“…..growing up, I would say my household was pretty creative. I don’t know if my parents would say this about themselves, but you know, I would consider my mom to be a writer and a storyteller”. Tobi Kyeremateng
The NT is leading two free digital programmes for young people to learn about theatre-making and roles in the industry: the How to be a Producer course and the Young Technicians’ Programme. These courses aim to introduce young people to theatre-making and help them develop practical skills through workshops, interactive demonstrations and mentoring. The programmes are both completely free (places are limited) and are being led online this year so young people no matter where they are in the UK can apply to take part. Applications are open now, with the courses beginning in early 2021. This year Tobi Kyeremateng, cultural producer and founder of the Black Ticket Project will be leading the ‘How to be a Producer’ course and 50% of places are available to young black people in partnership with the Black Ticket Project.
Kyeremateng FRSA is an award-winning producer, writer and social entrepreneur using film, written essays, live public events and community-led and co-designed programmes to create rich cultural experiences, document Black British & Diasporic cultures and facilitate social change.
Recent credits include: My White Best Friend (and Other Letters Left Unsaid) by Rachel De-Lahay and Milli Bhatia (Royal Court Theatre), The Future Is Near (Tate Modern), Skin Deep’s Sonic Transmissions Series: Cassie Kinoshi and House of Absolute (Roundhouse & The Institute of Contemporary Art), J’Ouvert by Yasmin Joseph (Theatre503), International Women’s Weekender (gal-dem), BABYLON Festival (Bush Theatre), AFRO-CITY Festival (Roundhouse), Pagans (Old Vic Theatre).
Film credits include: Wishbone (NOWNESS, 2020 International Shorts at Screen Dance International Festival) and Secret Life of Gs by Caleb Femi, and Roots For A Crown (NOWNESS, 180 The Strand: Prada Mode) and In Praise Of Still Boys (FACT Magazine, The Vinyl Factory, 180 The Strand) by Julianknxx. Music video credits include: Waiting Room (Complex UK) by Kaia Laurielle. ALT caught up with Tobi to talk BLM, theatre, black female entrepreneurs and more.. ( Main image credit: Photographed by blaow)
What actually influenced your decision to have a creative career?
I don’t think me having a creative a career was an accident, but I feel that this particular role was kind of an accident. So growing up, I would say my household was pretty creative. I don’t know if like my parents would say this about themselves, but you know, I would consider my mom to be a writer and a storyteller. I would consider my dad to be a documenter. Our house is just like one big gallery of our lives from far as I remember my dad has taken pictures. And so it always felt like I was in a kind of storytelling household. I kinda had that influence growing up, but was also surrounded by lots of different things, like different kinds of music, obviously a lot in the house and outside of the house, at school and stuff.
But the options, in terms of studying were not that vast, so even though I was interested in like, “drama”, whatever that meant, the only way for me to study it in school was to perform, which I didn’t really want to do. I didn’t mind it, but it wasn’t like, yes, I want to be a performer. But that kind of led me into the theatre kind of world, I guess. Then after I left secondary school, I went to college and did a performing arts BTEC. And I guess that was my proper sort of dedication to study performing arts specifically, because in school I did music and drama alongside 11 other subjects. It was just a thing that you did, but college was an active choice, but it was still very performance heavy.
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And in the final year, my teacher was just sort of like, well, what if you don’t want to perform, don’t go to drama school, do something else. And I was a bit like, Oh! that was my three-year plan so I don’t know what to do now. I ended up jumping on Google and looking for apprenticeships in theatres in London. I wanted to stay in the creative space while I figured out my life, you’re 18, you’re told that you’re meant to know exactly what you want to do for the rest of your life by that time. At the time I had a weekend job in Fortnum and Mason, which definitely wasn’t what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. Then I ended up getting an apprenticeship at Battersea Arts Centre, which really opened me up into the space of different ways of making, multi art making because I was interested in poetry and storytelling and music, and basically gave me a space where I could implement all of those things actually into the theatrical space. It kind of started from there. So it wasn’t massively intentional, but, I guess the foundational stuff was always there, like in my household.
You have numerous titles. So how would you describe what you do?
I would describe myself as a cultural maker, I am primarily a producer. But no one knows what a producer is, so it doesn’t feel massively useful. And recently I’ve been writing a lot more, wanting to document the experiences of black people across the diaspora but particularly in Britain. My work with young people as well, which doesn’t feel separate from my producing work or my, my writing work, but it would be separated if I had to categorize them in some sort of way, but it’s really integral in terms of working with future communities and future generations. I also work across disciplines across cultures. I think it’s more, it’s much more of a methodology to me than it is like a particular sector that I work in. And I feel like I implement that in the film space and the live event space in the music space, in my kind of like pop participation space. So some sort of cultural something, there’s a suffix that I can’t find.
What is the Black Ticket Project?
It is a bridge organization that works with independent youth workers schools, charities, youth organizations, and cultural institutions. And we just essentially foster cultural experiences and creative tools for black young people. That’s the most succinct I’ve ever said it. Yeah!
Tell us about the project with the National Theatre?
I’m running their How to be a Producer course, this is the third year that I’m running it. We’re doing it over zoom, which is really scary. But also really exciting because it means that we get to work with young people from across the UK that can access it in a way that, you know, potentially wasn’t quite possible before. It’s running throughout February. There’ll be learning lots of different faces of producing from, you know, the conversation about what is a producer to budget in fundraising, marketing, finding your audiences, developing your idea, but, more kind of intrinsic stuff like resilience and being a freelancer and personal branding and finding your taste and working in a team and all of this kind of stuff. I’m really excited about it. There were lots of interesting people that are going to come on board, to like speak from lots of different organizations across different sectors from theatre to festivals. It’s going to be cool. 50% of the places go to Black, young people via Black Ticket Project.
This year has seen the BLM protest prompted by the death of George Floyd, and how COVID-19 has impacted “ethnic minorities”. How have you processed this moment?
I think between, the recent black lives matter uprising, the death of George Ford and Breonna Taylor and many more people, SARS happening in Nigeria, COVID-19. it has been a really turbulent year, a year of a lot grief, a lot of protest, a lot of rightful anger. It has made me want to do something. I think it’s really made me look internally at my practice about what it is that I’m trying to achieve with my work. What are the messages that I’m trying to get across? How do I also embed those messages within my practice? So not just in the output, but the audiences, but also within the process of the people that I work with and how we work together. What are the things that are really important that are gonna, shape, question, probe, future generations.
I’m a freelancer as well, and it’s obviously been a terrible year for freelancers in regards to support or lack thereof, and finance or lack thereof. END OF PART ONE. Part Two of this interview will be in the spring edition of ALT A REVIEW.
To apply please complete the application by Sunday 3 January 2021. This is your chance to talk about your interest in creating cultural experiences. You can write, record or film your answers (within the word and time limits).
For more information , key dates and how to apply, click here.