Julia Thomas at Curve Theatre, Leicester
Lekan Lawal at Derby Theatre
Ben Occhipinti at Octagon Theatre, Bolton

A grant from the Esmée Fairbairn Foundation will provide more opportunities for new and emerging theatre directors from under-represented groups.

Julia Thomas, Lekan Lawal and Ben Occhipinti have been awarded a paid residency to enable them to spend eighteen months based in a regional theatre as part of the Regional Theatre Young Director Scheme 2016 – 2017. Funded by Arts Council England, this residency provides the opportunity for the directors to mount their own production as part of each theatre’s programme – the productions are yet to be announced. In addition, the residency will allow the directors to develop their understanding of the artistic and operational workings of a theatre as potential artistic directors and to assist on its productions.

Established in 1960, the Regional Theatre Young Director Scheme (RTYDS), a Young Vic Associate Company, is the UK’s longest running and most influential training scheme for emerging directors. RTYDS brings together emerging directors with the UK’s leading regional theatre companies and is particularly focused on directors who live outside London and are from communities presently under-represented in theatre.

The scheme which was re-designed last year with support from Arts Council England is now offering many more opportunities to directors at the early stages of their theatre careers. It has just attracted a grant of £114,500 from the Esmée Fairbairn Foundation over two years towards the development a national programme of regional theatre and director development which is designed to bring a richer range of life experiences, cultural traditions and different voices into regional theatres and the theatre industry in general.

Nikolai Foster, Artistic Director of Curve Theatre:
“We are thrilled to support Julia Thomas under the auspices of the Regional Theatre Young Director Scheme. I owe my career to the apprenticeship and feel proud that Curve will welcome a trainee during my first year as Artistic Director. The RTYDS recognises the need for true diversity across the arts and the importance of nurturing theatre-makers from all backgrounds, ensuring British theatre better reflects the world we live in: These are values we celebrate at Curve and we couldn’t be happier to welcome Julia to Leicester, to live and work in our great city.”

Sarah Brigham, Artistic Director of Derby Theatre:
“I’m delighted that this relationship with RTYDS will build on and develop the innovative artist development work we have started with In Good Company. I’m passionate about diversifying the voices heard on our stage and so I look forward immensely to working with RTYDS and our personal placement, Lekan Lawal, to find an exciting new voice to help continue to bring great theatre to Derby.”

Elizabeth Newman, Artistic Director of Octagon Theatre Bolton:
“We are thrilled to be hosting Ben Occhipinti at the Octagon, and cannot wait to welcome him into the organisation. Our Theatre is deeply committed to learning and training, and it is great that the Octagon can offer a unique and meaningful experience to Ben thanks to the Regional Theatre Young Director Scheme. RTYDS is an invaluable organisation that helps us make a difference to the national landscape, and we are proud to be part of this important endeavour. It’s vital that we continue to nourish and develop the future generation of artistic directors.”

RTYDS has helped the development of many of the best directors in British theatre including: Trevor Nunn (RSC and National Theatre), Michael Boyd (RSC), Rupert Goold (Almeida), John Tiffany and Vicky Featherstone (Royal Court), Natalie Ibu (Tiata Fahodzi) and Matthew Xia (Manchester Royal Exchange).

Many RTYDS alumni are now Artistic Directors of major UK theatres, this year Elizabeth Newman (Octagon Theatre, Bolton) and Nikolai Foster (Curve, Leicester) join Lorne Campbell (Northern Stage) as past recipients of RTYDS residencies who are currently hosting the next generation of RTYDS resident directors at their theatres.

Julia Thomas

Portrait of Julia ThomasJulia Thomas is from Llanelli and was resident director at the National Theatre Studio in partnership with National Theatre Wales earlier this year. For National Theatre Wales Julia has been Emerging Director on A Provincial Life and Assistant Director on Iliad.  Julia has directed at various Welsh theatres including Blue/Orange at Sherman Theatre and Fun Palaces at Wales Millennium Centre.

Lekan Lawal

Portrait of Lekan Lawal © Wolf MarlohLekan Lawal is from London and trained at LAMDA. He recently worked as an associate for The Big House and is currently working on Measure for Measure at the Young Vic.

Ben Occhipinti

Portrait of Ben OcchipintiBen Occhipinti is from Wiltshire and worked with Salisbury Playhouse on several productions including Spread a Little Happiness and Jack and the Beanstalk, he has a passion for music theatre and opera and recently directed La Rondine with Iford Opera.

For further press information please contact Frederica Notley – Executive Director, Regional Theatre Young Director Scheme, or telephone 020 7922 2993

Esmée Fairbairn Foundation

Esmée Fairbairn Foundation aims to improve the quality of life for people and communities throughout the UK both now and in the future. We do this by funding the charitable work of organisations with the ideas and ability to achieve positive change.The Foundation is one of the largest independent grant-makers in the UK. We make grants of £30-£35 million annually towards a wide range of work within the arts, children and young people, the environment and social change. We also operate a £26 million Finance Fund which invests in organisations that aim to deliver both a financial return and a social benefit.