepresented groups in Scottish theatre 

A NEW WORKER’S THEATRE is being launched to create a co-operatively owned and managed theatre in Scotland and promote the work of ethnic minority artists in Scotland.

Started by Sara Shaarawi, a Glasgow playwright, translator and performer from Cairo the project hopes to build support and funding to help ethnic writers bring their stories to the Scottish stage.

In an age of Trump where Scotland’s artistic and political community have expressed unity in the fact of discrimination, they both hope that their residency programme ‘Megaphone will attract support from the public.

Annie George who won the Saltire Bursary 2016 for new emerging black and ethnic minority writers in Scotland told CommonSpace: “Scottish artists of colour need to tell their stories, in their own words, and through characters that look like them.  They need to be visible, if theatre in Scotland is to reflect its people, and be relevant.”

Megaphone has already support from trade unions, politicians and other artists but with 14 days to go has raised nearly £5,000 of its £11,000 target.

Although the organisers worry that without enough support the chance to support writers from ethnic minority backgrounds will be missed. A spokesperson for the group said: “If we don’t manage to raise the total then none of this happens. It’s all or nothing. So it really matters that we get the word out.”

In the last twenty years with Scottish theatre making famed staged adaptations such as Black Watch and Lanark it is still thought that the industry is too class based and not open to multi-ethnic writers and actors.

“The project is a great opportunity for Scotland to live up to its claims of diversity and inclusivity”. Sara Shaarawi

If the residency project of the Workers Theatre reaches its funding goal it will sponsor three writers, giving them chances to be published in one of Scotland’s premier literary publications, Gutter magazine, as well as receiving mentoring and a chance to publicly produce their work.

Also speaking to CommonSpace Sara Shaarawi, who has had her work performed in the Tron, CCA and Traverse theatres, said: “The project is a great opportunity for Scotland to live up to its claims of diversity and inclusivity.

“This whole project began for me with my feeling that there’s lots of chat about how important it is to work towards diversity in the arts, but not enough work is being done towards realising it. The reality is box-ticking has created an unwanted sense of competition with other writers of colour. I look at my colleague’s work thinking ‘I wonder which one of us will tick the diversity box this year.”

“I love Scottish theatre and I want us to work together to make it more vibrant, more diverse and just genuinely exciting. I’m tired of chatting about it all the time (theatres love to chat), I would like us to go out and find these people and stories that are missing from our stages. If institutions and venues don’t have the resources to do so, then it’s time for the community to come together and open up those opportunities.”

The fundraising for Megaphone residency ends on March 8.

Picture courtesy of Workers Theatre

Check out what people are saying about how important CommonSpace is. Pledge your support today.