Theatre News

Jatinder Verma to step down as artistic director of Tara Arts

Verma founded the company over forty years ago in 1977

Jatinder Verma
Jatinder Verma
© Dan Wooller for WhatsOnStage

Jatinder Verma is to step down as artistic director of Tara Arts, it was announced today.

Verma founded Tara Arts over forty years ago in response to the racist murder of Gurdip Singh Chaggar in 1976. The company started in Battersea Arts Centre and its inaugural production was the Nobel Prize-winning poet Rabindranath Tagore's anti-war play Sacrifice, staged in the summer of 1977. Since then, Tara Arts has promoted cross-culture theatre and created Britain's first multicultural theatre building in 1983 – the only BAME company at the time to own a theatre venue that combines architectural elements from India and Britain, marking a step forward in BAME theatre provision. It has received support from the Arts Council England, trusts and foundations and over 1,400 individuals during its lifetime.

Over the last four decades, Verma has supported the emergence of generations of Asian theatre artists including Ayub Khan Din, Sanjeev Bhaskar, Shelley King, Paul Bhattacharjee, Shaheen Khan, Kumiko Mendel, Sudha Bhuchar and Nadia Fall, as well as companies such as Tamasha, Kali and Yellow Earth. He has toured shows around the UK and internationally and co-produced with a wide range of theatres, including the National Theatre where in 1990 he was the first non-white director of a production – Verma's own adaptation of Molière's Tartuffe, followed by the first staging at the National Theatre of the Sanskrit classic The Little Clay Cart.

He commented: "Salman Rushdie memorably talked of introducing a 'different sort of noise in English' with the publication of his ground-breaking novel Midnight's Children. The past 40 years have seen British theatre take on the challenge of embracing difference, with a host of new writers, directors, performers and designers. I feel privileged to have played a part in changing the landscape of modern theatre. While cultural diversity has increasingly become an accepted norm, the challenge of diversity, sadly, remains as acute as ever. Connecting worlds seems to me a necessary mantra for our times; it is certainly what I intend to continue to work on in the years ahead. Theatre has never been more urgent. This is an exciting time for a new generation of artistic leaders to continue the 'connecting worlds' story of Tara."

Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, said: "Jatinder's vision and dedication to championing inclusion and diversity have opened up the theatre and changed the landscape of the stage in London and beyond. Tara Theatre has always held a special place in my heart, and I know that Jatinder's legacy will continue to inspire artists and audiences for generations to come. I wish him all the very best for his next adventure."

Naresh Aggarwal, chair of Tara Arts, added: "Jatinder's greatest achievements lie in helping us appreciate that Asian stories are for all Britons and inspiring generations of Asian talent to emerge onto the public consciousness. He has firmly set Tara on the map of modern British theatre and I am confident his legacy will be built upon by his successor."

Verma's successor is yet to be announced.