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17 June 2014
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What is the Norman Beaton Fellowship?
Norman Beaton The BBC Norman Beaton Fellowship (NBF) is a flagship initiative run by Radio Drama as a key part of the department's (((soundstart))) actor talent events. Its aim is to broaden the range of actors available to Radio Drama producers across the UK by encouraging applicants from non-traditional training backgrounds. To that end, it complements the Carleton Hobbs Bursary Award scheme that we've been running with the accredited UK-wide Drama Colleges for more than fifty years. Two NBF winners each receive fixed-term bursary contracts with the Radio Drama Company, and up to four runners-up receive single freelance engagements in Radio Drama productions.

The 2003 NBF event was launched with open auditions held across England and attended by over 600 actors, a large proportion of whom came from Black and other ethnic communities. All finalists' auditions were recorded and circulated, for casting purposes, among the Radio Drama production teams. Some finalists went on to play parts in Radio Drama's soaps WESTWAY (for World Service Drama which folded in 2005), THE ARCHERS (for Radio 4) and SILVER STREET (for the Asian Network). In 2004, we extended our workshops to Scotland and Wales, and fed the best actors from those sessions - together with outstanding candidates from the previous year's Final heats - into semi-Finals held in Manchester and London. From these twelve finalists were invited to the key London event in early May. Since 2005, the NBF has been run as a collaboration with a network of theatre companies across Britain who helped our search for talent new to radio. Over the years we have been delighted to work with a wide range of theatre groups and companies including Birmingham Repertory Theatre; Dundee Rep; New Vic Stoke; Tamasha; Talawa; Kabosh, Northern Ireland; Graeae Theatre Company; Yellow Earth Theatre; Theatre Royal Stratford East; The Oval House, London; West Yorkshire Playhouse; Nottingham Playhouse; Citizens Theatre, Glasgow; Contact Theatre, Manchester; Lyric Theatre, Belfast; Menagerie Theatre Company, Cambridge; Theatre by the Lake, Keswick; Sherman Theatre, Cardiff.

This year's BBC NBF was managed from our Radio Drama Unit in London under the chair of Marion Nancarrow. You can read more about the winners and runners up here.

We were delighted to work in partnership with a selection of nine UK-wide theatres. This year's Semi-Finalists came from workshops hosted by:

Winners (2014)

Who was Norman Beaton?
Norman Beaton was born in Gu-
yana in 1934. Educated at Queen’s College in Georgetown, he trained as a teacher, and moved to England at 26. He was the first black teacher employed by the Liverpool Edu-
cation Authority. His passion for theatre took him out of education.

In his youth he wrote musical plays, playing the lead in Sit Down Banna at the Connaught Theatre in Worthing, Sus-
sex. Over three decades, he took on leading roles at the National, the Royal Court and the Old Vic. His theatre roles included works by Brecht, Pinter, Beckett, Moliere and Gilbert & Su-
llivan. In 1974, he established the Black Theatre of Brixton –and was also involved in promoting black theatre through organi-
sations such as the Minorities Arts Advisory Service, the Consultative Committee for the Arts Britain Ignores and the Afro-Asian sub-
committee of British Actors Equity.

In the 1980s, he became immer-
sed in Television; starring with Len-
ny Henry in The Fosters - Britain’s first black situa-
tion comedy se-
ries, and in the all-black soap opera Empire Road. But it was for Desmond’s that he is perhaps most fondly re-
membered, as the eponymous Desmond Ambro-
se to critical acclaim in Channel 4’s classic sitcom. For this, he re-
ceived the Royal Television Society Best Comedy Performer award.

His many pro-
ductions for BBC Radio Drama include Came from the Sun (1966), Blues for Mister Charlie (1974), Remem-
(1981), The Comedians (1984), Cricket's a Mugs Game (1985) and Benjamin Zephaniah’s Hurricane Dub (1988).