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Award to help black artists perform at Edinburgh Fringe

ECLIPSE AWARD: Actress Noma Dumezweni is backing the initiative

ECLIPSE THEATRE, the UK’s leading black theatre company, has launched the Eclipse Award to help UK black-led artists and theatre companies achieve the notoriously difficult but life-changing step of undertaking a run at the Edinburgh Fringe.

Presented by Eclipse Theatre and Summerhall, one of the festival’s leading venues, the ground-breaking award is open to black artists based in the UK who make boundary-pushing performance work.

The award has been backed by leading contemporary actors Danny Sapani (Black Panther) and Rakie Ayola and Noma Dumezweni, who have both played Hermione Granger in Harry Potter and the Cursed Child in the West End. Dumezweni is currently playing the role on Broadway.

Award-winning actress Dumezweni, who appeared in The Bogus Woman at the festival in 2000 has given her backing to the award.

She said: “It’s fantastic to see an established company like Eclipse continually opening doors for black artists and pushing to make the theatre industry more representative of the whole of society. Being a part of the Edinburgh Fringe was a major milestone in my career. I’m really pleased to be a patron to this award and to offer my support to the next generation of young black artists.”

Sheffield-based Eclipse has established the award in order to break down the barriers that black artists face at the world-famous Edinburgh Fringe. Despite Brian Logan’s claim in 2015 that the festival is “more diverse than ever”, comedian Sophie Duker noted this year that the festival’s audience is largely white middle class and it is increasingly expensive for performers to attend, particularly those from a black or minority ethnic background.

The Eclipse Award, which is the first award of its kind, aims to tackle these obstacles by removing the upfront venue rental cost and offering a contribution to technical hires, access, marketing and networking costs, accommodation and travel, allowing the artist to perform their work at the highest possible standard.

The winning company or artist will receive a £10,000 cash bursary, which will help to fund a run at the 2019 festival. They will also receive a bespoke package of marketing support including press, PR and advertising, as well as technical support and production guidance.

Dawn Walton, artistic director at Eclipse Theatre, said: “The Edinburgh Fringe can be a huge springboard for independent artists, but the festival has many barriers that result in a distinct lack of access for black independent artists. With the Eclipse Award we are hoping to both highlight and remove some of those barriers by providing an opportunity that includes a package of financial support as well as care and advice throughout the process.

"We know how hard it can be to raise the funds for Edinburgh. We also know it can be an isolating experience being a black company or artist in the festival and we want to change all that. We could not have a better partner than Summerhall to present this award with. Thanks also to our incredible patrons for their generous support.”

Ayola said: “I view this award as a hand of strength being held out by Eclipse to enable other like-minded artists to progress. I'm therefore honoured to be a Patron of the award and I'm excited to meet the beneficiary and to see the work that springs from it."

Sapani said: “I am especially proud to be the patron of the Eclipse Award. It is a fantastic opportunity. I get to support, independent emerging black talent at the best theatre festival in the world. I first came to Edinburgh in the summer of 1988 and it was a creative explosion, a celebration of the arts that changed my life.”

The winner will perform a full run at one of Summerhall’s venues on a straight box office split, 70 per cent to the company and 30 per cent to the venue. Entries are open to black artists and black-led companies based in the UK outside Scotland. Student and non-professional companies and Arts Council England NPOs are not eligible to apply.

Those who wish to apply can do so by clicking here. The deadline for entries is 12pm on Monday February 4 2019.

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