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A black theatre company has pulled out of a season at the Birmingham Rep in autumn 2021 after the venue announced it was hosting a Nightingale court.
Talawa, established as the first professional black theatre company in Britain in 1986, was due to stage a “Black Joy” season at Birmingham Rep. But it said it was forced to pull out after the theatre announced its decision, along with the library of Birmingham, to hire out spaces to the Ministry of Justice for court cases from December 2020 to June 2021.
The temporary Nightingale courts in England and Wales were established to deal with the backlog of legal cases brought about by the Covid-19 pandemic.
The theatre company said in a statement: “Talawa’s purpose is to champion Black excellence in theatre; to nurture talent in emerging and established artists of African and Caribbean heritage, and to tell inspirational and passionate stories reflecting Black experiences through art.
“The decision Birmingham Rep have taken to host a Nightingale court does not align with Talawa’s commitment to Black artists and communities, the communities most affected by this decision.”
The decision to host a Nightingale court “threatened the integrity of the Black Joy season” and made the partnership with Birmingham Rep untenable, the statement continued.
The Ministry of Justice will occupy two out of the three theatre spaces and associated meeting rooms in the theatre and library, while the Rep will retain use of the largest theatre and all backstage and office areas.
The courts would hear civil, family and tribunals cases as well as non-custodial crime cases, the theatre said, adding that sentencing would not take place on site. It said the court operation would be separate from the theatre operation and would not operate concurrently.
“This is a financially based decision made in the context of exceptional circumstances and will provide a much-needed financial contribution to the Rep at a time when it is unable to generate income from other sources,” the theatre said.
The Birmingham Rep released a second statement following criticism on social media “to reiterate that we are reading all of your comments and listening to what you are saying”.
The Rep added: “We passionately believe that the Rep must be a theatre for all of Birmingham’s people and communities. In no way have we wished to put any artists or partners of ours in a compromised position – either now or in the future – and recognise that this very difficult decision has impacted on that wish.
“Acknowledging this, we are now urgently working towards finding a forum which will enable us to have a face-to-face conversation with all individuals who wish to be part of one, where we can respond personally in a facilitated, open and honest dialogue.”
Source: The Guardian
Keyword: Black company pulls out of Birmingham theatre over Nightingale court | Talawa (theatre company)