Tobi Kyeremateng is a young cultural producer whose Black Ticket Project has had an almost unimaginable impact on the diversity of audiences for one of oldest artforms in the UK. She recently won Stylist magazine’s ‘Inspriation of the Year’ award for “improving access to theatre for young black people, kicking ass as a producer, and doing it all with the best smile in the business.”
Faced with the reality that most theatre is made and attended by people who do not reflect the rich diversity of the region in which it’s based, Kyeremateng had a simple idea: Why not make it as easy as possible for Black people to attend theatre performances by giving them tickets for free?
In 2017 she decided to buy 30 tickets to the “very Black story”, the ‘Barbershop Chronicles’, which was playing to a mostly white audience at the UK’s most prominent theatre, the National Theatre. She distributed tickets via social media and youth groups, finding great success in opening up the artform to people that had never believed they belonged there.
The initiative snowballed, formalising into the Black Ticket Project and receiving financial backing from The National Theatre and partnering with theatres across London. Hundreds of young Black people have seen shows in theatres across the capital and the initiative has spread to other major cities in the UK.
“Representation beyond seeing a reflection of yourself, means that more diverse stories will be told, with more complex and interesting characters on a variety of issues, and more people from underrepresented backgrounds will have agency to tell those stories,” she explained in a crowdfunding appeal last year.
Black Ticket Project styles itself as “temporary”, with Kyeremateng telling the Evening Standard that “if it went on forever it means that as a sector we have failed our audiences”.