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Abdul Shayek Directors Fellowship launched in honour of the late Artistic Director

Abdul Shayek

Entertainment

Abdul Shayek Directors Fellowship launched in honour of the late Artistic Director

Following a celebration of Abdul Shayek’s life and career at the National’s Olivier Theatre on Thursday (January 18th), Tara Theatre announces the Abdul Shayek Directors Fellowship in honour of the late Artistic Director, who passed away in August 2023. 

The fellowship is designed to address the underrepresentation of practitioners from global majority and lower socio-economic backgrounds in UK theatre, something Abdul fought for throughout his career. As a working-class theatre director of Bangladeshi heritage, Abdul was passionate about equality of access to the arts and supporting the next generation of theatre-makers and artistic leaders.

The fellowship will provide an industry-led training and development programme, equipping two mid-career directors per year with the experience and skills they need to take on leadership positions in theatres. It is designed to create a network of industry partners working together to further diversity in artistic leadership. 

The programme will offer Associate Director salaried placements at producing theatres, ongoing support, advice and development from Tara Theatre, a comprehensive programme of masterclasses, ongoing mentorship from industry leaders and a fully funded and resourced production for each recipient. The programme will run in two-year cycles with an initial intake of two directors. Principal partners for the Fellowship include Arts Council England and The Space.

Abdul Shayek trained at the National Theatre Directors’ Course, Live and Direct, Old Vic New Voices and ATC Directors Programme; and previously worked as associate or assistant director at Theatre Royal Stratford East, English National Opera and The Belgrade Theatre. Abdul was Artistic Director and Joint CEO of Tara Theatre, the oldest global majority-led theatre company in the UK. He was the founding Artistic Director and CEO of FIO, the first global majority-led theatre company in Wales. He was also an associate at National Theatre Wales.

He was a member of the British Council’s Arts and Creative Economy Advisory Group, a trustee of The Space, Told By An Idiot and dance company Impelo. Abdul was a Clore Cultural Leadership Fellow (2013-14), during which he spent time at Film4 and M&C Saatchi. He was named in The Stage 25 in 2022 and the Stage 100 in 2023.

As a director and theatre maker his work was always rooted in creating innovative productions, projects and experiences, alongside identifying and developing artists and new audiences. He worked across Theatre, Opera, TV and Film. He staged contemporary classics, adaptations of novels and experimental new work. In his time at Tara Theatre, he has created an audio walking project in response to the pandemic, commissioned national and international work, made a site-specific gig theatre show, a virtual reality film and a West End production, alongside developing and delivering numerous artist development programmes.

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