Connect Artists

We are piloting a new scheme in which five Connect Artists work alongside us for seven months.

This was an idea borne during the pandemic through focus groups and conversations with freelancers. The Connect Artists will be developing their craft, making connections, and kick-starting conversations. There aren’t any prescribed outcomes, but they will be challenging and honing our thinking specifically around establishing pathways for new directors and theatre makers that challenge traditional structures.

Joining the team as Connect Artists are Alistair Wilkinson, Caroline Wilkes, Donna Briscoe-Greene, Hannah Treadaway and Omar Khan. Find out more about each of them below.

Meet the five RTYDS Connect Artists…

Photo of a white bearded male wearing a pattened shirt in front of a pink background

Alistair Wilkinson is a highly experienced, award-winning, queer, working class and disabled artist, originally from Manchester, now living in East London. They trained at Royal Central School of Speech and Drama, as well as on The Royal Court’s Invitation Writers Group, and also completed an MA at RADA/Birkbeck. They are the founder and Artistic Director of WoLab, a working laboratory for artists to create, and to date, they have raised over £1.5m of funding for various projects. They are the former Head of Artist Development at The Old Vic, and are currently an Associate Artist at National Youth Theatre, a Connect Artist for RTYDS, a Trustee for Boundless, and a Script Reader for Bush Theatre, Theatre503, Theatre Uncut and The Papatango Prize.

As Writer/Director: Man-Cub (WoLab/RADA/King’s Head); Housewerk (Arcola Theatre); Growing Up Queer (Fertility Fest/Barbican Centre); SPLINTER (Bunker Theatre); FLOOD! (SMASHFestUK/The Albany Theatre); and a ladder to the sky (Identity School of Acting). As Director: Digging Deep and 39 Degrees (VAULT Festival); Avalanche (Bloom Theatre); 4.48 Psychosis (University of Northampton); Jack the Mack (Camden People’s Theatre); A Simple Wedding Comedy (Wandsworth Arts Fringe); staged readings of Souvenir (West End); and Only the End of the World (Arcola Theatre); and short plays work (Bunker Theatre); The Storm (Theatre503); and Commuting (NYT/Royal and Derngate). As Writer: boy, oh boy (The Old Vic); re(Action) (Applecart Arts); JOLLY JOAN (Blackhorse Arts); a chronic, potentially life-threatening condition (RADA); The Collection (Curious Monkey – film); Lazy and the pain of being honest (Team Angelica). As Executive Producer: Gobble Gobble Gobble Gobble Goblin, Jineolojî and Fake Melania (The Old Vic/Shoreditch Town Hall); Spinning Wheel (Hannah Kumari/The Wardrobe Ensemble); and Immaculate Correction and Mermaids (King’s Head). Under their role of Artistic Director of WoLab: First Commissions (Paines Plough); The Actor-Writer Programme (TheatreN16/Bunker Theatre); ENG-ER-LAND (Hannah Kumari/Jermyn Street Theatre/UK Tour); PlayList (King’s Head); happy ever after? (Bunker Theatre); and R&D’s of Screwdriver (Sheffield Theatres); TIGER (Shoreditch Town Hall); Asperger’s Children (Trinity Laban); heavymetalsexyanimal (Theatre Deli); and In the Net (New York City Centre).

Caroline Wilkes has over 25 years of experience as a theatre maker and director. She creates both large scale community participation projects alongside working extensively in professional theatre, especially focussed on new writing. Caroline has directed productions at Birmingham Rep, New Vic (Stoke), Hackney Showroom, Southbank Centre, Edinburgh Fringe and national tours to theatres and non traditional performance spaces.

Caroline is the artistic director of a large, diverse collective of theatre makers across the Midlands where she leads on artist development and new work. She is an artistic associate for a large mental health trust where she makes work alongside service users, carers and mental health professionals. In recent years she has worked with the RSC, Birmingham Rep, New Vic and is a Beyond Artist with Graeae. Her current projects include working with Birmingham Rep on an adaptation of a Michael Morpurgo novel that Caroline has the exclusive rights to and developing a production that was commissioned by Bedlam Festival of Arts and Mental Health.

