We are delighted to announce the appointment of Stephen Bailey as Vital Xposure’s new Artistic Lead!

Stephen is an award-winning neurodivergent director and producer, with longstanding experience in creating new accessible work. He won the 2022 Royal Theatrical Support Trust Sir Peter Hall Director award. He directed The Real and Imagined History of the Elephant Man by Tom Wright for Nottingham Playhouse. He’s a Barbican Open Lab Artist and Oxford Playhouse EVOLVE Artist. Stephen was resident assistant director at Chichester Festival Theatre in 2020 and has previously worked with theatres including the National Theatre, Graeae, Hampstead and the Kiln. Stephen runs ASYLUM Arts whose credits include FlawBored’s multi-award-winning It’s a Motherf**king Pleasure and this year are touring Papatango Prize Winner Tom Powell’s Surfacing and Covered in Jam’s That’s Not My Name.

Stephen joins the company this month, as the team prepares for the next stage of the VX Labs programme, following last autumn’s consultation period, and the completion of the second year of Wellspringour writers development programme.

Stephen’s message on his appointment:

“I am thrilled to join Vital Xposure as Artistic Lead. Working with the board and current team, I’m excited that we’re embarking on an ambitious new chapter which considers disability as a lens rather than a subject. Over the past year, VX conducted an impressive information gathering operation for our Labs programme. Time and again, we found D/deaf, disabled, and neurodivergent artists and audiences yearning to present and see themselves as complex individuals with multi-faceted lives. On February 23rd VX will showcase the newest work from our Wellspring writers’ programme which demonstrates the range of topics disabled and neurodivergent writers want to explore.

Following VX’s mission to share vital stories and expose hidden truths, we will pursue an artistic policy of disabled artists collaborating with other marginalised groups. In the coming year, we’ll forge new partnerships with organisations within and beyond the theatre sector to access untold narratives of celebration and persistence. I am eager to employ the skills and expertise of the disabled arts community to uplift essential, untold stories from other communities.

It’s an honour to build on Julie McNamara’s artistic legacy, which elevated VX to international acclaim and paved the way for myself and fellow disabled peers to work in this industry. In these challenging times for the sector, I believe a nimble company like Vital Xposure can play a key role in developing under-served audiences.”

Stephen Bailey, Artistic Lead, Vital Xposure

 

Message from the Chair of Trustees:

“We are excited to welcome Stephen to Vital Xposure. His commitment to uncovering new stories and ways of making theatre chimes with VX’s pledge to bring sector change through disabled-led work and beyond. Stephen’s appointment marks our direction of travel for more bold ideas, and strategic partnerships across our work.”

Sue Williams, Chair, Vital Xposure

 

Message from the Executive Director:

“I am delighted that Stephen will be joining the Vital Xposure team. He brings a wealth of directing credits, including most recently The Real and Imagined History of the Elephant Man at Nottingham Playhouse, and I look forward to working with him.”

Theresa Veith, Executive Director, Vital Xposure

We are delighted to announce the launch of the second round of Wellspring, our professional development programme for London-based disabled, d/Deaf and Neurodivergent playwrights and script writers, supported by City Bridge Trust.

Through a series of training sessions led by renowned disabled writers, playwrights and directors, as well as theatre venues’ professionals and peers, and mentoring support, Wellspring will provide eight participants with tools and skills to build confidence and foster connections with UK’s theatre sector, in a safe and supportive environment.

A flavour of the programme from previous participants:

“I have really enjoyed my time with Wellspring, as I feel now that my writing is enhanced by my autistic experience rather than limited by it.”
Paula Brett, Wellspring Writer 2021-2022

“Wellspring has taught me to honour my needs, and has given me to confidence not to fit in, but to assert myself.”
Nicole Latchana, Wellspring Writer 2021 – 2022

The programme will be delivered in partnership with Paines PloughBush theatreSoho Theatre and Theatre503.

A few words from programme Partners:

“Paines Plough are hugely excited to be working with Vital Xposure on the second iteration of their Wellspring programme. We can’t wait to meet the new cohort of writers and support them on the next steps of their development journey and for us to also learn from them and their brilliant creative brains and ideas!”

Charlotte Bennett, Joint Artistic Director, Paines Plough

“Soho Theatre are very excited to be part of Vital Xposure’s Wellspring programme this year. Now more than ever, it’s vital that we support the development of disabled artists and programmes like this one are instrumental in doing just that.”

Gillian Greer, Literary Manager, Soho Theatre

Applications for Wellspring 2023 are now closed.

Find out more about the programme.

Vital Xposure are delighted that Arts Council England continues to recognise the importance of our work broadening access to the arts for disabled, D/deaf and Neurodivergent artists and audiences by awarding us a grant of £577,293 for 2023-2026. We look forward to continuing to develop our work over the next funding period, shining a light on untold stories and unheard voices.

