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Guest Blog: Siana Bangura & Christina Nicole On Their Podcast, BEHIND THE CURTAINS

The presenters discuss their podcast aiming to highlight Black creatives off the stage

Guest Blog: Siana Bangura & Christina Nicole On Their Podcast, BEHIND THE CURTAINS
Behind the Curtains podcast

Behind the Curtains is a podcast centring and celebrating the off-stage roles in theatre. We shine a spotlight on Black creatives who work backstage in roles that are often the backbone of the industry.

More often than not, when most people think about theatre, they think of the actors on stage. But that's only part of the story of a production.

We wanted to spotlight these "behind the curtains" roles and remind people there is a whole theatre ecosystem; there are plenty of other roles available for them to consider, should they want to enter the industry.

Each episode is bursting with talent, as we talk to writers, directors, producers, stage managers, dialect coaches, movement directors and more. Our guests share their career journeys, their highs and lows and everything they have learnt so far as theatre professionals.

What is clear is that lots of transferable skills from other work help inform the roles we've spotlighted in this season, meaning no one should be put-off working in the industry if they didn't go to theatre school. It's an all-round feel-good podcast, as well as being informative, educational, and full of step-by-step guidance for anybody interested in entering (and staying!) in the industry.

Guest Blog: Siana Bangura & Christina Nicole On Their Podcast, BEHIND THE CURTAINS
Christina Nicole

We both met whilst working at English Touring Theatre and have remained close friends since. The original idea for the podcast had been simmering away since 2018, but timing is everything, and 2020 presented the right time to launch it.

With the outbreak of Covid and the Black Lives Matter uprisings impacting us all, we both felt now was the right time to get back in touch with ETT to create the podcast - especially as our industry has been so bitterly impacted by the pandemic.

When we approached Richard Twyman, Artistic Director at ETT, with the idea, he was really excited to work with us. He is passionate about theatre being more meaningfully inclusive, and immediately agreed to ETT partnering with us on this podcast.

Working in theatre has allowed us to experience a variety of roles and gain in-depth knowledge into how a production is made. We could see first-hand the talent, determination and skills that went into creating a show. We felt that those that worked behind the stage were the unsung heroes of a performance and deserved a chance to shine.

It was also important to us to have people at different points in their career journey represented on the show including the following people: those changing direction, such as Tobi Kyeremateng; those starting new roles even in the time of Covid, such as Alysha Laviniere and Natalie Ibu; those navigating life as a freelancer, such as Alison Holder and Ingrid Mackinnon.

We also spoke to people working in TV, such as Hazel Holder; those attached to a building, such as Madeleine Kludje; and those building their own infrastructures, such as Shelley Maxwell with Bennu Creative House.

Just this year, Research by The Stage, published in January, found that 90% bosses in the UK's 50 highest-funded theatres are white, with people of colour making up just 8% of leaders. It was important to us that we featured someone like Natalie Ibu in the series to speak about her journey and share how she has navigated this dire lack of representation in the industry.

Guest Blog: Siana Bangura & Christina Nicole On Their Podcast, BEHIND THE CURTAINS
Siana Bangura

In terms of recording remotely - it's been quite the experience! In 'normal' times we would be in the same room with our guests - perhaps recording together in a studio. There's a real warmth to the in-person experience that can be challenging to replicate online, but we do a good job of it we think!

Once you get warmed up, and everyone has their cameras on, you are just really focused on the conversation. Our guests, like us, were happy to be in conversation with peers in the industry.

Our discussions ranged from trying to make sense of things, reminding ourselves why we got into this work in the first place and sharing our hopes for the future of theatre after this. Working with talented and passionate people throughout this process has helped make putting the podcast together a more enjoyable experience.

We hope the many pearls of wisdom from our guests offer a useful roadmap for future theatre professionals, our peers currently in the industry, and theatre leaders currently searching for answers as they lead us through this moment of uncertainty.

There are so many fantastic opportunities in theatre that people don't know exist. Some may even be created precisely as a result of the pandemic. We hope that Behind the Curtains allows people to discover those opportunities and feel that they can access them - because they can and they should.

Now more than ever, theatre is a diverse and empowered workforce to weather this storm. We need to ensure our industry is transformed for the better once we get to the other side of this.

Behind the Curtains is available to stream on Spotify, iTunes, Acast and elsewhere online

Photo credit: Chloe Deakin for Siana Bangura image

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