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Theatre partnership at City of Oxford College to boost BAME and working-class actors in Oxfordshire

05 March 2020

Activate Learning’s Creative Industry faculty has launched an exciting new partnership with Mandala Theatre Company which aims to promote more diversity in the arts sector in Oxford.

In collaboration, the theatre will look to diversify the performing arts offering available to 16-18-year olds, offering mentoring and workshops to students at the City of Oxford College city centre campus.

The focus will be on working to engage and enrol more students from a diverse background, with a particular focus on recruiting BAME and white working-class actors onto the course.

Professor Iain Landles, Director of Career Pathways for the Lifestyles faculty at Activate Learning, said: “I am thrilled to be announcing this exciting new partnership with one of the most progressive and inclusive theatre companies there are in the UK today.

“Mandala tell stories that are hard-hitting, and which shine a spotlight on many of the issues our young learners will be exposed to on a day-to-day basis, either through the media or their real-life experiences.

“Having a partner within the arts that is all about authenticity and using their medium to turn a mirror on society to try and bring about change is going to be so inspiring for our learners. I hope that by working together, we will be able to inspire people who may have felt that the arts weren’t for them to give it a go.”

As part of the new partnership, learners at Activate Learning’s City of Oxford College will get regular access to the theatre group who will be basing themselves onsite.

This regular access will include mentoring sessions with the theatre group and training courses, where students will get to see the company's actors in action and get exposure to a real-life, working theatre environment, as well as many opportunities for work placements.

Yasmin Sidhwa, Creative Director of Mandala Theatre Company, said: “Theatre and the arts need to represent and tell the stories of society as a whole, Mandala is all about making the arts and theatre more inclusive and diverse.

“We are delighted to have begun working in this industry-focused partnership with Activate Learning to offer professional pathways for BAME and white working-class students into the arts and give them more opportunities.”

Five City of Oxford College students have successfully auditioned and joined Mandala Young Company as a direct result of the new partnership with Activate Learning.

She added: "Together, Activate Learning and Mandala are doing important work to tackle the lack of diversity in Oxfordshire's performing arts as many of its students are from BAME and white working-class backgrounds."

This follows in the wake of the Arts Council England report published in February 2020, which states an urgency for diversity within the creative sector nationwide.

According to the latest report, BME representation in the creative sector’s overall workforce has decreased from 12% to 11% nationally year-on-year. In the South East, only 9% of the current workforce are from BME backgrounds*.

Of the 18 local arts organisations funded by Oxford City Council, Mandala Theatre Company is the only one that is diversity-led and has just come into the portfolio.

The company is seeking future placements for students in arts administration, costume design and making, set design and making, film production, arts marketing and social media.

If you would like to learn more about the performance and production arts programmes available at City of Oxford College, please visit or contact Activate Learning on 0800 612 6008.

*Arts Council England, Equality, Diversity and the Creative Case: A Data Report, 2018-2019