Migrant theatre makers needed for impact project

  • Date

    Wed 8 Sep 21

A group of actors, on a stage, all piled on top of each other

Are you a first-generation migrant theatre professional living in the south east? If so, our theatre experts want to hear how Brexit and Covid-19 have impacted your life and livelihood for a project aiming to build better support networks and representation.

The Global Theatre Pioneers South East project team are collecting the experiences of first-generation theatre makers through a survey which launched this week. They hope it will improve the social and economic circumstances of creatives working in the region.

The survey, which specifically explores the impact of migration policies, Brexit and Covid-19, has been launched in collaboration with Migrants in Theatre - which campaigns for better representation of UK-based migrant theatre artists.

It will be followed by interviews and professional development workshops as well as a series of artistic outputs in writing, theatre and film to provide a platform for migrant creatives.

By combining a socio-ethnographic approach with creative processes the project team hopes to increase visibility and understanding of the challenges faced by first-generation theatre makers in the region. The project is informed by existing Essex research on the impact of Covid and is thought to be the first of its kind to focus specifically on first-generation migrant theatre makers in the affluent and culturally-active south east.

Dr Mary Mazzilli
"In the aftermath of the Brexit referendum first-generation migrants in the arts and culture sector have been left behind. There is an urgent need to give voice to these communities."
Dr Mary Mazzilli department of literature, film, and theatre studies

Dr Mary Mazzilli, from Essex’s Department of Literature, Film, and Theatre Studies, herself a first-generation migrant playwright from Italy, is leading the project. She said: “In the aftermath of the Brexit referendum first-generation migrants in the arts and culture sector have been left behind.

“Covid has also highlighted just how precarious freelance work in the arts really is. There is an urgent need to give voice to these communities. Some of its members are invisible.”

It’s hoped the project will help Migrants in Theatre increase its reach into the region.

“The south east is a region with strong links to the capital, but it also has its own identity. Our project will explore the realities of those in our region who have little presence in current debates about diversity and inclusion in the arts and beyond,” added Dr Mazzilli.

Professor Renee Luthra, Director of the Essex Centre for Migration Studies, said: “Our research shows that workers with non-permanent contracts are in general more vulnerable to economic shocks from recessions, policy changes such as Brexit, and the current pandemic. Foreign-born workers are often more vulnerable to these shocks too.

“These two things combined make for a challenging situation for foreign-born theatre workers in the UK. We need to understand more about the challenges they face and provide structures of support.”

Creative responses to the survey, interviews and workshops, led by academics and practitioners, will include the making of a short film and, in the new year a roundtable discussion with theatre venues/producers from the south east, and a toolkit for regional theatre industry professionals to help them shape post-Covid planning whilst ensuring equality and diversity. People involved in the new migrant theatre makers south east network will also be able to use the toolkit to help plan their own professional development.

The project has been funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) through its Impact Acceleration Account (IAA), which aims to speed up the impact of research carried out by universities.