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Talawa's artistic director reveals plans to step down

FINAL CURTAIN: Patricia Cumper is to step down as Talawa's artistic director

THE ARTISTIC director of the UK’s leading black theatre company has revealed plans to step down.

Patricia Cumper has been at the helm of the Talawa Theatre Company for the past five years during which she sensationally refused to pander to stereotypes by putting “another young dead black man” on stage.

Her emphasis on plays with a focus on romance, music or those that examined class and history helped win the support of the Arts Council who has pledged nearly £1.2 million of funding over the next three years.

The Jamaican-born Cambridge graduate said: “I’ve had a wonderful time at Talawa and handing over the company as it begins its journey as an Arts Council National Portfolio Organisation feels absolutely right.

“The company’s dynamic staff and strong partnerships mean that it is well placed to bring quality Black British work to national audiences, to support the development of new and established theatre makers and to continue to change lives with its popular participation work. I look forward to watching it go from strength to strength.”

Cumper will leave in early 2012 after completing the current season of work marking Talawa’s 25th anniversary.

Highlights include a brand new production from Talawa Young People's Theatre (TYPT) – an annual summer school working with young performing talent.

Taking inspiration from This is England 1986-2011, the cast will perform a devised piece at the Lilian Baylis Theatre between August 25 – 27.

It culminates with a new production Waiting for Godot, featuring an all-black cast, in association with West Yorkshire Playhouse.

Talawa chairman Benhamin Yeoh said: “Pat has been an invaluable and brilliant leader in nurturing and growing Talawa, while bringing her talents to bear in the wider theatre sector.

“I’d like to thank her for years of tireless service to Talawa and wish her the best for the future.”

The position is now being advertised and a new artistic director will be announced in October.

Talawa was founded in 1986 by actors Yvonne Brewster, Carmen Munroe, Mona Hammond and Inigo Espejel to provide opportunities for actors from minority ethnic backgrounds and bring black culture to a wider audience.

Over the past 25 years, it has helped nurture new talent and presented productions ranging from African classics, Shakespeare, Oscar Wilde to Black British offerings.

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