Sky Arts joins forces with five world-leading artists to nurture the next generation

Friday 29 January 2021

Sky Arts is to invest £300,000 in the culture sector with the appointment of five new Sky Arts Ambassadors: Booker prize-winner Bernardine Evaristo, dance artist and choreographer Akram Khan, sculptor Anish Kapoor, conductor Charles Hazlewood and Artistic Director of Theatre Royal Stratford East, Nadia Fall.

Their challenge? Find, inspire and support the next generation of talent at a time when opportunities are scarce. Each ambassador will be given £30,000 per year for two years to create their own bursary scheme to nurture up and coming writers, dancers, artists, musicians and theatre-makers across the country.

The new Sky Arts Ambassador programme is part of our commitment to support artists and make the arts more accessible for everyone. Quotes from all our ambassadors are below.

Phil Edgar-Jones, Director of Sky Arts and Entertainment, commented:

“In 2021 as we search for a way out of the pandemic we are turning our attention to the cultural recovery and, in particular, the difficulties facing the next generation of young arts practitioners in a world where opportunities have drastically diminished. Our new ambassador scheme is the cornerstone of this activity and we are lucky to have five of the leading lights in their fields running bursaries which provide funding and mentoring to up-coming talent. We are looking forward to working with them all and watching some incredible new work take shape.”

In her role as ambassador, writer Bernardine Evaristo will collaborate with the Royal Society of Literature to create the Sky Arts RSL Writers Awards. Open to emerging writers of colour across different literary forms, the five award winners will receive ten mentoring sessions over 12 months with a leading writer, a tutorial with Bernardine and the opportunity to showcase their work at a prestigious literary venue. The awards open for submissions today. Apply here.

Dance artist Akram Khan will support three UK-based dance artists with a six-month artist development programme. The programme will provide an opportunity for dancers to investigate stories and themes from their own work before delving into their creative process. They will participate in one-to-one mentoring sessions with Akram and AKC Creative Associate Mavin Khoo and will be invited to attend two collective sessions in London to observe Akram and his company and to network with other international artists. Apply here.

Sculptor Anish Kapoor will award three artists with a grant that will support their practice. Anish will seek to find a new generation of artists who are making new content and challenging what art can be. Through Sky Arts, audiences will be invited to engage with the ideas and themes their work explores. Applications will open later this year.

Conductor Charles Hazlewood will create opportunities for four disabled musicians from Paraorchestra to become a Paraorchestra Musician in Residence. The 12-month residencies will allow musicians to develop their artistic practice with support from Paraorchestra, responding to the idea of what live music can be for a 21st century musician. Applications have opened today.

Nadia Fall, Artistic Director of Theatre Royal Stratford East, will create the Sky Arts Artistic Associates Bursary. Based at the East London theatre, the bursary will offer two early to mid-career creatives – from any creative discipline – the chance to work with Nadia and her team in a new post to generate ideas, artistic collaborations and contribute to productions. At least one of these positions has been ringfenced for an Artist who self-identifies as D/deaf or disabled. Applications for the two positions have opened today. Apply here.

Notes to Editors

For further information
Please contact Lucy Butterfield

About the Ambassadors

Bernardine Evaristo is the award-winning author of eight books and numerous other published and produced works that span the genres of novels, poetry, verse fiction, short fiction, essays, literary criticism, and radio and theatre drama. Her writing and projects are based around her interest in the African diaspora. She is Professor of Creative Writing at Brunel University London. Her novel Girl, Woman, Other won the Booker Prize in 2019. A staunch and longstanding activist and advocate for the inclusion of artists and writers of colour, Bernardine has initiated several successful schemes to ensure increased representation in the creative industries.

Bernardine commented:

‘It’s essential to create new initiatives to help make our culture more inclusive for those from under-represented and marginalised communities. I’m looking forward to discovering and mentoring the next generation of talented writers through this wonderful Sky Arts and RSL programme.’

Anish Kapoor is considered one of the most influential sculptors working today. His works are permanently exhibited in the most important collections and museums around the world from the Museum of Modern Art in New York to the Tate in London; at the Prada Foundation in Milan; at the Guggenheim Museum in Venice, Bilbao and Abu Dhabi. Recent solo exhibitions include Pinakothek der Moderne, Munich, Germany (2020); Houghton Hall Norfolk, U.K, the Central Academy of Fine Arts Museum and Imperial Ancestral Temple in Beijing (2019). Kapoor is also world renowned for his architecturally scaled works. Public projects include: Cloud Gate (2004), Millennium Park, Chicago, USA; Leviathan (2011) exhibited at 2011 Monumenta, Paris; Orbit (2012), Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, London; Ark Nova, an inflatable concert hall created for Lucerne Festival, Japan (2013-) and Descension, (2014) most recently installed in Brooklyn Bridge Park, New York, USA (2017).

