IROKO Theatre Company was formed in 1996. The company uses the arts, particularly – although not exclusively – African theatre arts such as storytelling, drama, music, dance, arts and crafts, as a vehicle to advance the education, health and wellbeing of people of all backgrounds, age groups and abilities.
The name IROKO was chosen after the Iroko tree which flourishes in West Africa. It is considered sacred; a tree with special powers and meaning. As the saying goes, ‘A tree that never dies’! We took this name to symbolise the strength and depth of African culture and our overall quest to promote and share it both with people from other cultures and of course with Africans.
Our overall aim is to give participants the opportunity to achieve their full potential, play an active role in their community and have an improved quality of life through workshops, performances, resources, exhibitions or training sessions to enhance skills, confidence and self-esteem.
One of our most successful projects to date has been our Family Edutainment project, funded by Big Lottery. This four year inter-generational project used storytelling, arts and craft as a vehicle to enhance family learning and interaction. The project was so successful that Big Lottery offered IROKO an additional year of funding. We are particularly proud of the various heritage projects that we have run, courtesy of the Heritage Lottery Fund. We have researched the histories of the African community in Canning Town, and the preservation or adoption of rituals and traditions by Africans living in London.
We are currently engrossed in a really fascinating project, ‘Our Shared Heritage’, in collaboration with the British Museum. For this, we are investigating and identifying stories, objects, tricksters, gods and goddesses from different cultures, particularly Aztec, Islamic, European and Asian and their African counterparts. As a a part of this project, a Learning Resource Pack covering a range of national curriculum subjects, such as RE, Arts, History, Geography, PSHE & Citizenship, ICT, English, Literacy, Drama, etc. is available for free download from our website.You can also participate in an interactive Fun Heritage Quiz on the page.
IROKO have been shortlisted for the Queen’s Jubilee Award, received The Guardian Charity Award ‘for its innovative approach to education’ and made a “Community of Health” organisation by The Forum for Health and Wellbeing. Most recently, we received the “Community Impact Award” for our contributions towards the development of communities and were recognised as a National Open College Network accredited Centre.
Our goals for the near future are to consolidate and build on the successes we have achieved. IROKO is already a game changer in the field of theatre-in-education.We hope to develop this further by attracting core funding from different bodies, and developing our training programme. No doubt, we will diversify further as new opportunities reveal themselves. We will always remember that we are here to promote and share African culture in order to enrich the lives of those who take part in our work.