Wales Theatre Awards cancelled in racism row

The annual Wales Theatre Awards have been axed in the wake of a racism row.

Its judges faced criticism at this year’s awards after shortlisting an opera featuring white actors playing non-white roles.

Following renewed criticism over the decision, a message posted online said the 2019 ceremony was cancelled and the annual event has come to an end.

Its director said it had a duty:

“to protect the arts community and reviewers from any further hostility”.

Nominations were already being considered for the next awards, due next February.

The 2018 awards faced controversy after a production by Music Theatre Wales was shortlisted.

During its tour in the autumn of 2017, an opera it produced called The Golden Dragon had been criticised for its “yellowface” casting, after using white actors to play Asian characters working in a Chinese takeaway.

Music Theatre Wales held an “open discussion” about its production in the wake of the criticism.

An open letter signed by 40 arts professionals criticised judges for shortlisting The Golden Dragon for the awards, and representatives of National Theatre Wales boycotted the ceremony in solidarity.

The ceremony went ahead, and plans for the 2019 Wales Theatre Awards were already in place. It was due to be held at the Blackwood Miners’ Institute on 2 February.

But criticism of the 2018 nominations has resurfaced in recent days. Wales Arts Review published an article which said the BAME community had been “failed” by the shortlisting, and the subsequent muted response to the controversy.

The organisers have released a statement expressing thanks to those who had contributed to the “inclusive” national event.

Its director Mike Smith said:

“In relation to the motives or agenda of the blogger who made a recent attack on the arts community in relation to the awards on an online literary website, we have no comment to make.

“Our responsibility is to protect the arts community and reviewers from any further hostility.”

It said it would be consulting with the arts community about any ongoing work to support critics.

The awards were launched in 2013 as the Theatre Critics of Wales Awards, and re-branded in 2015.

Shortlists were drawn up by theatre reviewers attending dance, theatre and opera in English and Welsh.

The event did not receive any public funding.


Written By: Huw Thomas

First Published 03.12.18:

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