tiata fahodzi,the UK’s leading British African heritage contemporary theatre company, today announces a new season of creative initiatives, appointments and productions designed to support and invest in the future of Black British artists, in celebration of its 25thanniversary.
Founded in September 1997 by playwright and director Femi Elufowoju Jr and now under the direction of its fourth Artistic Director, playwright and director, Chinonyerem Odimba, this milestone year named ‘Year of the Artist’ marks the beginning of a new chapter in the Arts Council England National Portfolio Organisation’s history.
The 25thAnniversary highlights in the ‘Year of the Artist’ include:
- Olivette Otele, the UK’s first Black female History Professor, world-renowned expert on colonial and postcolonial history and listed in 100 Great Black Britons is unveiled as anew Patron.
- tf PLAYLAB, anew annual initiative which will fund the work of six British African heritage artists and creative associates for one year. The first cohort include Artist Associates director Monique Touko, sound designer/composer Esther Kehinde Ajayi and poet/playwright Yomi Sode. Each of the Artist Associates will be working with the company to develop new ideas and forms of making work that will feed into future programming. The Creative Associates are dramaturg Zodwa Nyoni, climate change expert and BBC’s Spring watch presenter Gillian Burke and playwright Oladipo Agboluaje. In addition Robert Awosusi is appointed as tiata fahodzi’s Developing Talent Producer in a brand new role.
- Talking About A Revolution is a new triple bill of plays written by Diana Atouna, babirye bukilwaand Malaika Kegode. These new commissions will be staged together in October at Watford’s Pump House Theatre and at Bristol Old Vic.
- tf Summers focuses on tiata fahodzi’s commitment to younger and emerging theatre makers. An annual initiative, 2022’s project kicks off in August with Laugh It Off, a digital initiative designed to nurturethe next generation of comedy writing talent. In partnership with Theatre Centre.
- tf MATCH/PLAY is a one-off birthday gift to six artists based in Watford and the South East. The winning pairs, matched by tiata fahodzi from differing creative disciplines, will receive a commission to push the boundaries of what theatre is and will present their work to their local communities. Supported by the Genesis Foundation’s Kickstart Fund.
- A 25th Birthday Gala celebrationpremiering Talking About a Revolution will be held at Watford’s Pump House Theatre on 5 October.
During its 25-year history, tiata fahodzi, which means ‘theatre of the emancipated’ has produced 31 shows, toured to 75 venues across the UK and commissioned work from over 23 artists including Bola Agbaje and Roy Williams. The theatre company will also be staging a major new production, slated for 2023 at a key venue in the UK, to be announced later this year.
Artistic Director Chinonyerem Odimba comments that tiata fahodzi’s ‘Year of The Artist’programme is not only about celebrating its powerful legacy but also about creating fresh opportunities for British artists of African heritage of the future. She adds: “2022 is all about how we nurture, grow, support, and showcase their work. And given what artists have been through, particularly freelancers, in the last couple of years, it feels important that we shine a light on, and campaign for them at every stage of their careers. We want to become a home for artists; a safe place to meet us and their practice. Artists are audiences, artists are activists, artists are collaborators, artists are at the heart of what we do!”
Femi Elufowoju Jr, playwright and founder of tiata fahodzi adds: “I congratulate the company on its anniversary. I am incredibly indebted to everyone who has contributed to its strength and growth across a quarter of a century. I am also immeasurably proud of what the company has achieved in this period and eagerly anticipate the bright and beautiful future the new team under Chinonyerem Odimba will be curating for our local, national and international audience. This I hope will include continuing to interrogate how the rich cultural heritage stories from the continent and people of Africa remains hugely imperative to 21st century British theatre.”
New Patron Olivette Otele says: “I want us all to celebrate tiata fahodzi’s trajectory and powerful creative productions. The company has created paths for young artists to thrive in an industry where British African talents remain mostly unsupported and theatre companies’ projects underfunded. I am honoured and delighted to be one of their patrons.”
tiata fahodzi’s 25th anniversary programme further cements the organisation’s commitment tot he South East and its new home in the iconic Watford Colosseum by launching a series of community commissions and artist call-outs: tf MATCH/PLAY focuses on bringing art to Watford and developing joyful collaboration between different artists from British African heritage or a Global majority background; Black Earth: Resistance, Anti-Racism and the Environment in partnership with Watershed Climate Researchers, is an artist-led project that engages communities in Watford and Bristol in the climate crisis and is funded by Watford Borough Council and the National Lottery Fund. In addition, Museum Lates launches at the Watford Museum is a series of six play readings of work by Black British writers that will introduce local audiences to the Black British canon and beyond.
Kicking off its commitment to developing young talent, tiata fahodzi, launches its summer youth project,tf Summers a new annual initiative, which this year shines a light on comedy. Laugh it Off will be searching for the new generation of Black British and British-African heritage comedy writers. Aimed to encourage young voices to take up comedy writing and grow in their confidence, 16 to 21 years old can submit short videos of themselves performing a comedy sketch or joke. The final four will be showcased online and will have mentoring sessions and workshops with tiata fahodzi, in partnership with Theatre Centre.
The Birthday Gala night will premiere Talking About A Revolution, a triple bill of short plays by Diana Atouna, babirye bukilwa and Malaika Kegode. Presented together these new commissions will explore what revolution looks like in 2022 following three years of turbulence, trauma and terrorism on a global scale. The plays will also be staged for several nights at Bristol Old Vic Theatre studio from 19th Oct 2022.
To find out more about tiata fahodzi, visit here…
To read our interview with current Artistic Director Chinonyerem Odimba, visit here…