Women & Theatre look ahead to the next 40 years as Artistic & Executive Directors step down.

Posted on Feb 20, 2023
  • Women & Theatre’s leaders are to hand over the reins as the thriving organisation looks ahead to the next 40 years.
  • Founder member and Artistic Director Janice Connolly and Executive Director Jess Pearson to stand down after 40 and 20 years’ service respectively.
  • Pioneers of addressing contemporary issues since 1983, Women & Theatre have employed over 300 artists and arts workers, delivered over 7000 performances and workshops for over 200,000 audiences and participants.

Women & Theatre’s leaders are to hand over the reins as the thriving, Birmingham-based organisation, looks ahead to the next 40 years.

Founder member and Artistic Director Janice Connolly and Executive Director Jess Pearson, plan to stand down later this year following 40- and 20-years’ service respectively. 

Women & Theatre has spent the last four decades producing exciting new work for the theatre, and participatory projects about contemporary issues, reflecting the language and lives of ordinary people. The company has worked with over 300 artists, engaged over 200,000 people as audiences and participants, both live and digitally, and produced over 7000 performances and workshop sessions. Women & Theatre have created work responding to local and national issues and all through the lens of women and the communities of Birmingham and the West Midlands, focusing on what matters to people in their day-to-day experiences.

Janice and Jess will be leaving the company at an exciting time, as it begins its journey as an Arts Council National Portfolio Organisation from April 2023, with the financial stability, and strong partnerships in place, to build upon the company’s strong foundation and extensive experience of delivering impactful work.

Recruitment for Women & Theatre’s new Artistic Director and Executive Director will begin in April 2023, with a view to appointing in the summer. Further information on the roles and application process can be found on womenandtheatre.co.uk/recruitment

Ellie Griffiths, Chair of the Board of Trustees said: “Collectively, Janice and Jess have given 60 years to the company. Their passion, commitment and empathy is the beating heart of Women & Theatre. As a founding member and the company’s Artistic Director since 1995, Janice is a pioneer, innovator and champion of inclusive theatre making – ensuring that more voices in the West Midlands are heard.

Jess’s hard work and dedication over the last 20 years has ensured that Women & Theatre has been able to make the work it does with integrity, heart and compassion. Over the years she has helped navigate the company through some turbulent times, most recently during Covid.

Having successfully secured a place as a National Portfolio Organisation, they leave the company in a strong position to continue making deep work about things that matter.”

Janice Connolly, Artistic Director said: “Though I have worked on many projects over the years, my work with Women & Theatre will remain the thing I am most proud of, because of the value-driven foundations from which everything springs from, both the work we make and how we make it.

I am sure Women & Theatre will continue to go from strength to strength and I plan to still be associated with the company and work on bespoke projects. I will of course continue my freelance career, including acting, directing and the occasional stage dive as Barbara Nice!”

Jess Pearson, Executive Director said: “Leaving Women & Theatre will be wrench! But, 20 years feels like a good milestone, and its wonderful to leave on a high, and with the company in a strong position as a National Portfolio Organisation.

“I am immensely proud of what the company has achieved over the last 20 years, and my role within that. I have enjoyed the wide range of work and have been inspired by so many artists, participants, colleagues and partners. I am excited to be working on some fantastic projects before I go, including celebrating Women & Theatre’s 40th anniversary, and am excited for the company’s next 40 years.”

Women & Theatre has an exciting programme of work planned for its 40th Anniversary year that will highlight its rich history with performance, podcast and web-based projects. Further details will be released in the coming months.