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What was behind Up Front?

Updated: Jan 31, 2022

Recently we announced the pilot of Up Front - our online talk series offering a relaxed space for incredible women leaders to share stories and advice with other women (including trans and non-binary folk) in our sector.

Up Front is our small gesture of support for our peers in the culture sector, which so often is dominated by men at the top. It also is a chance for me and Rach to soak up the wisdom of some of the women we admire including; Emma Rice, Jess Thom, Toni-Dee Paul, Yssi Wombwell, Esther Richardson, Rachael Abbey and Amy-Kay Pell.

Up Front is very much inspired by our work last year on Northern Girls (in partnership with Pilot Theatre led by the incredible Esther Richardson and Mandy Smith), where we worked with four emerging female writers in Scarborough and four established writers from the wider region, to explore what it means to be a northern girl.

Reflecting back on that project, Rach and I often retell each other lines from one of the commissioned monologues - Maureen Lennon’s incredible The Scarborough Porpoise ;

“My things sort of been nothing. I’ve got really good at nothing. At being smaller, and stiller, and quieter. At not putting my hand up, or having opinions, or seeming too sure. At shaving and plucking, and pouting, and keeping my knees together, and my hair done and never running or sweating or smelling or thinking or hoping or dreaming or wanting.

At being a woman.

I’ve got really really good.”


Speaking with peers and friends, as women, it seems a lot of us have l been in positions in the workplace where we’ve felt talked over, bullied, undermined, ignored, or harassed. We’ve had to change our behaviour to seem less emotional, less empathetic - but never rude. When we’re lucky enough to get to a senior position, often we can end up in a room full of decision-making men only to find we must work extra hard to be listened to. We’ll then be the ones left to clear up the mugs.

So, inspired by Maureen and in the spirit of taking up more space and being ourselves, we invite you to come and think with us about leadership and what it means for you. In some ways ARCADE is an experiment in leadership for me and Rach. Although we have both held senior roles in the past, now we’re going it alone as a grassroots outfit and we’re up front leading. Despite the lack of big budgets & infrastructure afforded to larger organisations, we have the freedom and space to lead, and in doing so find out what that means for each of us as women, and how it fits with our lives. This feels like a very precious opportunity. We’ve surrounded ourselves with amazing women, both in the artists we work with and our Sounding Board and Trustees, which are majority women and this was a purposeful decision for us.

The last week has proven to be incredibly tough for women and as we all collect our thoughts, we feel even more galvanised to prioritise projects centering women (especially those with intersectional identities for example, working class women, disabled women and women of colour). But we hope, if you feel able to, you can join us to recharge your energy. The first talk features Emma Rice hosted by Rachael Abbey on 31st March at 10.30 am and you find out more and book your Pay What as You Feel ticket click here

And we hope to do more Up Front talks this autumn. If you’d like to nominate yourself or another women to talk, get in touch with us at:

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