Rob new image

Director

My first memory of theatre was when the London Bubble Theatre visited my primary school and I was captivated. I liked being in the schools shows and family friend suggested that I might like to do more at the local youth theatre, so with a friend (who has since made a very successful career as an actor) we nervously went along for an audition for a production of Joseph. They were a few cast members short, so we were in. This youth theatre became the place that validated theatre making as a legitimate and serious thing, where I created friendships and learned there were ‘real’ jobs in the theatre that someone like me could do. I loved being part of the making, rehearsing and producing process, although I wasn’t much of an actor really. So, when I was faced choices about what I might do after sixth form – and as the first in my family to go to University without much guidance at home – I turned down a place to read Economics and chose the aspirational option; the incredible programme in Drama and Theatre Arts at the University of Birmingham, which changed the direction and course of my life.

The opportunities I found at the youth theatre and my subsequent degree, shaped and guided my career after graduation. I knew first hand the importance of getting involved in theatre as a young person and the impact this could have. This led me to wanting to work in arts and creative education and it’s been a real privilege to have done so, from being that idealistic drama graduate to now.

Soon after leaving University, I was fortunate to gain work experience as a teacher/ actor with what was then called Language Alive! (and is still running as The Play House). I was really taken with the work the company did – active, participatory drama and theatre, working in Birmingham communities through sustained relationships with schools, and producing work that children really loved being involved in. I stayed with the company (eventually being appointed as Executive Director) and we built the company as an independent charity. At its peak it was working with over 40,000 children a year and the biggest employer of local actors after the Birmingham REP. After a decade I left to join the new Creative Partnerships Birmingham team and it was amazing to be part of that national programme working with so many organisations beyond theatre, and to be part of a movement setting new ambitions in the city. I worked there for four years as Director and after a Clore Fellowship joined the Royal Shakespeare Company in the education department. I led on national learning partnerships and teacher development, along with work in the US with University partnerships. After four brilliant years at the RSC, in 2013 I joined Arts Connect as Director, bringing together all the things I had learned through my previous roles to lead the growth and impact of the West Midlands ‘Bridge’ development programme (another Arts Council national initiative). I am now working with the Arts Connect on new innovations in contemporary art education and other programmes for young people focussing in the Black Country and Telford

I still have a belief that the purpose of what we do is working towards a more equal, fair and just society. At the heart of it for me is the emancipatory role of education and learning and within that, the right of all children and all young people to feel a genuine ownership of the arts. This starts with access to a high-quality creative education. I also know the importance for health, happiness and wellbeing, of living a ‘good life’ (whatever form that takes) and that the arts are at the heart of that. They help us to understand ourselves, and the society we live and to take action to improve it.

I am a Trustee of Victoria Park Academies Trust in Smethwick, Writing West Midlands and the Cultural Learning Alliance. my particular focus is to support their excellent work with, about and for young people. I was also a long serving Director and Chair of the brilliant Stan’s Café Theatre.

I love going to as many shows, concerts, films, festivals, exhibitions, new places as I can. Since lockdown I’ve got more into growing things in my garden and being outside, it’s such a great place to think.

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