Manchester Based Theatre NPO ThickSkin Appoints Six New Trustees

Manchester based theatre NPO ThickSkin welcomes six new trustees with diverse backgrounds in the arts, academia, and government.

By: Nov. 22, 2023
Manchester Based Theatre NPO ThickSkin Appoints Six New Trustees

Award-winning theatre company ThickSkin has appointed six new trustees taking the board to ten members. The board expansion follows an exciting period of growth and change for the company who recently relocated to Wigan and became an ACE national portfolio organisation for the first time. 

The new board members are Matthew Eames who is Head of Theatres (Contemporary and Commissioning) at the Lowry in Salford, Yusuf Khamisa, an actor, London West End director and adviser to Factory International, Michelle Nicholson, Events Manager at HOME, Verity Overs-Morrell, Joint CEO & Executive Director at Pentabus Theatre, Liz Pickering, Creative Director at Wild Rumpus and Alison Porter, a writer, performer and doctoral researcher in theatre studies at the University of Warwick who has also held advisory roles in government. 

ThickSkin is uniquely positioned as the only producing and touring company in Wigan, with a local and national remit. The company's 13-year track record of developing talent and producing pioneering new work will have a meaningful impact in Wigan, which is a Levelling Up for Culture place.

Laura Mallows, ThickSkin's Executive Producer, said: “This expansion of our board of trustees is part of an exciting period of development for ThickSkin as we grow and enhance the reach and impact of our work, following our relocation to Wigan and new NPO status. As a company, we continually push ourselves to explore new approaches to theatre-making and producing. It is critical that we work with a diverse Board who have  a wealth of skill and experience and are able to engage with our mission to create theatre that is relevant in a fast-changing world. We're delighted to announce our new 10-strong board, and look forward to developing our organisation with their highly valued input and guidance.” 

Inga Hirst, Chair of the board, said: “It has been a privilege to support ThickSkin's work, which is pushing the boundaries of theatre-making. Now, as ThickSkin move into a new chapter as an NPO it is brilliant to welcome this fantastic group of new trustees to the board. We are excited by the local and national representation, and additional range of skills and experience that they bring. We can't wait to work with them to lead and support the company over the next few years.”

Since becoming an NPO, ThickSkin has produced a new audio walking play in Wigan. This Is

Where We Begin is part of their free Walk This Play series (available on App Store and Google Play)

and co-created with local young people. They have offered associate and apprenticeship roles to local

young artists and recently hosted open auditions in Wigan. The company has just finished a national tour of Driftwood, a new play by Bruntwood Prize Winner, Tim Foley, and co-produced with rural touring company Pentabus Theatre. 

ThickSkin's next project will be an inventive new production about consumerism and young people's relationship with stuff. Peak Stuff is written by Billie Collins and is a winner of the Writers' Guilds' New Playwright Commission Scheme. Peak Stuff will be created in Wigan and Prescot (supported by Shakespeare North Playhouse) and will open at The Edge Arena in Wigan before touring the UK in February 2023. With support from Wigan Council, ThickSkin will roll out its Access To Local Theatre scheme, offering £1 tickets to under 30's from the borough, and provide transport for local school groups.

The company has also appointed a new General Manager, George Soave. George has a background in producing, arts management and fundraising. His experience includes making and facilitating work across small and mid-scale venues, pub theatres, outdoor arts, festival curation and management, combined arts and fringe. Previous roles include Grant Writer at Night Time Economy Solutions, Associate Producer at Unity Theatre (Liverpool), Project Manager at XTRAX/Without Walls (Manchester), Executive Producer at The Other Room (Cardiff) and Independent Producer on numerous projects. Additionally, George has co-founded and run two small arts organisations, Cardiff Fringe Theatre Festival and Big Loop Theatre Company.

Trustee biographies 

INGA HIRST (CHAIR)

Inga is Director of Engagement at the Royal Exchange Theatre working with children, young people, older people and communities at the theatre and across Greater Manchester. Previous to this she was Head of Learning & Participation at Frantic Assembly where she developed the free training programme for young men, IGNITION, into a programme of national significance as well as increasing the company's work with schools across the globe and establishing a new MA in Collaborative Theatre Making with Coventry University. Inga was also Education Manager at artsdepot in North London and was one of the founders of disability theatre company Access All Areas and chair of the board for 7 years.

GURJINDER SINGH KANG (TREASURER AND CHAIR OF FINANCE COMMITTEE)

Gurjinder has worked through a variety of Finance roles for the last 15 years, having served as a Management Accountant, Finance Business Partner and Consultant to a wide range of businesses including WSP, Leeds Building Society, Morrisons, and is currently the main Accountant and Board Finance representative for the Manchester Diocese of the Church of England. He has recently built experience within the Charity, Arts and Third Sector, having served at the Royal Exchange Theatre and Salford University Students Union, where managing Charity finance has been key. Outside of Finance, Gurjinder has a keen interest in Film and Music, having led 2 film seasons at Headingley Heart community centre in Leeds, a recent photo exhibition on South Asian immigration in Yorkshire, and being a regular contributor on the life and times of Prince wherever there is interest!

GEORGE DANCZAK

George is Corporate Partner for the international business law firm, Addleshaw Goddard. George acts for corporate clients, buyers, sellers, management teams and institutional investors. George has a real focus on digital and technology clients and those operating in the healthcare space, helping them scale and realise their growth potential with imagination and impact.

