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First ground-breaking commissions announced for pioneering movement supporting Black artists

Four bold new commissions have been chosen from over 60 applications and announced as part of Slate; Eclipse Theatre’s movement to support more than 1,200 Black artists in the North over a three-year period to help them build a stronger, more visible practice locally, nationally and internationally.

Four artists submitted their creative dreams for the future and have been selected to receive either £8,000 to transform an existing piece of work at development stage into a staged piece, or £4,000 to research and develop a brand new idea. The commissioned artists, all rising stars in their fields, will also benefit from a bespoke programme of support and development working with Eclipse, the team of Slate ‘Enablers’ and a consortium of partner organisations.

The four commissions include:

Turning a developed piece into a staged work:

Nwando Ebizie, a multidisciplinary artist based in Manchester  – supported by HOME (Manchester) and Slate

Naomi Sumner Chan, a Manchester-based playwright, poet and theatre maker – supported by York Theatre Royal, Pilot Theatre (York) and Slate

For research and development:

Shanaz Gulzar, a digital artist based in West Yorkshire - supported by ARC (Stockton-on-Tees) and Slate

Dorcas Sebuyange, a Liverpool-based creative artist, - supported by Unity Theatre (Liverpool), Made at HOME (Manchester) and Slate

Dawn Walton, artistic director of Eclipse Theatre, comments: “It is exceptionally exciting to be announcing these first ambitious, radical and fearless commissions.  We were looking for artists that were going to confront the system, to lead radical political and cultural change through their work and ideas.  Nwando, Naomi, Shanaz and Dorcas have each proposed diverse and thought-provoking work that will encourage audiences to look at subjects differently and we’re incredibly proud that Slate is able to help them realise their potential.”

Nwando Ebizie, whose previous work converges around performance art personas, experimental theatre, neuroscience, music and African diasporic ritualistic dance, will bring to life ‘20 Minutes of Action’. This new performance installation has been inspired by psycho-dramatic retellings of European and African folk tales and rituals. Incorporating an analog electronic score, the performance draws on the artist's research into the perceptual disorder visual snow and dance research through the meeting points of Haitian Vodou, vogue and ballet.

Naomi Sumner Chan will use the Slate funding to shape her new play ‘SAME SAME DIFFERENT’. Made in collaboration with adoptees and their families from all over the world, the play explores identity and belonging from the viewpoint of the adoptee, in particular transracial adoption, sharing stories in their own words.

Chan comments: “I was surprised and thrilled to find out that I was going to be working with Eclipse on the next stage of work for SAME SAME DIFFERENT.  This work is extremely close to me - I was born in Hong Kong but adopted into a white-British family - and I had always wanted to create a piece as told by the kids in these situations.  The commission and invaluable support that comes with it will allow me to develop the show and craft it into a story that I hope to be ready to share publicly in early 2019.”

Shanaz Gulzar’s commission will allow her to progress ‘Different from What We Are’; a virtual reality world that will use collected narratives to form an installation that asks viewers to step into another person’s shoes, experiencing their hopes and fears in a series of destabilising encounters.

Dorcas Sebuyange will develop her new work in progress; a visual representation of her musical collection, created using a range of different art forms including animations and motion graphics, filmography, poetry, visual art and movement, coming together as an immersive event for the audience. Dorcas’ work is also supported by Made at HOME, the research and development programme for theatre makers and artists at varying career levels from HOME, Manchester.

There will be two further rounds of commissioning in 2018 and 2019.

Slate is part of the Arts Council England’s Sustained Theatre scheme and as well as offering bursaries and commissions it will provide continued support to artists across the region from six specialist local ‘enablers’ and deliver a series of free workshops and retreats to help further the careers of emerging and established Black theatre-makers. The programme is additionally supported a consortium of partner organisations and a steering group of independent artists, producers and theatre companies.