Dermot’s Blog: Look Backwards, Move Forwards

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Happy New Year!

It’s at the end and the beginning of a year that many people look back on their achievement and forward toward their goals. The month of January is named for Janus the god of – amongst other things – beginnings and he is often pictured as having two faces.

I’d like to, like Janus, look backwards to move forward.

Freedom Studios has been part of the careers of many well known artists and I’d like to take a moment to celebrate them and their accomplishments.

Kash Arshad was appointed as Freedom Studios’ Trainee Artistic Director in 2017 and in his time with the company he led on a number of projects which were squarely aimed at and for those who were or could be new to the industry, diversifying the stories that are – and could – be told. When he was appointed he said: ‘Increasing the diversity in the leadership of British Theatre seems more important than ever and I’m honoured to be given this chance to change and inspire.’

After completing his tenure with the critically acclaimed Black Teeth and a Brilliant Smile which was reviewed as ‘a celebration of fierce, resilient women’ Kash has gone on to direct an Olivier nominated show and is currently Associate Director of the Stephen Joseph in Scarborough.

In 2002 Madani Younis was appointed as the Director of Asian Theatre School, the former name of Freedom Studios. It isn’t a big stretch to say that Freedom Studios’ existence owes much to what Madani brought to the company. Before leaving the company in 2011 he produced ‘The Mill – City of Dreams’, a groundbreaking promenade performance showcasing Bradford stories by Bradford people – seeking ‘not only to inform and educate about the history of Bradford, but also dispel modern day preconceptions about certain areas of Bradford’. After leaving the company Madani went to The Bush and the Southbank Centre and is currently at The Shed in Manhattan, New York. From Manningham to Manhattan!

Kully Thiarai is, this year, very much in the news – and rightly so. As the CEO of Leeds2023, she is overseeing a huge programme of arts in our neighbouring city. The launch of Leeds2023, The Awakening, showcased the diversity of the city and the stories that are contained within. This comes as no surprise as Kully’s relationship with the company goes back to its inception and her subsequent work has seen no let up in her commitment to creating opportunities for people and places and her commitment to shouting about the great work that Freedom exists to do – indeed Madani is an artistic associate of Leeds 2023! From Bradford to Manchester to Leicester Haymarket to Doncaster to Wales and back to Yorkshire – there’s something special about this part of the country – home?

Aina J Khan was a Freedom Studios’ associate artist between 2017 and 2018 and wrote the brilliant BDStory Pashto Thriller. A new playwright, Aina has used her skill – no doubt emboldened by her time with Freedom to write for The Guardian, The New York Times and has recently started work with NBC! Whilst Aina hasn’t yet found the time to write a follow up to Pashto Thriller, her ability with storytelling is most definitely a factor in her success and we’re consistently pleased to hear of her continued success.

Ben Tagoe is a Street Voices alumni and has gone on to huge success. He has written for Eastenders, Coronation Street, Casualty, Doctors, Stan Lee’s Lucky Man and In The Long Run and has a new show called Better Days about to hit our stages in February and March (do get your tickets) but I’d like here to highlight the show he wrote for the company – When We Were Brothers. This show, performed at the Underground in Bradford was ‘another of Freedom Studios triumphs’ and highlighted the importance of talking about men’s mental health and opened conversations that needed (and still need) to be had.

I’m sure these brilliant artists can light the way for newer artists to tell the important stories that need to be shared. They all show just how much Freedom Studios – and therefore Bradford – have given to the entertainment industry… and there are many many more success stories that I could have written about.

Superstar writer Dennis Kelly has recently had a letter penned by him shared on social media extolling the virtues and importance of new writing, new writers and the theatres that support them. We are endlessly proud to be one of those theatre companies and even more so to be one with an illustrious history and international legacy that is rooted in Bradford and therefore part of the history of the city.

With that in mind – recruitment for the new Creative Lead is in full flow, securing our future; there will be updates here as soon as there is news to share…

Let’s make 2023 the year that we all do something new, something exciting, something magical.

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