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A black and white collage of portraits of women, some looking at the camera and smiling and others looking into the distance

Up Front


Produced by ARCADE

MARCH 2021- MAY 2021


Up Front was an online talk series produced by ARCADE specifically for women working in the arts. The talks featured incredible female leaders including Emma Rice, Jess Thom, Toni-Dee Paul and Esther Richardson. We invited you to recharge your energy in our hour-long talks aimed to support, inspire and embolden you.  These Included Q&As, all sessions were trans-inclusive and provided a space for women and non-binary folk to have safe and honest conversations.

An Overview

women from all over the UK took part ranging from early career to height of career

106 attendees to the talks

Past Talks

Up Front with Esther Richardson and Rach Drew, hosted by Amy-Kay Pell


6 - 7pm


Esther is the Artistic Director of Pilot Theatre and has directed the company’s major recent productions including Noughts and Crosses, Crongton Knights, Brighton Rock, and Traitor. She grew up in Redcar and in Durham in the North East of England and is now based with her family in York. Career highlights all involve making work with and for those aged under 25. Esther conceived and delivered Momentum Young Writers’ Festival in Nottingham (nominated for The Stage’s award for Special Achievement in Regional Theatre, 2006); was proud to be part of the team that opened Cast in Doncaster (2013); was thrilled to produce the award winning 18 in 2018 film project with teenagers at Pilot, and to direct the sold-out run of Noughts and Crosses which played to transfixed teens around the UK in 2019 and led Pilot to be awarded Excellence in Touring at the UK Theatre Awards. More about Pilot Theatre:


Rach is Co-Director of ARCADE. She grew up in Bridlington and lives in Scarborough. Rach trained as a Theatre Director, but has had a varied career across culture, from founding her own youth theatre and working as a festival producer, to collaborating with communities in museums and creating exhibitions for local artists.  In her previous role as Exec Director, she was responsible for the delivery of complex, citywide, festival programmes. 


Our host Amy-Kay is a twenty one year old artist based in Scarborough, having spent her childhood in Whitby. She has been involved with local theatre companies from a young age, performing in many productions across a variety of venues. In addition to performance, Amy-Kay has explored directing, choreography and writing, most recently directing and choreographing a production of Oliver at the Whitby Pavilion.  In 2020 Amy took part in Northern Girls, produced by Pilot Theatre and ARCADE, devising a monologue for a live outdoor performance. 

Up Front with Emma Rice hosted by Rachael Abbey


10.30 am -  11.30 am


Emma is a groundbreaking theatre director best known for her work at Kneehigh Theatre. She was Artistic Director of The Globe and now is Artistic Director of her own company, Wise Children. Her bold and innovative productions, creativity, gift for storytelling and frequent disregard for purism have made her one of the most important and acclaimed directors in contemporary theatre.  More about Emma & Wise Children here:


Our host, Rachael, is a writer, performer and Co-Artistic Director of Hull-based theatre company The Roaring Girls. She has previously worked with Middle Child, John Godber Company, and Hull Truck Theatre. She makes work which is fierce, feminist and  fun, talking about big issues in personal ways, and always in a Northern voice.  More about The Roaring Girls here 

Up Front with Jess Thom & Toni-Dee Paul,

hosted by Yssi Wombwell


12 noon - 1pm


Jess is a writer, artist and part-time superhero. She co-founded Touretteshero in 2010 as a creative response to her experience of living with Tourettes Syndrome. Since then, she made Broadcast from Biscuit Land as part of On Stage: Live from Television Centre for BBC4; took her award-winning stage show Backstage in Biscuit Land on an extensive national and international tour; received a Wellcome Engagement Fellowship, became an Arts Council England Change Maker and received an honorary degree from the University of Wolverhampton. Jess also débuted her critically acclaimed neurodiverse performance of Samuel Beckett’s short play Not I, and her one-hour film Me, My Mouth and I was broadcast on BBC2 and went on to be screened in the USA, Russia, Chile, Switzerland, Japan and Canada.  For more on Touretteshero click here


Toni-Dee is an independent artist based in Manchester. Occasionally she is a writer, workshop leader, collaborator, and ‘thinker-in-the room’. Her current body of work, made with ‘infectious warmth’ (Exeunt) is a series of performances and installations made for cemeteries, refugee centres, kitchens, churches and theatres - exploring otherness around race, disability and queerness.  Toni-Dee is associate artist and access assistant at Selina Thompson Ltd, and makes work for children and families as an associate of One Tenth Human. Toni-Dee sits on the board for international performance festival Transform.  For more about Toni-Dee:


Our host Yssi is a single mother, musician and youth worker, with professional experience in project management, music production and music performance, youth led community activism and event management. Based in Hull, her creative background is in music and she has a personal interest in disability awareness, campaigning against racism and ensuring art is inclusive and accessible. Yssi is on the ARCADE Sounding Board.

Up Front is produced by ARCADE, in association with Great Women Who Work in the Arts: Leeds - A peer support network for all women and gender non-binary humans who work in the arts and live in Leeds. Supported by Arts Council England.

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