If you are visiting the Unfinished Histories site for the first time you can find Interviewee pages for practitioners of colour here: Jamal Ali, Poulomi Desai, George Eugeniou, Mustapha Matura, Jacqueline Rudet, Nabil Shaban
There are also shorter Individual pages for:
The Individuals list includes people active in alternative theatre during the timeframe c1968 to 1990 – performers, directors, writers, designers, musicians amongst others, including lots more Black British names. Long-term we hope to create pages for each person or link to material elsewhere on the web. If you have names, images and information to contribute to an existing page or if you would like to write a page for someone mentioned here or who should be mentioned here, please contact us.
and a Venue page for Keskidee Centre
Unfinished Histories is hoping to create more pages and do more Interviews in this area. If you would like to help with this work, or support us financially, please get in touch. See Areas of Work: Black and Asian for a list of Companies in need of pages – and tell us if a Company is missing!
Susan Croft writes:
Over the course of some years I have been involved in a number of projects to document Black, Asian and – to a lesser extent, other minority ethnic theatre in Britain, much of it work that was part of the alternative theatre movement. These pages seek to make that material more accessible in hopes that this research will continue to be useful to encourage more productions, study and recognition of the history of Black theatre in Britain and an important body of work, much of which remain under-acknowledged.
Back in the late 1980s, the organisation I was running at the time New Playwrights’ Trust (NPT), which had as its remit encouraging in particular ‘playwrights from groups currently under-represented or misrepresented in the theatre industry’. This statement was focused on trying to support women, Black, gay and lesbian and other playwrights to write work from their own experience.
As part of that aim NPT collaborated with Black Audio-Visual Collective to distribute a questionnaire to Black and Asian writers to begin to map who had written what where for a Black Writers for Stage and Screen’ database project. I also worked with Second Wave Young Women’s Project at The Albany Empire to set up a new writing festival in 1986 and 1987. Based as it was in Deptford, with a large black community, this project was particularly focused on getting young black women to write from their experience. With lots of workshops, staged readings, panels and mentoring sessions, the festival resulted on many young women writing plays. It also resulted in the publication of two anthologies Dead Proud: from Second Wave Young Women Playwrights edited by Ann Considine and Robyn Slovo (Women’s Press, 1987) which included plays or extracts by Trish Cooke, Nandita Ghose, Lisselle Kayla, Pauline Jacobs & the Bemarro Sisters, and A Netful of Holes developed by Cath Kilcoyne with a group of young local women. Second Wave Plays: Women at the Albany Empire ed. Frances Gray, (Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, 1990) included Killean Gideon’s play England is De Place for Me and Nandita Ghose’s Ishtar Descends.
At that time I had already published an interview with Theatre of Black Women, started by Bernardine Evaristo, Patricia Hilaire and Paulette Randall, who had met at Rose Bruford College of Theatre and Drama. It appeared in the short-lived journal The Plot in issue 3 in 1986 and can be found here. In recent years I created a page for the company on this web site and have featured their posters and extracts from Bernardine Evaristo’s Pyeyucca in Unfinished Histories and feminist exhibitions and events.
As a result of the work with Second Wave and NPT I was invited to contribute an essay on ‘Black Women Playwrights in Britain’ to the collection. British and Irish Women Dramatists Since 1958, edited by Trevor Griffiths and Margaret Llewellyn Jones (Open University Press, 1992). Based on research from 1987-1990, it sought to document the upsurge of work by Black and Asian women that really took off in the 1980s. Frustratingly, the original, specific bibliography I created to include every Black and Minority Ethnic woman playwright I could find (many of them unpublished), was absorbed within the general bibliographical listing of playwrights in the book, effectively re-invisibilising many of those writers. It drew on listings in Time Out, Spare Rib, Black Arts in London, Artrage, Bazaar, the NPT newsletter and other sources, including reviews by the late, much-lamented Naseem Khan, my own lists of plays seen and leaflets and flyers I picked up wherever I could, some of them now in Unfinished Histories collections at Bishopsgate Institute. It was limited by my resources, which meant it tended to be Londoncentric, however then it already listed more than 60 individual playwrights as well as collective works and also gave some information on African and African American women produced in Britain around that time. Here you can find the essay and here the original Bibliography, slightly updated to 1993. As far as possible dates have been added: this is not always possible as a lack of dates on flyers bedevils any historian of alternative theatre! Any additional information about women plays/playwrights produced in this period, especially outside London, would be gratefully received.
Later I put together a Bibliography of Black Playwrights in Britain in Print. This appeared in the Aurora Metro anthology Black and Asian Plays Anthology ed. Cheryl Robson, (2000) and in a revised version in 2003 as part of the publication Black and Asian Performance at the Theatre Museum: a User’s Guide (for more information see below). This aimed to list every play by a Black or Asian playwright that I knew to have been published up to that point.
Another key online resource on is the National Theatre’s Black Plays Archive. Please note that the National Theatre Archive is an online resource and only holds information about plays, not scripts, unless they were done by the NT themselves. The Future Histories resource at Goldsmiths, University of London is a physical archive of Nitro/Black Theatre Co-op, MotiRoti and Black Theatre Forum with a web site currently in the process of being updated (as of Nov 2020). Unfinished Histories archive at Bishopsgate Institute includes a number of unpublished plays by Black and Asian writers and lots of articles, reviews, documents, as well as a library of published books and scripts on Black and Asian arts and theatre.
More resources to follow soon.