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Belgrade Theatre's Springboard for new talent

The Belgrade Theatre has announced that three new companies will be joining its continuing talent development scheme, the Springboard initiative, which offers up to three years' close support for emerging artists.

The initiative, launched in 2015, gives talented people in Coventry and Warwickshire the opportunity to take advice and guidance on marketing, PR and company development, as well as offering a space in which to create, rehearse and perform their work.

This spring's intake includes Underground Lights (pictured above), a recently-formed community theatre company working with adults at risk of social exclusion. Since the beginning of this year, the company has been delivering drama workshops to adults experiencing homelessness and/or mental health difficulties, and in coming months hopes to establish "creative cafes" where participants can share their own creative projects in a friendly and welcoming atmosphere.

Richard & Rishard is a collaboration between playwright Richard Walls and actor Rishard Beckett, first brought together as part of the Coventry bid to be crowned City of Culture 2021. Last year they showcased their work-in-progress piece Black Magic, which they hope to develop further as part of their Springboard involvement. Richard has already written for theatres such as the Birmingham Rep and the Royal Court, while Rishard was the star of Channel 4's No Offence and BBC One's Doctors.

Maokwo is a company that produces, curates and delivers platforms supporting creative talent from ethnic minority backgrounds to showcase their work. The project, MIGRATED, was created by locally-based artist and designer Laura Nyahuye who is orginally from Zimbabwe, and produces wearable body ornaments, combining traditional and contemporary crafts with an activist outlook to explore the experience of migrants and women in Coventry, challenging perceptions of the city's migrant communities.

Assistant producer at the Belgrade, Lian Wilkinson, said: "The ideas proposed by Underground Lights, Richard & Rishard and Maokwo are exciting for us a venue to be supporting, as well as offering us an insight into the creative talent growing in the city."

Past Springboard artists and companies have included Strictly Arts, whose latest show, Freeman, enjoyed a sell-out run at this year's Edinburgh Fringe; Noctium Theatre, who toured the story of Coventry music pioneer Delia Derbyshire to audiences across the UK, and Nasreen Akthar Khan, producer of the Belgrade's own Mela.

The current programme includes New English Opera, whose inventive productions aim to make opera accessible to all ages, and Shoot Festival, a biennial event showcasing local, early-career artists working in visual and performing arts across a range of Coventry venues.

Pictures by Nicola Young

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