My view on this article is a pretty panoramic view (and yes thank you to the various conservative administrations, both central and regional over the years the arts sector has been decimated by their ingrained philistine view).
The nub of the problem is that we continue to have to deal with strata of arts arbiters, purse string holders, gatekeepers, commissioners etc who are majorly white, male and Oxbridge educated. Many have bought into, associate themselves with, subscribe to “diversity” but that is just not good enough. Diversity might be the gate which the arts sector has finally opened but inclusion is the key that will open the inner sanctum. And that key is still firmly in the grasp of those (many of whom) have no idea what it means to be a twenty-first-century British person. What identity and culture is for modern Britishers. We are fed a predominantly, mono-tonal cultural diet, especially on the small and large screen. Even on our stages colour continues to be divisive instead of inclusive. Until such time that ALL NPO, funded theatre companies start to embrace every aspect of diversity; which means substantive inclusion, engagement and active development then the drought and dearth of British writers and the diversity that they can bring to the stage will continue to elude us all. It will continue to feed into the lack of diversity on our stages when it comes to casting BAME actors in protagonistic roles. We will continue to see plays written by writers about subjects and themes that they are not personally or intimately connected to.
Now a writer can write about whatever he or she wants. But hearing the crafted words from an East Asian about the historical injustices suffered by say a Chinese serving in the British Chinese Labour Corps is not the same as a play penned by a well researched white writer – it just isn’t. It also allows for the continuation of cultural appropriation, using cultures merely as coat racks from which to hang a piece. Where foreignness and culture become a set dressing. It condones and enables (some) organisations to justify Yellowface and Yellow-voice. And it carves an even deeper path and precedent for only certain writers (usually not of colour) to be the only ones that can write historical costume dramas.
I get it you can’t just let loose an untried and untested writer. There are plenty of BAME writers out there. The ones that have made it, in my honest opinion, are not celebrated or performed as much as they should be by our nationally funded theatres. There are others just teetering on the cusp and unlike their white colleagues, many of us BAME writers don’t get the break or the backing to move onto the next rung. I see much new writing and I have to question how did xxx manage to get funding when xxx was much better or more worthy. Yes, it is subjective but hell surely those in the literary departments can tell good writing from bad? Pieces that have potential and those that don’t – maybe not.
At the end of the day until organisations, venues, theatres, producers, purse holders, funders and gatekeepers actually substantively embrace diversity, actively invite writers from under-represented sections of British society (BAME – East Asian, Women over 50, disabled, transgender) nurture them, invest in them i.e. pay them, commission them; no more endless scratch and R&D, but actual projection and goals into full professional production. Then and only then will we start to see the real diversity, the real cornucopia of writing that modern multicultural, poly ethnic Britain has to offer.