Theatre heavyweight Kwame Kwei-Armah joins Uxbridge College as Patron

Kwame Kwei-Armah, Uxbridge College, Copyright Leon Puplett

Theatre heavyweight Kwame Kwei-Armah - whose raft of global accomplishments range from his current position as The Young Vic’s Artistic Director to staging original plays in the UK and America’s top theatres - has become patron of Uxbridge College’s Performing Arts School Praxis.

Praxis is delighted to welcome the internationally renowned actor, playwright, director and broadcaster, who was made OBE in 2012 for services to drama and who has been a key voice in the recent #blacklivesmatters campaigning and in supporting the progression of young black actors and directors.

Kwei-Armah, who was born in Hillingdon and grew up in Southall, said: “I’m honoured to be patron of this amazing institution. Exposing young people to the joys of live performance, to the honour deeply bound in its execution and reception is for me one of the most important roles we have as citizens of any nation.  For art is how we are remembered.”

Kwei-Armah agreed to become patron after Performing Arts Lecturer Rob Lane contacted him following the recent BBC imagine documentary entitled ‘My Name is Kwame’ with Alan Yentob, where he revisited his local roots. Students had also been to see his production of Kemp Powers’ play One Night In Miami at the Donmar Warehouse, set in 1964 on the night of boxing heavyweight Cassius Clay’s defeat against Sonny Liston; Clay went on to become Mohammed Ali after converting to Islam. Students also attended a talk by Kwei-Armah.

Rob said: “We are absolutely thrilled to have Kwame on board, not only is he an amazing actor, writer and director but he has a massive commitment to supporting young actors especially young people of colour - he knows how tough it is for our students to come through in the performing arts. He is someone all our young actors look up to and it is a huge inspiration to have him on board as patron.  

“Kwame gets huge numbers of requests to become a patron or to become involved with organisations in other ways, so it is a real honour that he has agreed to support us in this way. We are really looking forward to having a visit once lockdown restrictions have eased and I know that all our students are following his work with continued interest.”

Kwei-Armah, who was born in Hillingdon Hospital, grew up in Southall and has had a prolific career across the UK and America. In 2018 he was made Artistic Director of the Young Vic Theatre, is former chancellor of the University of the Arts London - the awarding body for Uxbridge College’s creative arts qualifications. Kwei-Armah also achieved popularity on television by playing the paramedic Finlay Newton in the BBC drama series Casualty from 1999 to 2004 as well as acting in numerous other television productions and radio.

Playwright credits include Elmina’s Kitchen, Fix Up, Statement of Regret (National Theatre) Let There Be Love and Seize the Day (Tricycle Theatre), Tree (Manchester International Festival, Young Vic), One Love (Birmingham Repertory Theatre), Beneatha’s Place (Baltimore Center Stage).

Kwei-Armah was Artistic Director of Baltimore Center Stage from 20011-2018, Artistic Director of the Festival of Black Arts and Culture, Senegal, in 2010, as well as having served as an Associate Director of the Donmar Warehouse and served on the boards of the National Theatre, Tricycle Theatre, and Theatre Communications Group. In 2019 he was the Chair of the Bruntwood Prize for Playwriting. He is also a patron of Ballet Black and a visiting fellow of Lady Margaret Hall, Oxford University.

He has also won numerous awards and nominations including in 2012, 2013 and 2014 being named Best Director in City Paper’s Best of Baltimore Awards and in 2015 nominated for the prestigious Stage Directors and Choreographers Zelda Fichandler Award for Best Regional Artistic Director. In 2016 he was awarded the Urban Visionary Award alongside House Representative Elijah Cummings by the Center for Urban Families for his work in the Baltimore community. 

Praxis Performing Arts provides a dynamic environment for students to hone their skills and also the name given to the college’s theatre, where productions are staged to in-house and public audiences. Praxis, which is based at the Hayes Campus of Uxbridge College, offers courses in Dance, Music & Acting at Levels 1-4, for a wide range of starting abilities - all taught by industry professionals.