OffWestEnd talks to Josette Bushell-Mingo OBE, who is directing a double bill for Pegasus Opera from 12-14 April

Josette Bushell-Mingo OBE is Principal and CEO of The Royal Central School of Speech and Drama. 

Born in London and based in Sweden from 2005-2021, Josette is an active spokesperson for inclusive arts and politics. 

Previously, she was the Head of Acting at Stockholm University of the Arts, Sweden; Artistic Director for The National Touring Swedish Deaf Theatre Ensemble Tyst Teater (CREA) Riksteatern; the Founder and Artistic Director of PUSH, a Black-led theatre festival with the Young Vic Theatre; and co-founder of PUSH’s sister organisation in Sweden, TRYCK. 

An award-winning actor and director, her career has included performances with the Royal Shakespeare Company, the National Theatre and the Manchester Royal Exchange. 

 She has served on the board of the Swedish Film Institute, as chairwoman for CinemAfrica, a Swedish Non-Profit organisation devoted to celebrating African and Diaspora film culture, is currently on the Board of Trustees for the University of London and Hackney Empire, and is Patron of the Unity Theatre, Liverpool. 

What first attracted you to the theatre?

I think the theatre attracted me. The power of storytelling, the different communities I could reach, and it being the best place to find out about our existence as human beings.

If you could pick any one person or theatre/opera company to work with on your next project, who/which would it be?

All of them! I am more interested in the form of opera than I am in the institutions that produce it – therefore I am interested in working with companies that are excited to push the boundaries of what opera can be.

What is your opinion of Off West End theatre and opera in general?

We’re all working through some challenging times, but I believe with a more joined up approach we can make a bigger difference to the West End and Off West End, as well as to opera. I think you’ll agree that the arts, no matter where they are, are seriously underfunded and undervalued. The more we work together, maybe we can slow this process down and recalibrate the work of the arts for our societies and communities.

What was the most inspiring production you have ever seen? Why?

I see inspiration in many ways and places. It could be the last student production here at Central, opera at the Swedish National Theatre, or a small sharing of work at The Place. All of these things are inspiring. When I receive inspiration, I receive it from moments of artistic honesty and transparency – that can take place anywhere. Which means my creative landscape is expansive.

What piece of work are you the most proud of?

The opera I directed in Sweden and my recent concert and film event of Nina Simone at the Barbican. That list could change tomorrow.

What things in your personal life do you draw upon when you direct?
Everyday acts of courage, my Black and Global Majority community, and a lot of existential thinking at the moment. I’m fascinated by research and research in the arts, which I think is opening up a whole world of inspiration. And my students. They are inspiring and they bring me new ideas.

Are there any actors/actresses you would like to direct?
Directing is a two-way relationship, and it is as much about artists finding me an interesting director and about who wants to work with me. In that meeting, something new will come, and that keeps my directorial practice alive.

Which director do you respect most on OffWestEnd at the moment?
It would be impossible to pick just one given the breadth of talent we have in London – and beyond!

Can you tell our readers about what you’re doing now/next?

I’m running an institution – first and foremost, that’s what I do. My current directorial project is, of course, with Pegasus. I’m currently in discussion to direct a new opera in Copenhagen. And many more exciting things are in the pipeline… stay tuned!