Tara Theatre Achieves Status as an Official Theatre of Sanctuary

30 June 2023

Tara Theatre are honoured to be officially designated a Theatre of Sanctuary, a recognition of our longstanding work alongside refugees and communities seeking sanctuary in London.  

Tara Theatre is at present the only theatre in London to hold this status. The implementation of detailed programming, charitable work and development of community groups has culminated in official recognition of Tara Theatre as a Theatre of Sanctuary.  

Awarded by the Arts Stream of Sanctuary, this acknowledgement highlights Tara Theatre’s commitment to using theatre, artistry, and creativity to reach across social, cultural, and geo-political divides. It speaks to a core ethos of platforming and engaging with voices that urgently need to be heard. 

In 2020, following the appointment of Abdul Shayek as Artistic Director, Tara Theatre made a commitment to honour the company’s roots in activism and become a catalyst for change. Artistic Director Abdul Shayek has said: 

“Two years on from relaunching Tara Theatre, this recognition is truly fundamental to our impact and relationship with our local, national, and global communities. To share this with the world during a month where tragically hundreds perished in European waters is important. It shouts loud and proud that we are here, and we are offering sanctuary to those escaping challenges caused by war, climate change, sexual orientation, or political circumstances.” 

Using their platform as a leading arts community in Wandsworth, Tara Theatre established a relationship with CARAS (Community Action for Refugees and Asylum Seekers) in 2021. CARAS is a community outreach charity based in Tooting who support people of refugee and asylum-seeking backgrounds living in South-West London.  

This partnership has led to weekly coffee afternoon groups for sanctuary seekers where anyone is welcome to join for food, drinks and creative activities taking place in Tara Theatre’s studio space. Our Associate Director Natasha Kathi-Chandra oversees these sessions and attends regularly to engage with the group, ensuring all their needs are being met by the activities on offer. Natasha has said: 

“As we continue to evolve at Tara Theatre, our communities grow stronger and more effective in advocating for change, representation, and a better world. To be awarded Theatre of Sanctuary is an honour and bold step in a supportive and equitable direction. Let’s keep evolving and revolutionising inclusion and access for everyone, reiterating that this is a journey not a race and remembering the power of standing united in the face of adversity. Together, we are better.” 

This status as a Theatre of Sanctuary has also been defined by the programming led by Artistic Director Abdul Shayek. Since 2020, Tara Theatre’s work has platformed stories centred on migrant narratives, verbatim stories from refugees and asylum seekers, as well as a consistent commitment to spotlighting voices rarely heard on London stages. These shows have included Dawaat, Silence (a co-production with the Donmar Warehouse), AMMA, Tara Theatre’s Young Company production DNA, and a mixed media exhibition Artists Make Space. 

Becoming a Theatre of Sanctuary also recognises our ongoing charitable work including our fundraisers for Women in Afghanistan in response to the ongoing human rights crisis taking place there. This fundraiser involved refugees and migrant artists alongside other leading sector organisations to raise money and awareness for ‘Women for Afghan Women’.  

Tara Theatre have committed to understanding what it means to seek sanctuary and how to be actively compassionate as a theatre venue. Through their programming, charity work and how they use their building in Earlsfield day to day, it’s clear that being a Theatre of Sanctuary is intrinsic to the way Tara Theatre is run. The team at Tara Theatre are proud to receive this vital status and hope as an official theatre of sanctuary they can offer peace, warmth, and community for many years to come. 


Tara Theatre Team

Artistic Director: Abdul Shayek
Executive Director: Helen Jeffreys
Head of Finance: Lisa Kerridge
Head of Development: Florence Collenette
General Manager: Devashree Pande
Associate Director: Natasha Kathi-Chandra
Senior Producer: Neena Shea
Head of Marketing & Communications: Anna Whelan
Marketing Officer: Frederick Zennor
Marketing Officer: Antonia Georgieva
Administrator: Ellie Oke
Assistant Producer: Hannah Ali
Technical Manager: Lisa Hood