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Coventry team chosen to oversee programme for UK City of Culture

Published: 19 June 2019
Reporter: Steve Orme

Corey Campbell, Balisha Karra and Justine Themen will oversee the Belgrade Theatre’s artistic programme during Coventry’s year as UK City of Culture 2021.

The Belgrade Theatre’s deputy artistic director Themen will be joined by Campbell and Karra in planning and producing the theatre’s home-produced work for 2021, with the aim of “introducing fresh perspectives and working towards lasting change across the theatre industry”.

Campbell is artistic director of Strictly Arts Theatre Company, formerly supported by the Belgrade’s Springboard talent development programme. Karra is director in residence at the Old Vic Theatre.

The Belgrade’s artistic director Hamish Glen said, "Coventry has a long history of innovation, inclusivity and championing often unheard voices. The idea to recruit these creative leads for 2021 was inspired by the story of the African-American actor Ira Aldridge who, at the age of 21, became the first person of colour to manage a British theatre, taking over Coventry Theatre in 1828. At the time, slavery was still legal throughout the British Empire.

“Today Coventry is one of the UK’s youngest and most diverse cities, so it felt fitting to honour Aldridge’s legacy by ensuring that we continue to amplify marginalised voices, providing an opportunity for a new generation of creative talent to explore their own ideas about how to take the industry forward.

“We look forward to building our relationship with them, and to seeing how their vision develops alongside our existing programme, helping us to evolve our longer-term approach as a theatre.”

Coventry City of Culture Trust creative director Chenine Bhathena commented, “we’re committed to working with arts organisations in the city to test new ways of working and connecting with communities so that our creative partners can deliver ambitious and exemplary programmes during and long after 2021.

“We’re delighted that the new artistic team at the Belgrade are also committed to testing how they co-create new programmes, working with local communities of all ages, abilities and backgrounds and to really understand the role of the theatre in our 21st century city.”