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Guest Blog: Giles Terera on marking 50 years of black artists at the National Theatre

As part of the National Theatre's 50th anniversary celebrations Walk in the Light, a week of events led by actor Giles Terera (The Book of Mormon), will honour the contribution that black artists have made to British theatre over the past 50 years

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Giles Terera at the 2011 WhatsOnStage Awards
© Dan Wooller
The 50th anniversary of the National Theatre is totally the right moment to acknowledge and celebrate the rich contribution Black artists have made to British theatre over the last half century.

In Hamlet Shakespeare says theatre must hold a mirror up to nature. Reflect all of ourselves, not just part.

Our theatre is richer now than it was 50 years ago and Black artists, Asian artists, Arabic artists have helped to make it so, even in the face of reticence and racism from artistic directors, the theatre establishment and funding bodies.

Walk In The Light's aim is to acknowledge and inspire. Acknowledge those on who's shoulders we all stand and hopefully inspire those who are stepping up to lead the profession through the next 50 years.

Theatre is the original social media. At its immediate best it has its finger on the pulse of society and effect real change as powerfully as any other art form.

This is no more in evident that in companies like Talawa, Black Theatre Co-operative, Temba, Carib Theatre and people like Yvonne Brewster, Edric Connor, Anton Phillips, Wole Soyinka.

Anyone active in our society today, anyone trying to find their path in life, raise a family, anyone try to stay true to their hopes and ambitions can learn a lot from these great artists.

They not only showed us what post-war Britain was like, and what Thatcher did to the lives of real people and how Stephen Lawrence made the country really look at itself, but they showed us what it's like to be in love, young, passionate, how to have fun. And they did it with sometimes shouting voices, sometimes singing voices but always with dignity.

Each of the artists we will hear from could have an event just about themselves, but all of these artists together is a very rare opportunity. One that we couldn't be more excited about.

Walk In The Light begins on Monday (15 July 2013) with a discussion on the breakthrough made by black artists in the 1960s and 70s. Click here to view the full programme of events.