Wednesday, April 29, 2009

All Together Now? British Theatre after Multiculturalism

Michael Boyd, Richard Eyre, Vicky Featherstone, Kwame Kwei-Armah and Stewart Lee are among theatre practitioners who will be gathering at the Warwick Arts Centre near Coventry in June to discuss whether theatre has a role in defining Britishness and bringing communities together.

Titled All Together Now? British Theatre after Multiculturalism, the conference will be held over the weekend of 13-14 June 2009.

Under Labour, the arts were charged with challenging social exclusion, celebrating diversity and reasserting Britishness. But is there a contradiction between diversity and national identity? Should theatre foster cohesion or challenge it? If multiculturalism is dead, should theatre be promoting it? Is the theatre's role to encourage tolerance or provoke outrage? What has been the experience of the National Theatre of Scotland and the National Theatre on the south bank?

These and other questions will be debated during panel discussions, whose subjects will embrace national arts policy, how repertory theatres should relate to their communities, whether identity politics still has a role in drama's agenda, and if theatre should be allowed or even encouraged to offend. The conference will begin with a discussion on Shakespeare and history, led by the artistic director of the Royal Shakespeare Company, and it will end with a panel consisting of a former director of the National Theatre in London, the current director of the National Theatre of Scotland, and the chair of the 2012 Cultural Olympiad.

The current line-up of speakers includes playwrights Richard Bean, Howard Brenton and Kwame Kwei-Armah , comedian and writer Stewart Lee; directors Richard Eyre, Simon Reade, Michael Boyd (RSC) and Jonathan Church (Chichester); Barrie Rutter of Northern Broadsides and Vicky Featherstone of the National Theatre of Scotland; Stuart Rogers of the Birmingham Rep, and Lisa O'Neill-Rogan of the Bolton Octagon; academic Lynette Goddard, commentator David Aaronovitch and writer Kenan Malik; Barbara Matthews of the Arts Council, Conservative arts spokesman Ed Vaizey MP and 2012 Cultural Olympiad chair Jude Kelly.

The conference organisers are playwrights Steve Waters, Julie Wilkinson and Guild President David Edgar, playwright/academic Dan Rebellato and Janelle Reinelt of Warwick University. In December 2007 the organising group produced a sell-out one day conference on the last decade of British Theatre (How was it for us? Theatre under Blair) at the Writers' Guild Centre in Kings Cross.

The Warwick Arts Centre conference starts at 11.00am on Saturday 13 June and finishes at 4.00pm on Sunday 14June. The registration fee is £100 (£50 student rate) which includes attendance on both days and a conference banquet on Saturday evening. Onsite accommodation for the Saturday night is available at a supplement of £50. Bookings can be made at the conference website.

For other booking methods and enquiries, please contact Janelle Reinelt at

The conference is supported by generous contributions from Royal Holloway University of London, the University of Warwick, and Warwick Arts Centre.

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