Continued NPO status will enable Vital Xposure to develop further opportunities for disabled, D/deaf and Neurodivergent artists to grow their artistic practice and profile through artist support activities including our Wellspring writer development programme as well as conceiving and producing further touring productions to engage audiences across the country building on the success of our current co-production with Dervish Productions of Quiet Rebels, which completes its England wide tour next week at The Albany Theatre in Deptford South London on Friday 11th November.

A Dervish Productions, Vital Xposure and Belgrade Theatre co-production
Developed in partnership with Soul City Arts and The Albany

Vital Xposure and Dervish Productions are delighted to announce the UK tour of Quiet Rebels written and directed by Julie McNamara (The Knitting Circle) and Hassan Mahamdallie (The Crows Plucked Your Sinews).

Quiet Rebels is based on the true life but forgotten stories of white working-class women who fell in love with men of the Windrush generation. They defied race and class prejudice and social stigma directed against them and their families.

A drama-noir, with film, music and movement, set in England in 2028, a dystopian, authoritarian state where people who marry across the race lines are considered traitors.

“It’s so rare to experience that kind of dialogue at the theatre and it says so much about the vital nature of your work and the play.”

Audience feedback, R&D Autumn 2019

“The detective / narrator character as a form of integrated audio description in this setting was extremely inventive.”

Audience feedback, R&D Summer 2020

Julie McNamara and Hassan Mahamdallie’s extensive research gives voice to the stories of these unsung women, who faced hostility, battled discrimination and showed courage in the face of racism, class and gender prejudice, laying the foundations of the multi-cultural society we enjoy today.

The question is posed “Were these women treated as if they committed a crime against society?”

Film, movement, soundscapes with integrated creative access provide a powerful dramatisation of stories brought to life by the writers and a team of creative talent.

The Quiet Rebels creative team is experimenting with a new approach to integrating access into the design of the production, using a vibrant, percussive soundscape and rich visual narrative that incorporates captions, BSL and audio description to sew access into the fabric of the show.

 

Premiere: Saturday 10 September, Belgrade Theatre, Coventry

UK Tour dates

 

“As our first show coming out of the pandemic, Quiet Rebels is immensely important to Vital Xposure, enabling disabled artists to lead the social justice conversation, and put our voices at the centre of our culture, where they belong.”

Simon Startin, Artistic Director of Vital Xposure

“I thought it would be exciting to work with Julie and Vital Xposure, and to learn from her and the company about the politics and aesthetics of disability in theatre. But we didn’t have an idea. And then the Windrush ‘hostile environment’ scandal blew up. At the same time, I came across a biographical article from the renowned educationalist Professor Heidi Safia Mirza, whose father, like my own, was an Indian from Trinidad, and whose mother was a white European, like my mother. I thought that her approach was a really interesting way of looking at the history of the Windrush generation: through the lens of these white working class women who fell in love with these ‘dark strangers’ and in their own way altered history, and shaped the multicultural society we enjoy today. I told Julie that I thought I had something we could both write about.”

Hassan Mahamdallie, Co-Writer / co-Director of Quiet Rebels – Artistic Director of Dervish Productions

“For me, researching these stories and writing this play, was vital to my mental health. We have struggled for 5 years in the courts and finally heard justice in the Royal Courts at the close of 2020. I have been seething with rage at the devastating impact of successive governments’ casual disregard of the contribution of Black people and communities of colour in shaping the country we live in today. And so Quiet Rebels was born”

Julie McNamara, Co-Writer / co-Director of Quiet Rebels – Former Artistic Director of Vital Xposure

A Vital Xposure, Dervish Productions and Belgrade Theatre co-production.

Developed and delivered with partners Soul City Artsthe AlbanyHackney EmpireDeaf Rave and Jane Morgan Associates.

Quiet Rebels is supported by Arts Council EnglandGarrick Charitable Trust (2021 – 2022), City Bridge Trust. (2018 – 2023), Unity Theatre Trust (2022), the National Lottery Community Fund (2022) and made possible  with The National Lottery Heritage Fund, with thanks to National Lottery players (2022).

Our new Artistic Director

We are absolutely thrilled to announce that Simon Startin has been appointed as our new Artistic Director!

He will join the Vital Xposure team in early 2021 as we celebrate our 10-year anniversary.

Simon is an acclaimed actor, published playwright, director and activist, who last appeared in The Visit at the National Theatre. He has also performed recently at Shakespeare’s Globe, Arcola Theatre and Birmingham Rep as well as TV roles on BBC, Channel 4 and Paramount.

He has been an Associate Artist of Theatre Royal Stratford East, London Bubble and Graeae; an alumni of the Battersea Arts Centre 21st Century Leadership scheme, China Plate Enhanced Optimists course and a Graduate of the Young Vic Directors Program. He has directed at the Young Vic, Royal Shakespeare Company and Nottingham Playhouse.

