Abdul Shayek has been announced as the new artistic director and joint CEO of Tara Arts, the award-winning theatre in Wandsworth which was the first Asian, Black and ethnically diverse led theatre company in the UK.
A statement read: “Shayek’s focus in the coming weeks will be meeting the local Wandsworth community, listening to the needs of artists and establishing a space for debate and action to address the burning issues of our day.”
Shayek’s first piece of work, A Final Farewell, will explore how the people of Wandsworth say a proper goodbye to loved ones lost during Covid-19. Audiences will hear the stories of community members, while tracing their steps on journeys across the borough. The event will culminate in a celebratory finale at Tara Arts each night.
During autumn 2020 Shayek is inviting residents to come and join him on walks across Wandsworth to share stories and places of interest. He is inviting artists to join the company’s online forum Tea with Tara as a space to listen to their needs post pandemic, with a particular focus on supporting South Asian artists.
Shayek is also inviting leading thinkers, artists and community leaders to explore urgent global questions around race, climate emergency and class in a series of curated panel discussions. The first of these will be a direct response to the Black Lives Matter movement.
Abdul Shayek said:
“Tara Arts was born in response to the racist murder of a young man. Over 40 years later, in response to yet another murder, we find ourselves asking the same questions about our society, both here in the UK and across the world. Historic injustices and the distorting of narratives have led us to a point of unequivocal consensus on the need for change.
“As we move into this next chapter, Tara Arts will honour what came before, whilst throwing ourselves into the future and opening our doors wide. We will listen to those who have been affected most by this current crisis to tell us how best we can serve them. We understand our sector and society is in the midst of challenging times. We will rise to this challenge. We will seize this moment of opportunity to listen to the needs of our sector, our community, our audiences, our artists and we will support and nourish them. We will serve our local, national and global communities, develop new audiences through the work we make, challenge what theatre can be, who is making it and most importantly who has access to it. Now is the time for change.”
Sunita Pandya, chair of Tara Arts Board, said: “After a rigorous appointment process, I am thrilled that Abdul will be joining us as artistic director. Abdul brings great programming and curatorial experience, and a genuinely refreshing approach to connecting to local communities. As we look forward to the next chapter of Tara’s history, I’m excited that Abdul will be at the creative helm, driving the impact, agency and change we all know Tara can, and will, achieve.”
Abdul Shayek is the founding artistic director and CEO of Fio, an international theatre company based in Cardiff and the only Asian, Black and ethnically diverse led theatre company in Wales. He is currently working as director and dramaturg on Fio’s stage adaptation of The Orchard of Lost Souls, a novel about women and the Somali civil war, which will tour across Wales. He is also developing a virtual reality project with Bangladeshi women, as well as working on transferring a musical celebrating the life of Marcus Garvey from Jamaica to the UK.
Over the summer of 2019, Shayek worked on Orpheus in the Underworld at English National Opera with Emma Rice. He will be working with Welsh National Opera on a new project in response to Covid-19 and will also be associate director on their new opera Migrations, directed by David Poutney and composed by Will Todd.
He has worked with a range of other organisations including Contact Theatre, Theatre Royal Stratford East, RSC, the National and the Almeida. Internationally he has worked across Europe, India, Sri Lanka, Japan, South Korea and Australia. He is a visiting lecturer at the University of East London and has guest lectured at a host of other institutions.