Matthew Eames *NEW TRUSTEE*

Matthew is Head of Theatres (Contemporary and Commissioning) at The Lowry in Salford. Matthew trained at the Royal Academy of Music and started working in theatre as a performer in West End and touring musicals, and subsequently as a resident and associate director. He refocused his career within arts organisations in 2012 and has worked at The Lowry for ten years. This year, alongside other senior leaders in large cultural organisations, Matthew was in the first cohort of Clore Leadership's new Leading Systemic Change programme. He has recently been appointed as an Associate of the Royal Academy of Music (ARAM).

TOTO ELLIS

Toto worked at TBWA for a decade, latterly as Head of Strategy at the London office. He was responsible for two Euro Grand Prix Effie winning product launches for Nissan, and multiple Cannes winning campaigns for Adidas, PlayStation and Nissan. Following this, he was headhunted to launch the London office of Droga5, where he was Head of Strategy for five years. He helped the agency grow from four to 44 people, leading accounts such as Peroni UK,

Asahi Global, Bowers & Wilkins and ancestry.com and winning Campaign's Independent Agency of the Year in his fifth year of working there. Toto also directed and wrote a short film for the BBC called ‘Two Angry Men' which is now on Amazon Prime. Toto is now Chief Strategy Officer and Partner of Here Be Dragons, a London-based PR agency with clients including Kopparberg, giffgaff TikTok and Justice 4 Grenfell. He also set up Beating Heart in 2018 with Mc&T Founder Paul McEntee, which is dedicated to devising cultural properties and platforms for clients such as Levi's, Warner Music and Extreme E.

YUSUF KHAMISA *NEW TRUSTEE*

Originally from Salford, Yusuf initially trained as an Actor, graduating from London's ArtsEd in 2008. His teaching and development work spans several years and covers varied stages of artist training including BA and MA. He has taught at several renowned drama schools and has held senior leadership positions including the Associate Dean, Head of BA and Equality, Inclusivity and Diversity Manager. Yusuf has also worked with the Lyric Hammersmith, as part of the Young People's Programme and was the Development Director at IRIS Theatre Covent Garden. Yusuf has been a champion for Equality, Inclusivity and Diversity within the industry and has led training programmes across multiple sectors. He has worked professionally as an actor across the UK and has directed plays in London's West end and regional theatres. Directing credits include Children of Killers - Soho Theatre, The Accordion shop - National Theatre London, New Labour - Lyric Theatre Hammersmith, Posh – Theatre at the Mill. Yusuf also works as an adviser and facilitator and is currently advising with Factory International (MIF). 

MICHELLE NICHOLSON *NEW TRUSTEE*

Michelle is the Events Manager at HOME, the multi-arts venue in Manchester City Centre, working with creative and commercial organisations to host their events both in the building and externally. Previously, Michelle ran the Finance team at the Library Theatre Company working on leaving the council and merging with Cornerhouse in 2012 and was also part of the Fundraising team for both the merged organisations which raised the last £5m to open HOME in 2015. Michelle is one of the organisers of the Pilkington Club, a volunteer run network for women working in the creative & digital industries.

VERITY OVERS-MORRELL *NEW TRUSTEE*

Verity is Joint CEO & Executive Director at Pentabus. Producer for Pentabus productions include Milked by Simon Longman, The Lone Pine Club by Alice Birch, Wolves Are Coming For You by Joel Horwood, and Here I Belong by Matt Hartley, she also produced Pentabus first ever young writers' programme which has had great success and is now in its 10 th  year. Verity has managed and produced over sixty shows at the Edinburgh Festival for Off The Kerb Productions, and she also produced A Dangerous Woman by Manjeet Mann which was chosen for the prestigious Soho Rising Season, and made the top 50 plays in the Verity Bargate Award in 2016.

LIZ PICKERING *NEW TRUSTEE*

Liz is a Creative Director and is passionate about deepening audience connections with nature through artistic projects and events. Currently at Wild Rumpus, she works with artists to respond to the natural world creating new commissions for the outdoors. Liz has previously worked for the Science Museum Group, Manchester International Festival and Global. Projects have included collaborations with artists and organisations such as, Yoko Ono, Studio Wayne McGregor, Neil Bartlett, Susan Hefuna, Smith & Lyall, BBC, National Theatre, From the Fields, LADA, National Trust, Royal Exchange Theatre, Manchester City Council, Capital FM and Heart FM. With a passion for exploring ideas to engage audiences in non-traditional ways, Liz enjoys working across a variety of art forms such as music, theatre, festivals and exhibitions.

Alison Porter *NEW TRUSTEE*

Alison is a writer, performer and doctoral researcher in theatre studies at the University of Warwick where she has just completed her thesis on verbatim theatre and social justice. Her creative work includes plays, dance films and an installation; she has twice been long listed for the National Poetry Prize. Before moving into the arts, she had a successful career in business management with BT plc and has held several advisory roles within government including non-executive director for the Crown Prosecution Service and member of the Independent Advisory Group on Ethics at the National Crime Agency. She is an experienced theatre company trustee, currently with Synergy Theatre Project and previously with Out of Joint and Told by an Idiot. Alison has Birmingham-Irish roots but now lives near Milton Keynes.




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