Yalla Arts’ pilot project needed to reflect its core value and objective, and this is how the idea of ‘Community Theatre for a Diverse Exeter’ came about. The project led to establishing two drama groups: a group of international women living in Exeter, and a group of kids aged 8-11 from diverse backgrounds.

The first step was to secure funding, and I was lucky to secure a grant from Arts Council England that enabled me to start delivering this project. It is worth saying here that at that point my experience with attracting funding was focused on research projects, so I needed a lot of guidance and support from people with experience in the area of art funding, and boy was I lucky with the wonderful people who were extremely generous and offered me all the support I asked for! My next blog is actually going to be dedicated to talking about collaboration and mutual support between art organisations, so please check it out. 

Now that the money was in the bank, I enlisted the help of two co-facilitators to help me run the two groups. Sophie Yarde-Buller is my co-facilitator for the international women’s group, and Maisaa Sweid (my wife) is the kids’ group co-facilitator. Together we started our outreach work with every organisation, group, and venue we know in Exeter that supports or offers services to people from refugee, migrant, and ethnic minority backgrounds in Exeter. Again, more on partnerships with community organisations and venues in the next blog.

The two groups were up and running in October 2019, and they each met once a week at Maketank studio in the city centre until around mid-March this year when we moved to online meetings, just because we decided to do so, no other reason whatsoever!!!!!

The project is coming to an end soon, and I will hopefully share some feedback from participants here. 

I am very happy with how this project has created two small communities of creatives who are meeting regularly to catch up, check on each other, and play some fun and engaging drama games together. I am confident that many of these participants will go one to make more theatre and art with Yalla and elsewhere from now on. Once you catch the creative bug, there’s no getting rid of it!


Founder of Yalla Arts Theatre