Lights Up; an innovative living history project curated by young women from across the East Midlands’ region.

The East Midland’s leading ladies in theatre take part in an innovative living history project curated by young women across the region. From playwrights and lighting designers to artistic directors and actors, young women from across the East Midlands have had a unique insight into the world of women who have led the way in the theatre industry.

The project, ‘Lights Up’ has been conceived by Fifth Word theatre company in partnership with Derby City Library, and support from Derby Theatre. It has been funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund. Through interviews, photography and podcasts, young women are documenting the part that pioneering women have played in shaping the theatre landscape of the region. These young women received training in photography, film and oral history capture delivered by an all- female team of practitioners. Angharad Jones, joint Artistic Director of Fifth Word, said: “Lights Up aims to better record women’s experiences and achievements, and to help redress that balance acknowledging that women have always been 50 % of the population but only occupy around 0.5% of recorded history.” She continued: “We are delighted that so many brilliant women agreed to be interviewed as part of this project. They are all pioneers, game changers and have made a real, lasting, and tangible difference to the world of theatre. Especially for us who call the East Midlands home.”

Young women, between the ages of 16- 21 have curated this living history project, the content of which has been documented in a bespoke website and a series of podcasts. Each ‘episode’ features an interview with a pioneering woman in theatre, who in some way has a connection to the East Midlands. There are nine episodes in total. The woman featured are: Jenny Sealey (Artistic Director, Graeae Theatre Company) Indhu Rubasingham (Artistic Director, Kiln Theatre) Sarah Brigham (Artistic Director and CEO of Derby Theatre) Sonali Bhattacharyya (Playwright) Ava Hunt (Theatre maker and Actor) Emteaz Hussain (Playwright) Alex Stafford- Marshall (Lighting Designer) Esther Richardson (Artistic Director, Pilot Theatre) Amanda Whittington (Playwright) (Please note – these interviews were recorded January – March 2020, before Covid 19 and before the Black Lives Matter movement in the wake of the unlawful killing of George Floyd.)

These fascinating conversations chart the individual experiences of each woman bringing to light first memories of theatre and how their background informs their work; cutting their teeth and the ‘big breaks’; coping with challenges and setbacks and offering practical advice to the next generation. This collection of interviews are inspiring, honest and, at times, funny and infuriating as they explore what it feels like to be a woman in this industry. On why she got involved, playwright Amanda Whittington said: “Growing up in 1980’s Nottingham, playwrights seemed to exist in a very different world to mine. As a teenager, there were no female role models I could look to and say “She’s done it, so maybe I could? But as Lights Up shows, I wasn’t alone. I was incredibly fortunate to be a part of this community of East Midlands theatre-makers who reshaped the landscape for young women and girls. By sharing our stories, I hope we’ll empower the next generation to find their voice and their place in theatre.”

Bethan Soar who took part in photographing and interviewing the women for Lights Up, said: “Lights Up didn’t only inspire me in my career, but the skills I learnt and the experiences I had are something that will stay with me for a very long time. This project has a very special place in my heart. I don’t only stand with this project for my personal experiences, but for everything it stands for – from the history, the wonderful women we interviewed, Fifth Word, and for what it means for the future of the arts.”

Jas Nolan Green, who also took part in Lights Up said: “Last year I had the pleasure of meeting an incredible group of women, all of whom taught me so much about the industry and so much about myself. The Lights Up project gave me countless opportunities to strengthen my craft, develop new skills and collaborate with a remarkable team of individuals from all different backgrounds, who I can now so proudly call my friends.”

Angharad, said: “With a crisis in arts and education under this government, it is so important to make clearer pathways into the industry, we believe this involves demystifying the roles that exist within theatre to the younger generation, access to success stories and role models to relate to; and practical, vocational advice and support. In order to ensure that future generations are able to see the achievement of women who came before them, the interviews have been transcribed and will be archived at Derby Local Studies Library.”Lights Up website and podcast will be unveiled during Derby Theatre’s Check In Festival on Friday 28th May. There will be a sharing of a short behind the scenes/ making of documentary and a panel discussion with Jenny Sealey, Amanda Whittington, Sarah Brigham, Sonali Bhattacharyya and the participants of the project hosted by Fifth Word joint Artistic Director, Angharad Jones. Tickets can be booked by visiting To find out more about the Lights Up project and to listen to the series of podcasts, please visit Lights Up (

Fifth Word is a female-led organisation, established in 2007, run by joint Artistic Directors Laura Ford & Angharad Jones. Based in the East Midlands, Fifth Word is a leading regional new writing company dedicated to discovering, championing, developing, nurturing and producing the most exciting playwrights of today. We produce and tour urgent, critically-acclaimed new plays, and create in-depth community projects, telling stories that connect particularly with younger audiences (14-25) & under-represented communities across the UK. Fifth Word is an associate company at Oxford Playhouse, former associates at Nottingham Playhouse & previous winners of the Olwen Wymark Award. Fifth Word’s most recent production of LAVA – a new play by Critics’ Circle Theatre Award winner and Olivier-nominated playwright James Fritz – will tour the UK Spring 2022 (postponed from spring 2020) as a co-production with Nottingham Playhouse. Tour dates included eight UK venues plus two week run main stage at Soho Theatre & run at The Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh.

“Compassionate, warm and funny” **** The Stage Previous Productions: All The Little Lights (13 venue UK tour/Arcola 2017). Winner of the George Devine Award; NOMINATED Best New Play Writers’ Guild Awards & Best New Play Off West End Awards. “an extraordinary achievement of writer, director and actors…deeply affecting work on a too-urgent subject” ***** Exeunt on All the Little Lights Wreck by Toby Campion (Nottingham Playhouse 2017) ‘ a cleverly constructed play…very impressive professional debut’ The Stage Amateur Girl by Amanda Whittington (12 venue UK tour 2014) “Harrowingly good” *****The Guardian Bones by Jane Upton (19 venue UK tour 2012)

“Winning the Encouragement Award for developing new writing, from the Writers’ Guild of Great Britain gave Fifth Word national recognition. Its nurturing of this play is exemplary” The Stage Heritage Lottery Fund Thanks to National Lottery players, we invest money to help people across the UK explore, enjoy and protect the heritage they care about – from the archaeology under our feet to the historic parks and buildings we love, from precious memories and collections to rare wildlife. @heritagelottery #NationalLottery Derby Local Studies and Family History Library is your place to research local and family history. Run by Derby City Council, the library has one of the UK’s largest and oldest collections of printed and manuscript material relating to Derby and Derbyshire, originally formed from two outstanding private libraries. If you would like to find out more about your house, street, suburb, village or community the library will have a wide range of resources that you may find useful. The local studies collection is reference only, but all are welcome to come and view materials, and in most cases digital or paper copies can be made for personal use.

Derby Theatre offer exceptional opportunities for their diverse audiences, schools, students, young people and artists to really get to grips with their creative process and product. Derby Theatres innovative programme of workshops, projects, open rehearsals, conferences, talks and training enables people of any age to discover new skills, rediscover old ones or develop a passion. Derby Theatre are home of the University of Derby’s theatre courses, including Theatre Arts and Technical Theatre, which means students can train in a professional working environment. The theatre courses are delivered in the studio theatre spaces and offer highly practical courses working alongside the professionals that cover all aspects of theatre work, including performing, directing, playwriting, technical, and production opportunities, both out in the community and on our main stage performance space


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