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Jatinder Verma steps down

19 November 2019

Founder of Tara Arts, Jatinder Verma MBE, is to step down as Artistic Director, forty years after founding the ground-breaking company.

From its beginnings in 1977 at Battersea Arts Centre, Jatinder has led the company in a pioneering effort to promote cross-cultural theatre. Garnering support from Arts Council England, trust and foundations and over 1,400 individuals, he led the creation of Britain's first multicultural theatre building. The award-winning Tara Theatre marks a historic step-forward in BAME theatre provision.

The company was formed in response to the racist murder in 1976 of young Gurdip Singh Chaggar, with a clear mission to make connections across cultures through theatre. The company’s inaugural production was Nobel Prize-winning poet Rabindranath Tagore’s anti-war play, Sacrifice, staged at Battersea Arts Centre in the summer of 1977.

Jatinder has led the emergence of Tara Arts from a community theatre group rooted in Wandsworth to an international touring company to, now, the only BAME company to own a distinctive theatre building, which echoes his vision of connecting worlds. The award-winning theatre in south London combines architectural elements from India and Britain to create a unique legacy for multicultural theatre provision in the country.

Over four decades, Jatinder has supported the emergence of generations of Asian theatre artists - including Ayub Khan Din, Sanjeev Bhasker, Shelley King, Paul Bhattacharjee, Shaheen Khan, Kumiko Mendel, Sudha Bhuchar, Nadia Fall - and companies such as Tamasha, Kali and Yellow Earth. He has toured extensively around the UK and internationally and co-produced with a wide range of theatres, including the National Theatre where Jatinder was the first non-white director of a production.

Naresh Aggarwal, Chair of Tara Arts comments: Jatinder's greatest achievements lie in helping us appreciate that Asian stories are for all Britons and inspiring generations of Asian talent to emerge onto the public consciousness. He has firmly set Tara on the map of modern British theatre and I am confident his legacy will be built upon by his successor."

Jatinder Verma said: “Salman Rushdie memorably talked of introducing a ‘different sort of noise in English’ with the publication of his ground-breaking novel Midnight’s Children. The past 40 years have seen British Theatre take on the challenge of embracing difference, with a host of new writers, directors, performers and designers. I feel privileged to have played a part in changing the landscape of modern theatre. While cultural diversity has increasingly become an accepted norm, the challenge of diversity, sadly, remains as acute as ever. Connecting worlds seems to me a necessary mantra for our times; it is certainly what I intend to continue to work on in the years ahead.

Theatre has never been more urgent. This is an exciting time for a new generation of artistic leaders to continue the "connecting worlds" story of Tara.”

The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, said: “Jatinder’s vision and dedication to championing inclusion and diversity have opened up the theatre and changed the landscape of the stage in London and beyond. Tara Theatre has always held a special place in my heart, and I know that Jatinder’s legacy will continue to inspire artists and audiences for generations to come. I wish him all the very best for his next adventure.” 

Deputy Mayor for Culture and the Creative Industries, Justine Simons OBE, said: “Jatinder is a trailblazer. It’s hard to quantify the breadth and depth of his influence on theatre and on society over the past four decades. He has given a vital platform to generations of writers, directors and performers and produced work of the highest quality that represents, reflects and speaks to today’s society. Jatinder leaves a powerful legacy at Tara and I wish him all the very best for this next exciting chapter.

Director Theatre at Arts Council England, Neil Darlison comments: “Jatinder is one of the pioneers of British Asian Theatre. Under his direction Tara Arts has been extraordinarily influential in British Theatre and both he, and the works he has created, have inspired theatre-makers and audiences alike. In addition to this, his unstinting energy means he leaves an award-winning theatre in Earlsfield  - a brilliant legacy for Wandsworth, for London and for the next leader of this company.  I look forward to whatever he does next.”

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