River City star urges more ethnic minority roles

Maryam Hamidi, second left with members of the cast of River City, has struggled to find non-ethnically typecast work. Picture: Alan Peebles
Maryam Hamidi, second left with members of the cast of River City, has struggled to find non-ethnically typecast work. Picture: Alan Peebles
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A SCOTTISH actress is campaigning for better roles for ethnic minorities in film, television and theatre in Scotland after she says she faced discrimination herself.

Maryam Hamidi, who starred as Leyla Brodie in River City, has teamed up with Scottish-Asian screenwriter and director Raisah Ahmed in an attempt to help encourage more black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) creatives in the screen and stage industries.

Raisah Ahmed filming onset

Raisah Ahmed filming onset

Maryam, 32, who was born in Iran, said that despite having success on television and working with theatre companies including 7:84, Tron Theatre and the National Theatre of Scotland, she has struggled to find non-ethnically typecast work.

“BAME Boost” is being launched in Glasgow by the duo next week and Hamidi and Ahmed – who is currently shooting her short film Meet Me by The Water – hope to bring on board other actors writers, dir­ectors, producers, camera ops, script editors and designers.

They hope the project, which is in partnership with the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland and Glasgow Media Access Centre, can help jump-start the careers of disenfranchised artists.

“We started the initiative to raise awareness, because of the barriers we have faced in our own careers,” Hamidi said. “When you analyse things objectively – and look at what you are experiencing compared to your white colleagues – there are differences, doors I’ve never been able to get through, auditions I have ­never been able to get.

“Across Scotland there is a lack of opportunities for BAME actors and arts practitioners. As a nation we are changing culturally, and this is not reflected in our creative industries.”

Hamidi said a lot of young non-white people living in Scotland wouldn’t consider a career in the arts.

“For a lot of first and second generation young people living in Scotland, there isn’t representation for them in the media or on stage, so why would they think this industry is one for them – they wouldn’t, there is an immediate alienation,” she said.

The actress described the problem of “vague casting” she has encountered in her career.

She said: “I have been cast as so many different ethnicities, Iraqi, Iranian, Pakistani, Indian, South African, it gets a bit desperate. There are so few BAME actors that are able to sustain a career in Scotland that directors can’t cast things accurately.

“We are starting to see more women on stage, the balance away from white men casting roles for other white men is tipping a bit. Gradually we can start to fight for more cultural diversity, but it is a slow process. With BAME Boost, we want to offer an opportunity to up-skill existing talent and fund innovative ways to reach more diverse groups.”

BAME Boost will host its first gathering at GMAC Trongate 103 in Glasgow on Monday, 14 December at 7pm and Hamidi hopes to gather a network of BAME actors and others within the industry.