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Omar F Okai Omar F Okai
Co-Director of The Black British Theatre Awards, recognising black talent across the performing arts.

28/02/2019 10PM | GUEST | Karina H Maynard


Hollywood appears to have got its act together. However, despite the Hamilton factor, when it comes to black performers in London’s West End the struggle to get on stage is in danger of stalling.


That’s according to theatre school legend Solange Urdang, whose pupils and proteges past and present appear on stage across the globe every night.


Ms Urdang is announcing the launch of UK wide awards to recognise black talent across the performing arts.


The Black British Theatre Awards will be officially announced at a launch event at the Century Club at 4pm on March 4th 2019. The awards ceremony and gala night will take place in October this year. 


Co-Director of the Awards, Omar F Okai says the performing arts world has seen a real, positive change in the approach to black talent in the past decade but the most progress has been in the film business.


“All that hard-fought effort to raise awareness is really paying off,” says Omar.


“Hamilton, In the Heights, Nine Nights and the work of people such as Kwame Kwei-Armah and Sharon D Clarke have made a massive difference. We are seeing all black or predominantly black casts attracting audiences and fans from every walk of life. This is really closing the divisions.”


However, both Solange and Omar say there is no room to sit back and be complacent. Two major black West End shows have announced closing this month and will be replaced by productions dominated by a white cast.


“This is not a bad thing,” says Solange. “But it highlights a real need to keep raising awareness of black talent and black productions.


“We need an ongoing, concerted effort to raise awareness of the imbalance of talent” says Solange.


This is where the Black British Theatre Awards come in.


The Black British Theatre Awards has 24 categories including best male and female actors and supporting actors, best musical or play and a host of awards to recognise the work which goes on behind the scenes.


“We felt it was so important to recognise talent right across the production process,” says Omar.


The BBTA have also created a category for all those people who recognise budding talent, nurture it and develop it through the stage school process.


 

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