Thursday 1 November 2018 saw around 200 people come together to celebrate Hear Me Now: a three-year journey that has seen 34 writers work with 85 actors to produce brand new audition monologues for actors of colour, published by Oberon Books. The anthology was edited by Titilola Dawudu in partnership with Tamasha.
Our Artistic Director, Fin Kennedy, gave the audience an introduction on the night. We share that speech with you now… enjoy x
Five years ago I started a grass roots political campaign called In Battalions. It lobbied the government about the effects of cuts to the Arts Council on the development of new plays and playwrights. It all started as an article on my blog which went viral, documenting some daft remarks by the then Culture Minister Ed Vaizey when I met him. The whole thing snowballed into quite a movement within the theatre industry. The report generated numerous depressing statistics about reductions to funding levels and consequent new play commissions – with a particular effect on diverse writers and their stories. These numbers turned out to be quite important. Prior to my report they simply weren’t documented, which made it hard to argue the case at government level, as anecdotal evidence is not terribly compelling. The stats we generated with In Battalions were subsequently quoted by newspapers, at industry conferences, and used by other campaigners and lobbyists including the Arts Council themselves.
I thought of this today because I received an email, five years on, from a member of the Writers’ Guild Theatre Committee to say that she had used the In Battalions report and its statistics only this week in a meeting in Parliament. It is still relevant, and still being used.
Numbers matter. Being in print matters.
Look around you tonight – we have the numbers. And we are in print.
Looking back, I realise that what the In Battalions report did was to act as a lightning rod for an entire sector to express a grievance, and lobby for better. Crucially, it armed a resistance movement with the second best weapon any resistance movement can utilise – facts.
The principle behind Hear Me Now is the same – if we playwrights can arm our actor colleagues with killer material in auditions, we might, just might, be able to catalyse change. The representations in this book will soon be making an appearance in auditions around the UK. These characters live and breathe and are about to come to life. Casting directors won’t be able to escape – we are coming at them, and asking them to do better.
The second best weapon is facts. So what’s the first? Stories. Nothing can move the human heart like a story.
I’m sometimes asked if I think theatre can change the world. I don’t think it can. But it can change people. And people can change the world.
Actors, these are your stories. Your ammunition. A gift from your playwright comrades.
Go forth and fight for better.
Hear Me Now is a unique collection of over 80 original audition pieces written by and for actors of colour. Published by Oberon Books, the anthology has been commissioned by Tamasha and edited by Titi Dawudu, with a foreword by Noma Dumezweni.