"Gatekeepers like to spend A LOT of time talking instead of doing": meet Tobi Kyeremateng, founder of Black Ticket Project
"Seeing theatre simply expands your artistic palette, and broadens the things we digest that shape the way we see the world.”
Photo credit: Gabriel Mokake
I met Tobi the way I’ve met most new people since starting The Tung — through Twitter. I started following her over a year ago, and in the time since have seen her making big moves in the theatre world, going from strength to strength as she navigates a multifaceted career that includes work for Bush Theatre, Brainchild Festival and, now, Black Ticket Project. Through the project, she’s creating opportunities for young Black people to access the theatre. As she says in this interview, there’s a lot of talk in the industry right now about representation, but too few gatekeepers are putting their money where their mouths are. Black Ticket Project asks people to do just that: pledge money through the BTP Patreon to support her work in providing young Black people with tickets at a discounted rate or for free. Already, Tobi has partnered with several theatre organisations such as Battersea Arts Centre, Old Vic Theatre, Bush Theatre and Ambassadors Theatre Group, and by the end of 2018 it’s estimated that over 1000 young Black people would've accessed more than one theatre production through Black Ticket Project. We got in touch with Tobi (through Twitter, ofc) to find out more about her plans.
Hi Tobi! So, why did you set up Black Ticket Project?
I saw Barber Shop Chronicles at the National the first time it was staged. When I went, the audience was still a pretty white, 'National Theatre' audience, and I just kept thinking about how many people I know that'd love to come and see this - my dad, my brothers, my friends. So, I bought a bunch of tickets and gave them to people working with young Black men, because that was the easiest way to get them to see the show. I didn't intend to create Black Ticket Project from that, but Nine Night was announced and I decided to hit up the National and ask if they wanted to collaborated on doing the same thing, but bigger and better. That's how BTP became a thing.
Why do you think it's important to go to the theatre if you can?
I don't think theatre's any more or less important than the way we engage with other art-forms, but the real-time live-ness of it is what I love about it. Seeing theatre simply expands your artistic palette, and broadens the things we digest that shape the way we see the world.
You seem to have achieved so much already! What has the reception been like from the theatre-goers you've supported through the project?
So far, they've all loved the shows they've seen. They don't have to like the shows, the point is that they get to see them and have an opinion on them, but I'm glad they've enjoyed the work. After Nine Night, a lot of the feedback I got was people saying "that person's like my aunty", or "that person is definitely my mum", and I love that. Misty has probably been the overall favourite!
Photo credit: Samuel Conley and SoundSkool
What are the key issues that you've noticed over the course of your career with respect to representation in theatre?
Gatekeepers like to spend A LOT of time talking instead of doing, whilst individuals like David Mumeni, Toby Clark, Cherrelle Skeete to name a few, identify a problem, find some kind of solution and then just DO IT.
What kind of barriers are you coming up against as you try to build Black Ticket Project?
The obvious question I'm asked a lot is why this particular demographic - why not young people of colour, or all young people, or people from low-income backgrounds, or any kind of group that has been marginalised by society. I understand why these questions are being asked and why I have to justify the demographic I've chosen to focus on. Black Ticket Project is a reflection of myself, and the way I've grown up through this industry, and what would've made it easier for me when I was younger. Also, I'm doing a lot of this work by myself at the moment whilst juggling 2 part-time jobs and other freelance work - it's a lot!
You’re doing so much! What are your plans for Black Ticket Project moving forward?
I'd love to work on engaging Black young people out of London, building relationships between them and their local theatres, and potentially bringing young Black people to other cities to see work, then I'd like for BTP to become redundant.
That sounds ideal. While it’s still needed, what can The Tung readers do to help you?
Follow @BTProject_ to keep up to date with what we're doing, share or support our Patreon, connect us with people you think we should be working with, and keep holding the industry accountable for the work they're not doing.
Let us know your thoughts in the comments section below!