Greyscale photo of a Black woman with wavy shoulder-length hair leaning on a wall with her arms crossed, looking over to the right

Donna Briscoe-Greene is Creative Director and Landlady of Pub Theatre The Maypole Cafe Bar in Derby. She is also the founder of EMBAA (East Midlands Black Arts Associated).

“Hi, I’m Donna Briscoe-Greene Award winner of the 2019 Black Achievers Award for Culture, Media and the Arts. Creative Director and Landlady of Pub Theatre The Maypole Cafe Bar and Theatre.

The only Black Woman in the UK (I think to be running one) I am super proud to be spearheading this type of space in Derby. Because I love to sing I am often invited to perform in other new spaces now which for me also ensures African and Caribbean Arts and Culture continues to be explored, reframed, re-evaluated and seen.

I founded EMBAA CIC (East Midlands Black Arts Associated) in 2018, through which I support the development and decolonisation of the Arts scene locally through consultancy, performance and audience development, as well as training and or mentoring, of self and others.

It’s a fantastic journey.”

Hannah Treadaway is a South West based director, writer, coach and composer. She is an RTYDS Connect Artist and Sphinx Theatre 30 Writer, and alumni of Graeae’s Write to Play programme and of the Regional Theatre Young Director’s Scheme 3 month placement at Wiltshire Creative.

Hannah is currently writing a play with Sphinx Theatre and her most recent work includes writing “#GrimmTales’ a digital theatre show for Folio Theatre and AUB directed by Sepy Baghaei, monologue “Specs of Light” and interactive Twitter story “Be Taylor Jones” for Graeae Theatre Company, and spoken word piece “Here” for All the Queens Men and Wiltshire Creative. Hannah has previously worked with a range of companies including Wyldwood Arts, Diverse City, Nuffield Southampton Theatres, Folio Theatre, Wiltshire Creative, Graeae Theatre, Paine’s Plough, The Bunker, Taking Flight, Lighthouse Poole and HighTide Theatre. Alongside writing and directing, Hannah coaches artists and provides dramaturgy to a range of projects.

Photo of a young South Asian man with slicked back dark hair, facial hair and glasses wearing a brown jacket, and outdoors in front of a leafy green background

Omar Khan is a director, facilitator and writer based in the Midlands with a focus on collaborative, experimental processes. Through film, theatre, and digital mediums, his work engages communities and enables conversations around topics including: death, identity, and spirituality.

An alumnus of Birmingham REP’s Foundry scheme & Tamasha’s Directors Programme, he is currently an Associate Artist at Derby Theatre, where he runs the Years 4-6 Youth Theatre.

Current projects include: A Beginner’s Guide to Widowhood [ACE, Derby Theatre, In Good Company, The Big House]; Extra Time [Derby Theatre, Derby C.A.N]; and ‘Inside’, a VR project exploring and celebrating neurodiversity [Derby C.A.N, Hubbub]

What was the thinking behind the Connect Artists Scheme?

The idea for RTYDS Connect Artists developed following a number of conversations and interactions with small groups of freelance artists throughout the Covid-19 pandemic, but was also informed by connections with Freelance Task Force, Freelancers Make Theatre Work, Scene Change and Class and Coronavirus. Freelancers with a previous connection to RTYDS were invited to join focus groups to discuss how we as an organisation could specifically champion and support freelance artists who were just stepping into the industry and who don’t currently see themselves represented as directors or theatre makers.

It was clear that because their knowledge, skills, creativity and lived experience, freelance artists should sit at the heart of the change we are trying to make.

Initially our plan was to appoint two Artistic Associates, but through the open recruitment process which gave us the chance to hear from over 65 artists and meet nine, we realised we hadn’t created the right context to respond to what they needed and what they could offer.

We wanted to pilot a scheme that was not prescriptive and focused largely on what could sustain and energise them as artists. A small proportion of this time will be spent contributing to our work – this might be by attending a focus group, leading a workshop, taking part in a recruitment process or helping us amplify the opportunities we offer to artists.

The rest is to be used in whatever way serves their development or the development artists they expressed a commitment to supporting. They might use these days as a chance to read, reflect, think, write, attend workshops, run discussion groups or advice sessions.

The five Connect Artists roles will evolve over their seven months with us. We are asking them to keep a short journal so we have an informal record of the seven months that will inform our learning about this pilot programme.