Saturday 01 October 2022 marks the start of Black History Month. Throughout October, we’ll be highlighting stories of local Black heroes, signposting upcoming events, and sharing our theatre’s commitment to representation, equity and inclusion. We will be celebrating the history and contributions of Black African, Caribbean and diaspora communities in our Borough and across East London.
We’re starting by looking back at the history of Black History Month and why it matters to us as a community and an organisation here and now.
The history of Black History Month
Black History Month was instigated in the US during the 1960s and 70s by Black academic thinkers, who were dissatisfied with the prevailing anti-blackness taught in American schools and in higher education. With the arrival of the Windrush generations, the same movement arrived at British shores during the 1970s.
In short, Black History Month was founded through the social and political struggle of Black educators, who witnessed the distortions of the Black experience at all levels of education. They sought to reform education as a way to tackle structural racism.
Why is Stratford East celebrating Black History Month?
Stratford East is based in Newham, which is one of the most culturally diverse and youngest boroughs in the country.
71% of Newham’s population is made up of communities from the Global Majority (click here to read our statement on language). Newham has seen waves of migration from South Asia and the Caribbean in the last century. By the 1930s, Newham was home to the largest Black community in London. The 1960s saw the arrival of South Asian and Afro-Caribbean populations.
Stratford East is proud to represent our culturally and socially diverse community in the work we make and the stories we tell on our stage. We recognise our long-term commitment to Black history and amplifying the Global Majority voices that shape our community.
As a producing theatre, built in 1884, we have a proud history and exciting future, but importantly have a responsibility to represent our culturally and socially diverse community in the work we make, the people we employ, and our audiences and participants.
Closing the Gap
Stratford East has a long and proud history of programming Black theatre, with a legacy of providing a platform for creatives and local East London communities from the Global Majority. Nonetheless, these groups continue to be underrepresented in the creative industries.
As such, Closing The Gap, a Stratford East committee, was created in 2020. The committee is dedicated to levelling the playing field for Stratford East’s Black, Asian and Global Majority staff. The committee strives to increase staff sense of belonging and increase ethnic representation at senior management level.
The group meet monthly to drive and implement cultural change at Stratford East. The committee are currently working to develop HR and recruitment processes, as well as supporting the creation of a microaggression policy for Stratford East in the long term.
Closing The Gap is currently Co-Chaired by Maya Pindar (Learning Projects Manager) and Rosalind Burkett-Wenham (PA to the Directors).