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> > > Interview: Neleswa Mclean-Thorne, from Central School of Speech and Drama, talks about diversity at the Accidental Festival
dancers on a darkly lit stage

Cando2, Candoco's youth group, performed Cravings of Intimacy and Solitude as well as Long Way Home at Accidental Festival 2012. Image by Gigi Giannella

Each year second-year students from Central School of Speech and Drama show their ability to seek out talent from new and emerging artists. They then programme and produce shows which cater for those who are regular attenders at performances but they are also working on getting new audiences to experience a wide range of performing art. The end result is their Accidental Festival.

This year it was held at Roundhouse, Camden over the weekend of 31 May to 3 June.

While we couldn’t get there ourselves, we caught up with Neleswa Mclean-Thorne, Director of Community and Education for this year’s festival, about how these future programmers and producers (some are only 19 years old) see taking on issues surronding diversity as an essential part of what they did this year.

"Over the last seven years of the Accidental Festival, the Community and Education Department has been developing into an integral part of what the Festival represents: a forum by which to break down preconceptions and facilitate a greater understanding between individuals and communities, artists and audiences.

"Last year the Community and Education team made great strides in achieving the goals of the festival, by going out into communities and engaging in arts activities and workshops, as well as facilitating these activities during the weekend of the festival.

"This year not only did we want to continue this work of our predecessors but build upon it! 

"One of the things that we think is very important to the development of the festival as a whole is championing the acceptance of access and a 'platform for all'. Through collaborating with like-minded people, such as Chickenshed, Cando2 (Candoco Dance Youth Company), Rubix Collective, Soundplay and many more, we were able to enhance the programme of the Accidental Festival 2012 with seminal pieces of theatre and performance, showcasing the work of companies who are also passionate about making theatre that is accessible, thoughtful and fun!

"Continuing our work outside of the festival weekend was also something that we considered essential in our ethos. We have worked alongside Central’s Community Liaison Officer, the awe-inspiring Richard Harrison, with students at Westminster Kingsway College to encourage them to aim high, with Somers Town Community Centre, introducing new approaches to learning. We also worked with Pimento Community Project and were successful in providing an environment where an 11-year-old boy could read aloud for the first time ever!

"Through these workshops leading up to the festival and those during the festival weekend and following, it’s exciting to see this philosophy flourish.

"We will continue to build on the relationships that we have cultivated this year, as well as seek to create new bonds and expand upon the diversity in talent that we have been lucky enough to collaborate with during this very deliberately complete Accidental Festival 2012!"

The enthusiasm of these future theatre professionals regarding access and diversity is something to be welcomed. While these things are still needing to be championed by the community and education department of the festival, it can only be seen as positive that this new generation of producers and theatre practitioners is embracing and championing programming of diverse talent as central to what an arts festival is all about.

It certainly brings the central tenets of the Creative Case for Diversity to life with an understanding that seasoned venue managers, programmers and producers can learn from perhaps?