Anish commented:

'At a time when the arts are under threat from poor national strategy and cultural institutions globally are suffering as a result of the pandemic. It is vital to publicly demonstrate our commitment to artists and arts organisations. Sky Arts is now free to view for all. This new platform allows people all over the country to access educational and challenging arts programming. As Sky Arts visual arts Ambassador I hope to help younger artists find a platform to challenge and inspire us to new content, meaning and poetic ambition.

Nadia Fall trained at Goldsmiths College, University of London (MA Directing) and on the NT Studio's Directors programme. Nadia directed The Village and King Hedley II as her first shows as Artistic Director of Theatre Royal Stratford East. In May 2020 she directed The Outside Dog for BBC One as part of London Theatre Company’s Talking Heads monologue series. In September 2020 she directed NO MASKS for Sky Arts, a one-off drama based on testimonials from key workers. Her other directing credits include Three Sisters, The Suicide, Our Country’s Good, Dara, Chewing Gum Dreams, Home, Hymn, The Doctor's Dilemma (National Theatre), Hir, Disgraced (Bush Theatre), R and D (Hampstead Theatre), Way Upstream (Chichester Festival Theatre), Hobson's Choice (Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre), How Was It For You? (Unicorn Theatre), Sticks & Stones (Polka Theatre), The Maids (Lyric Hammersmith), Miss Julie (Croydon Warehouse Theatre) and Wild Turkey (Site Specific). As Associate Director, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time (Gielgud Theatre), Collaborators and The Habit of Art (National Theatre), and as Staff Director, Rocket to the Moon, Really Old, Like Forty Five, Phèdre and Much Ado About Nothing (National Theatre). Fall has directed at Guildhall School of Music and Drama and led participation initiatives with partners such as the Young Vic, Clean Break, Soho Theatre and the Royal Court.

Nadia commented:

‘I am incredibly excited and grateful to Sky Arts for funding this brilliant bursary at a challenging time for theatre-makers. Theatre freelancers in particular have been badly hit by the Covid closures and these bursaries allow us to recruit two early career artists and nurture talent whilst so many are having to leave the industry in droves. By ringfencing at least one of these positions for an artist who self identifies as D/deaf or disabled we are enriching the stories that we tell and the way we tell them. It also keeps us pushing, growing and challenging ourselves which is so important creatively for theatre. We can’t wait to have two talented artists join our team.’

Charles Hazlewood is an award-winning conductor and musical revolutionary; he is a speaker, and Artistic Director of Paraorchestra. He has conducted some of the greatest classical repertoire with some of the best orchestras in the world and is a significant presence on British television and radio. He is the founder of the world’s first Paraorchestra and his critically-acclaimed music theatre shows tour the world; his innovations have created new audiences for orchestral music and even reset what our concept of an ‘orchestra’ is. Hazlewood is a visionary with a mission to bring the ever-modern joy of orchestral music to the 21st century audience and in doing so, to change lives and communities for the better.

Charles commented:

‘A founding principle of Paraorchestra has always been a determination to provide a platform for the very best disabled talent, to create opportunities for that talent, and most crucially to help it grow. Now, with the heaven-sent support of Sky Arts, we are able to support four brilliantly gifted Paraorchestra musicians in going to the next level: developing their practice, and proving more than ever that disability is no barrier to world class art.’

Akram Khan is one of the most celebrated and respected dance artists of today. In just over 20 years he has created a body of work that has contributed significantly to the arts in the UK and abroad. His reputation has been built on the success of imaginative, highly accessible and relevant productions such as XENOS, Until the Lions, Kaash, iTMOi (in the mind of igor), DESH, Vertical Road, Gnosis and zero degrees. Khan’s work is recognised as being profoundly moving, in which his intelligently crafted storytelling is effortlessly intimate and epic. A highlight of his career was the creation of a section of the London 2012 Olympic Games Opening Ceremony that was received with unanimous acclaim. Khan is an Associate Artist of Sadler’s Wells and Mountview Academy of Theatre Arts, London and Curve, Leicester.

Akram commented:

For any of my works, the research & development process is absolutely crucial. By providing three UK-based dance artists with R&D periods and support, I want to help them further deepen their practice and strengthen their own voice. I want to develop a sense of collective and thought-provoking mentorship where artists are given a chance to investigate and invest a much-needed creative and critical space within a challenging context for the arts.

About Sky Arts

Sky Arts exists to bring more art to more people across the UK. In 2020, with the creative industries under serious threat, we threw open our doors to make the channel free for everyone to watch. We’ve redoubled our mission to increase access to the arts and we’re committed to getting everyone involved as the industry recovers. The fact is, we need the arts now like never before, and Sky Arts brings them straight to your living room.

