David Tse Ka-Shing of the Yellow Earth Theatre writes on the Guardian:

It’s time to put British east Asian theatre in the spotlight

Of the three largest ethnic minority groups in the UK, the British east Asian (BEA) presence in arts and culture is still the most invisible. Go to any subsidised theatre or turn on the TV and you’ll know what I mean. EastEnders, in 23 years of being broadcast, has regularly featured south Asian and black families but the only Chinese presence so far has been someone selling dodgy DVDs. It’s a far cry from the 100,000 or so British east Asians – the majority of them professionals – living and working in London.

The need for accurate representation – and cultural change – is paramount. Typhoon 5, the east Asian play-reading festival I’m currently organising at Soho theatre in London, is just one attempt to redress that.

My company Yellow Earth Theatre has worked for 13 years as the UK’s only BEA revenue-funded company. It is a vital service in the sometimes monolithic culture of British theatre. We’ve attracted predominantly good reviews from broadsheets and won numerous awards, yet (with some notable exceptions) we are ignored by mainstream venues – unless our tours happen to coincide with, say, the Beijing Olympics or Chinese new year.

There needs to be a major shift in perception of BEA artists living and working in the UK. We are not temporary visitors, so why are the majority of BEA actors asked to put on foreign accents? It’s as if we don’t belong here or that we can’t sound British. JK Rowling encouraged change by creating Cho Chang, Harry Potter’s first girlfriend. The film-makers who brought her to life made an inspired choice by casting a Scottish-Chinese actor. British theatre now needs to catch up.

Those of us who are bicultural can pick and choose our own identities and the way we express that culturally through food, fashion and the arts. The group Chi2 and musician/composer Suki Mok have independently explored the fusion of music from east and west; Chinatown Arts Space has mixed Mandarin rappers from Beijing with a British Chinese scratch DJ to create a unique sound. For some venue managers and critics, this dual heritage can either be negotiated with a patronising attitude or simply be too difficult to understand.

In theatre, it sometimes appears that those with the power to stimulate change often prefer to stay apathetic and culturally ignorant, maintaining an island siege mentality instead of an outward-looking, culturally curious one. During the last four Typhoon festivals, only one British literary manager bothered to accept the invitation to see the work. A famous casting director, who bemoaned the lack of BEA actresses and was told by another (black) director of the excellent ones working at Typhoon, also failed to attend.

I’d argue that our arts institutions should better reflect the reality of British cultural life. According to the 2001 census, British east Asians make up 1% of the population, but BEA arts organisations get nowhere near that in terms of public funding. It’s institutional barriers like these that demand urgent attention.

Despite this, there is growing confidence in our sector. Buoyed by events in China, many British east Asian artists have benefited from Yellow Earth’s professional development schemes, and several new companies have been set up as a result. I’m happy to report that this is the first year that the Typhoon festival has featured a majority of BEA directors.

There is an abundance of talent and experience to be found in the UK, and it’s time that the rest of Britain woke up to the diversity of artists and practitioners around them – those that know their Kuan Han-ching as well as their Shakespeare.