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Warwick supporting the Advanced Programme

Warwick has been involved with a number of key performances which form part of the bid Advanced Programme. Current and planned events are detailed on the 'what's on pages'.

Honouring Ira Aldridge 150 years after his death

Belgrade Theatre pays tribute to African-American actor Ira Aldridge

Black History Month in Coventry

Festival of Imagineers returns to Coventry

Honouring Ira Aldridge 150 years after his death

earl_53.jpg earl_81.jpg

Coventry honoured the achievements of one of the greatest figures in both black history and the history of theatre with a plaque to commemorate the Midlands city’s unique links to the African American actor Ira Alridge, who died 150 years ago.

Lord Mayor Tony Skipper and guest of honour Earl Cameron CBE, along with his wife Barbara, were joined by Warwick's Provost, Christine Ennew, actors Nick Bailey and Ray Fearon to see the plaque being unveiled and a performance from Positive Youth Foundation.

Earl also gave a magical performance of a scene from Othello to the crowd who also joined in wishing the veteran actor a happy 100th Birthday for August 8th.

In 1828, in the age of slavery, Aldridge became Manager of the Coventry Theatre - the first black person ever to run a British theatre. His performances and the plays he presented led the city to petition Parliament to abolish slavery. He was only twenty.

Professor Tony Howard has led on the AHRC funded project Multicultural Shakespeare, examining the history of non-white actors and directors growing role in British cultural lifeover several generationswhich led to the discovery of Ira Aldridge and his incredible story. Read the press release in full here.

This is a very exciting moment, and there has been massive support from the University of Warwick, the Belgrade Theatre, many community groups, the Coventry City of Culture Bid 2021 – I could go on. It wouldn't have happened without the Being Human festival. It provided the seed funding that encouraged me to approach the university and the theatre to suggest collaborating on an event last November. And that in turn triggered the campaign to put a permanent reminder in the heart of the city, in the 1960s shopping precinct.

Against Prejudice: A Celebration of Ira Aldridge.

19th September, Sam Wanamaker Playhouse Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre

In September, the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse at Shakespeare’s Globe will present a revival of the drama-documentary (Belgrade Theatre November 2016) telling Aldridge’s story, followed by a discussion with historians and performers sharing their perspectives on Ira Aldridge’s importance.

With DAVID OLUSOGA, from the recent BBCTV season, Black and British: A Forgotten History and supported by the University of Warwick, the Belgrade Theatre Coventry, Shakespeare’s Globe, the Coventry City of Culture 2021 Bid, and Being Human, a festival of the Humanities led by the School of Advanced Study and University of London, in partnership with the Arts & Humanities Research Council. They are organised by Tony Howard and Warwick University’s Multicultural Shakespeare Project.


Belgrade Theatre pays tribute to African-American actor Ira Aldridge

ira_aldridge.jpgAgainst Prejudice – Ira Aldridge in Coventry 1828, Thursday 17 November 2016. 

Being a foreigner and a stranger are universal passports to British sympathy.
Ira Aldridge, 1828.

The Belgrade Theatre teamed up with Warwick’s Multicultural Shakespeare Project and The Coventry City of Culture Bid 2021 to present an event honouring the remarkable achievements of the African-American actor Ira Aldridge which was also part of the Being Human, a festival of the Humanities and a national forum for public engagement with humanities research, led by the School of Advanced Study and University of London, in partnership with the Arts & Humanities Research Council.

The Performance entitled 'Generations Meet' tells how a 20-year-old African American, fleeing racism in America, became Manager of the Coventry Theatre and helped launch a nationwide campaign against slavery which would involve over a million people and how the theatre and the press in Coventry united long ago to show what a multicultural community could be.

ira-4.jpgActor Ray Fearon (Shakespeare's Globe, RSC) took on the role of Ira Aldridge. Aldridge was the first black actor to play Othello, a role Fearon has also played for the Royal Shakespeare Company.

Fearon is joined by Rakie Ayola (Holby City, National Theatre, RSC) and Matt Costain (National Theatre, RSC, Shakespeare's Globe).

The production also involved singers and actors from the Belgrade's youth theatre and community choirs, performing Ira Aldridge's scenes and songs for the first time in over a century and was followed by a procession to the site of the original theatre by the cast and audience along with guest of honour Earl Cameron CBE (age 99), the great Caribbean film, stage and televion star who lives in Kenilworth, acted on Coventry's stages in the 1940s and '50s - and was taught by Ira Aldridge's daughter!