We have something for everyone, championing creative talent by showcasing the best in music, theatre, dance, literature, opera and visual art. From Glyndebourne to Grime and Cézanne to The Style Council, we’ve got your passions covered. Millions of viewers tune in to hit returning series such as Portrait Artist of the Year, Urban Myths and British cultural institution The South Bank Show, but our acclaimed new programmes might take you anywhere from Pinter’s house with Danny Dyer to a Scottish road trip with Samuel Johnson.

Collaboration is at the heart of what we do. Sky Arts is the headline sponsor of National Theatre Live in the UK and we work with cultural partners across the country including the English National Opera, Royal Academy of Arts, Tate, Creative Industries Federation and Coventry City of Culture to name but a few.

You can watch Sky Arts for free on Freeview channel 11 and Freesat channel 147. If you’ve got Sky or a Now TV entertainment pass, you can also watch over 2,000 hours of shows exclusively on demand.

We’re passionate about supporting the next generation of artists, so we’re working with five leading Sky Arts Ambassadors - Booker Prize-winner Bernardine Evaristo, dance artist Akram Khan, conductor Charles Hazlewood, Theatre Royal Stratford East Artistic Director Nadia Fall, and sculptor Anish Kapoor – to run bursary schemes for new and emerging talent.

About the RSL

Founded in 1820, the RSL acts as a voice for the value of literature, honouring and supporting emerging and established writers whilst creating a bridge between authors and audiences to engage as many people as possible with the breadth of UK literature.

Daljit Nagra, RSL Chair commented
‘Most writers of colour often toil in the wilderness for years before they are recognised, this programme will not only develop talented writers but it will also shine a light on them.’

Marina Warner, RSL President commented:
‘This is a hugely valuable and inspiring initiative, and it couldn’t come at a more necessary time, when in every medium creative energies are being so desperately curtailed and writers and artists need to be given the chance to emerge - in their full glory.’

About Paraorchestra

Paraorchestra is the world’s first large-scale integrated virtuoso ensemble of professional disabled and non-disabled musicians.

Our mission is to redefine what an orchestra can be. We see it as an extraordinary and perfectly synchronised body of instruments that draws on the tradition of centuries but is enriched and expanded by the talents, the instruments and the zeitgeist of the 21st century.

The visible participation of talented disabled and non-disabled musicians playing old and new repertoire, that includes analogue, digital or assistive instruments alongside traditional acoustic ones, is a step-change in the world of orchestral music. This new ‘breed’ of orchestra belongs at rock festivals just as much as in a concert hall; reaching the broadest range of audiences.

Our Artistic Director, Charles Hazlewood, has always been drawn to developing work that can reach out to the widest range of audiences. This unique collaborative approach to high-octane music-making is challenging worldwide perceptions of the status of disabled musicians in classical performance, and of classical music itself.

About Theatre Royal Stratford East

Since 1884, Theatre Royal Stratford East, the historic producing house in the heart of London’s East End has spearheaded diverse work and championed often marginalised stories on its stage. Many leading actors, writers and directors have been part of the Theatre Royal Stratford East family including Meera Syal, Barbara Windsor, Don Warrington, Indhu Rubasingham, Tanika Gupta, Roy Williams and Cynthia Erivo to name but a few. Now with Artistic Director Nadia Fall at the helm, Theatre Royal Stratford East presents a bold programme of reimagined classics, timely revivals and ground-breaking new work.

About Sky

Sky is Europe’s leading media and entertainment company and is proud to be part of the Comcast group. Across six countries, we connect our 24 million customers to the best entertainment, sports, news, arts and to our own award-winning original content.

Our technology, including the market leading Sky Q, connects people to everything they love - TV, music, games, online video, fitness and educational content, all in one place, easy. Our streaming service, NOW TV, brings viewers all the enjoyment of Sky with the flexibility of a contract-free service.

Building on the success of Sky Originals like Chernobyl, I Hate Suzie and Brassic, we are doubling our investment in original content by 2024 through Sky Studios. Sky News provides impartial and trustworthy journalism for free, while Sky Arts, the UK’s only dedicated free-to-air arts channel, makes the arts accessible for everyone. Our new TV and movie studio, Sky Studios Elstree, is expected to create over 2,000 new jobs and generate an additional £3 billion of production investment in the UK over the first five years alone.

We believe that we can be a force for good in the communities in which we operate. We’re committed to being Europe’s first net zero carbon entertainment company by 2030. We take pride in our approach to diversity and inclusion: we’ve been recognised by The Times and Stonewall for our commitment to diversity and we’ve put in place a new programme to invest £30million across our markets over the next three years to tackle racial injustice.