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The Abdul Shayek Directors Fellowship – Remembering a great champion of South Asian arts…

The Abdul Shayek Directors Fellowship – Remembering a great champion of South Asian arts…

A new initiative to help support theatre directors from marginalised communities…

By Suman Bhuchar

IT IS IMMENSELY gratifying to see how those who worked with Abdul Shayek (1984-2023) have chosen to remember their colleague.

Shayek was artistic director and CEO of Tara Theatre between 2020 and 2023 and was 39 when he passed away.

This charismatic and delightful individual is sorely missed by his colleagues and people from the creative community – especially South Asian artists whom he championed.

He supported the venue during the difficult Covid pandemic, commissioned and directed many shows, including ‘Final Farewell’ an audio walking project, remembering those who were lost during the pandemic, in 2021 and which toured UK festivals in 2022. He commissioned 12 monologues by national and international writers, produced an immersive VR story, ‘Amma’, in 2022 featuring Bangladeshi women’s testimonies (which won Shayek, a posthumous award at the UK Theatre Awards for Digital Innovation, 2023 – see link below) and ‘Dawat’ (2021) to mark the 50th anniversary of the creation of Bangladesh.

At a packed memorial event held at the Olivier Theatre, National Theatre on the Southbank on January 18, his family and theatre community came together to pay fulsome tributes.

Kate Chadwick, his teacher spoke about his interest in drama at Little Ilford School, while director Matthew Zia talked about “being two brown boys with big dreams”, as they began their theatre apprenticeships at the Theatre Royal Stratford East under the late Philip Hedley’s tenure.

Sudha Bhuchar, who wrote ‘Final Farewell’, created a very special monologue, while his family spoke about their personal loss and grief and his impact.

Tara Theatre colleagues, Helen Jeffreys, Natasha Kathi-Chandra and the chair, Sunita Pandya-Malik recognised his drive and passion pointing out that, “Abdul believed in the power of collective endeavour, and he took great care over what was entrusted to him. And we all loved him.”

In order to continue his legacy, Tara has launched The Abdul Shayek Directors Fellowship – an industry led training and development programme to support mid-career directors with the experience and skills they need to take on leadership positions in our theatres.

Picture: Abdul Shayek at Tara Theatre by Harry Elletson

For more information and to support the Fellowship


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Written by Asian Culture Vulture