Photo credit: Joe Bailey

Professor Tony Howard, a leading researcher on Ira Aldridge at Warwick gave talks exploring the relationship between politics and Shakespeare in modern Britain and works with the University of Warwick’s Multicultural Shakespeare Project to gather information on the achievements of black and Asian artists. He said,

It’s an astonishing story. Adrian Lester has just played Ira Aldridge in London and New York and reminded the world of the achievements of a very great actor. But the fact that at the age of only 20, Ira – young, gifted and black - was handed Coventry’s Theatre to run, is truly remarkable. He presented plays that attacked slavery and at the same time he raised the standards of a run-down company in crisis.”

You can read Tony Howard's article reflecting on Ira's life in Coventry here and read an article published in The Observer on Sunday 13 November 2016 titled 'From 19th-century black pioneer to cultural ambassador of Coventry'.

Black History Month in Coventry - October 2016

Coventry’s Belgrade Theatre supported Black History Month with an exciting programme of events including talks, workshops, a photography exhibition and a concert celebrating the diversity of Coventry’s communities.
Kick-starting the programme of events, is a Black History Month Launch event on Saturday, October 1st, from 4.30pm.

Two of Warwick's academics were involved with exhibitions and talks:

Embodied Islands posterVisitors to the theatre will have the chance to see Embodied Islands: An Exhibition of Caribbean Photography at the Belgrade, from Monday, 3rd October to Friday, 28th October.

Presented by Warwick University’s Centre for Caribbean Studies, Embodied Islands is a fusion of historical 19th century stereoview photography and contemporary visual art by award-winning Caribbean photographers which was previously exhibited at Warwick Arts Centre in June this year.

It provides a rare opportunity to learn about post-colonial Caribbean life through the history of photography.

Associate Professor at Warwick, Dr Fabienne Viala and award-winning Caribbean photographer, Jean-Francois Manicom, will also host five workshops and discussions at the Belgrade over the duration of Black History Month, which will take a closer look at history of photography, heritage and identity.

Setting Shakespeare Free, Thursday, October 20. 2016

Ira Aldridge Othello2016 is Shakespeare’s anniversary year, and never before have so many of the Bard’s greatest roles have been played by BAME actors - Macbeth at the Globe, King Lear at Manchester Exchange, Hamlet at Stratford and on tour.

But two great men called for this to happen long ago, and worked for it: Ira Aldridge and Paul Robeson. Tony Howard from the Multicultural Shakespeare project at Warwick tells their stories in a talk entitled Ira Aldridge and Paul Robeson: Setting Shakespeare Free.

Festival of Imagineers returns to Coventry - 26 September 2016

The festival is a series of free experiences, celebrating creative invention with local, national and international artists, engineers and designers inviting audiences to join in and become creative collaborators themselves at Daimler Powerhouse and throughout the City.

David Burbidge, Chairman of Coventry City of Culture Trust said:

This promises to be an exciting and memorable event and will be a great example of the innovation and creativity that Coventry has to offer.”

Warwick academics have been involved with a number of the activites and performances at the festival such as:

Likeable Cyclable City (Daimler Powerhouse from Monday 26 September – Saturday 1 October, 12 – 4pm daily)

Jo Trowsdale, Centre for Education Studies has been working with Imagineer Productions developing the Imagineerium Initiative: an arts, engineering and education partnership. The initiative centres on the process of making as a site for developing learner skills and proposes a particular model of STEAM education: learning about oneself as a learner as well as science, design, technology and maths through the arts.

The 2014 pilot has been adapted and developed for 2016 to include an increased teacher role (through CPD) and forms the basis of a current bid to the Paul Hamlyn Foundation. The Likeable Cyclable project which The Imagineerium Initiative bid underpins and locks into has just been selected by the City Council as a key City of Culture bid project.

Likeable Cyclable is an exhibition showcasing a new interactive cycle powered system of transport and city centre trail for Coventry, inspired by the interlinked trikes which propelled Godiva to London aboard her cyclopedia in 2012.

The development of the Winters Tale, Teatr Biuro Podróży and Dr Haedicke (Friday 30th September, 2-3pm at the Daimler Powerhouse)

This unique street theatre version of Shakespeare’s late play was initially explored during a 10 day workshop residency and performance as part of the Festival of Imagineers 2015. A further developed version will be performed in Poznan in early October before a further period of development. The full Imagineer Productions/Teatr Biuro Podrozy co-production will be one of the headline performances for Festival of Imagineers 2017 and will be an Performer Marta Strzalko and dramaturg Dr Susan Haedicke (Associate Professor of Theatre and Performance, Warwick University) will be in conversation about the latest developments of the production

The full programme can be found online at or via facebook Imagineer Productions or twitter @ImagineerUK.