“We — over here at tfhq — are many things but we’re not complacent. Whilst we’re a regularly funded organisation with the privilege of national portfolio funding which allows us the certainty to plan, there isn’t a week that goes by when we don’t interrogate why a company like ours — committed to telling stories about the African heritage diaspora in Britain, inching towards our 21st birthday, with our third artistic director and in our (at least) sixth home — still exists in big twenty-eighteen. We’re constantly checking that we’re not only fit for purpose, but that we have purpose.
When I took over the company in 2014, I saw my job — with its complex job description — as simply one of subversion. I made it our responsibility to use all our resources and our one show a year to counter the mainstream theatre culture which seemed obsessed with (re)telling a handful of singular narratives about what it meant to be African heritage. Like fixated on it. I know it meant thinking beyond my own tastes and interests, knew it would feel (internally) like a company that responded but in doing so, we’d set a new agenda. A multiple and intersectional one that undermined, subverted and proved and poked.
When we look around in 2018, we continue to feel the urgency of our role in the culture — as strong as it was when Femi founded the company in 1997. With a newly articulated vision and mission, we’re pledging to play our part in generating a richer, more multiple mainstream theatre culture by championing stories that illuminate the mixed, multiple experience of what it is to be of African heritage in Britain today so that — in our contemporary, changing society — the African diaspora experience provides a lens for us all to see our lives.
We can’t do this without artists. Artists lead our organisation — literally in the role of the Artistic Director / CEO — but also as the beating heart pumping furious, hungry and determined blood around our organs. At tiata fahodzi, we stan for artists. We spend our mornings talking about the ways they unlocked worlds with words in the show we saw the night before, our days in meetings hunched over oat milk lattes sharing research and podcasts and matching making artists with questions, we get distracted from budgets and agendas laughing at what this one RTed, what that one clapped back to that one, how this one nailed how we felt when that thing happened, our evenings dodging micro-aggressions in the rush hour to get to that venue the we said we’d never go back to but we love you and that’s where you are. WE. STAN. HARD.
So, we’ve made this stan culture policy over here. In reviewing what we do and why we do it, we’ve made a pledge at the heart of our artistic ambitions and a promise to you, bold, beautiful black artists who do what you do even when you’re overlooked and undervalued by the industry that is supposed to cherish you.
the tf black play pledge
We want to be the foremost champion and cheerleaders of work by African heritage artists, we’re your biggest fans. If a show is written by a black writer, then we’ll be there to support and applaud as we recognise that your work can galvanise and encourage us and our work. In London, we’ll see all work by black writers — no matter the level of production (scratch, fringe, produced), and further afield — across England — we’ll watch scratch work online (if available) and see fully produced fringe or subsidised work by black writers.
We’ll search for and go to see all the work out there and accept every invitation we receive (as much as possible), paying for our tickets so that you (the black artist) doesn’t lose income as a result of our attendance. We’ll let you know we’re coming and let the world know by repping you on the socials because if it’s not on instagram, did it really happen?
We want you to know that we’ll turn up for you — we know what it takes to make something happen and you need to know that we see you. We promise you. We got you. We promise that we got you.”
natalie ibu is the Artistic Director & CEO of tiata fahodzi.