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White Theatre Director Faces Backlash after Receiving Funding Intended for Black and Ethnic Minorities

Anthony Ekundayo Lennon, born to Irish parents but describes himself as ‘mixed-heritage’, won a theatre job meant to go to a BAME applicant

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Anthony Ekundayo Lennon. Courtesy: twitter.com

Anthony Ekundayo Lennon. Courtesy: Twitter

Theatre director Anthony Ekundayo Lennon is at the centre of a controversy after it was discovered he was awarded a job intended for people from Black Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) backgrounds despite being born to white Irish parents and previously identifying as white.

Lennon, who heads Talawa Theatre Company based at Rich Mix, East London, was one of four people who won a awarded a two-year full-time residential traineeship funded by a GBP£406,500 grant from Arts Council England. The programme was aimed at aiding theatre practitioners of colour establish themselves in an industry of predominately white men.

Having worked as a ‘black’ actor for more than 30 years, Lennon had applied for the position as a person of ‘mixed-heritage’ despite discussing his white identity in an episode of BBC series Everyman in the early 1990s. The programme explores then 24-year old Lennon’s adoption of a new identity and a Nigerian middle name. Lennon claimed to have ‘gone through the struggles of a black man’ after receiving brutal racists abuse due to his physical features. ‘When my hair was shorter it looked like a little afro and people just assumed you’re half-caste,’ he said on the show.

Speaking to the Sunday Times, the organization who distributed the funding said that they were satisfied Lennon was ‘eligible for the opportunity as a result of a relationship with him over a number of years, in which he has identified as a mixed-heritage individual.’ Arts Council England added that this ‘unusual case’ shouldn’t undermine ‘the support we provide to black and minority ethnic people.’

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