As an activist he has worked with many organisations to increase disabled representation on stage and screen.

Our founder and outgoing Artistic Director, Julie McNamara will return to Vital Xposure for White Pariahs: Quiet Rebels, a co-production with Dervish Productions that is co-written and co-directed by McNamara and Hassan Mahamdallie. White Pariahs: Quiet Rebels will tour in 2022.

A red line that matches Vital Xposure's branding, replicating a line from the letter 'X' from the word 'Xposure'

 

Simon Startin said of his new appointment:

‘I am profoundly excited about taking the helm at Vital Xposure and building on the outstanding work of Julie McNamara.

There has never been a more important time for society to hear the voice of disabled artists, who have been living at the sharp end of human fragility and resilience long before the rest of the world woke up to it.

There is an urgent need for disabled theatre makers to proudly communicate not just the disabled experience but to take that perspective to universally question the times we live in.

Under my leadership, the Vital Xposure commitment to hidden voices and social justice will continue to drive our work, but we will also begin to interrogate what participatory political theatre, led by disabled people, for the benefit of all, can achieve in the 21st century.

There is also still much work to be done in creating community and opportunities for disabled people within the wider theatre sector, and Vital Xposure will be looking to broaden our work with partner organisations to reframe the old narratives and forms that favour one community over another.

We will further our commitment to working with artists of colour and other excluded communities, beginning with our production of White Pariahs: Quiet Rebels.

I look forward, with the Vital Xposure team, to making our theatre spaces a fairer place to gather when we come out of tiers and lockdowns, and to sharing the stories and voices that connect us all.’

Simon Startin, Incoming Artistic Director

 

Message from Julie McNamara:

‘I am thrilled that Simon has chosen Vital Xposure as his next life adventure.

Simon comes with a wealth of experience in the creative industries and a highly respected body of work both in the mainstream and in Disability-led theatre.

His is a uniquely imaginative voice that will bring fresh energy and ideas to the future direction of this extraordinary company. I am hugely excited and very curious to see what imaginative Disability-led leaps and bounds he will lead the company onto next. Indeed, I look forward with a sense of glee! ‘

Julie McNamara, Outgoing Artistic Director of Vital Xposure

 

Message from Jonathan Meth, Chair

‘We are delighted that Simon Startin will be the new Artistic Director of Vital Xposure.

Simon brings extensive experience to the role and the board could not have wished for a better appointment to build on the pioneering work of Julie McNamara. We look forward with great excitement to Simon joining us in the New Year.

Where to start with Julie McNamara is almost as hard as where to finish. Julie’s work straddles the length and breadth of the UK and beyond. But her impact is far wider. She uses her voice to speak for all those whose voices are unheard and whose stories are too often untold. That she can talk to anyone, as well as enable others to find their voices, belies the complexity and richness of her creative working processes – as theatre maker, as a disabled artist and as advocate, activist and leader.

In forming and leading Vital Xposure over the past decade Julie has created a company dedicated to the embodiment of these qualities. On behalf of all those involved with Vital Xposure we wish Julie great success with her Australian adventure.”

Jonathan Meth, Chair of Vital Xposure’s Board of Trustees

 

Click here to download the Press Release in PDF format

A flavour of our future plans: Simon Startin, incoming Artistic Director talks about inclusive theatre on Broadway World

The performing arts are battling for survival at a time when theatre matters more than ever. It’s not only the West End, the annual panto, world-class musicals, dance, opera and Shakespeare – it’s the creative and outreach work happening around the country in our diverse communities, outdoors, in pop-up spaces, at festivals and online.

Theatre tackles contemporary issues head-on. With Black Lives Matter stirring our national consciousness, theatre can play a critical role, inside and outside the sector, in challenging, educating and informing.

Theatre is a national success story, vital to Britain’s economic prosperity. Theatre attracted 34 million visitors last year, employs 300,000, promotes tourism; and generates huge tax revenues, including VAT of £130m in London alone.

Our industry depends on the £1.3 billion of annual ticket sales which has now disappeared, with disastrous effects on companies, employees and freelancers. Even with a 1 metre social distancing rule we could only fill around 25% of our seats – not a financially viable option.

Without immediate and substantial support, theatres and performing arts companies will inevitably close and tens of thousands of artistic careers will be cut short.

We urge readers to lobby Government and parliamentarians and join our fight for the survival of UK theatre.

Dame Margaret Hodge, Chair, Theatre Royal Stratford East
Glenn Earle, Chair, Young Vic
Robert Delamere, Chair, ETT
Ben Monks, Chair, Deafinitely Theatre
Geraldine Brodie, Chair, Actors Touring Company
Dame Joan Ruddock, Chair, The Albany Deptford
Luke Johnson, Chair, Almeida Theatre
Amanda Parker, Chair, artsdepot
Chris Lawrence, Chair, Blue Elephant Theatre
Charles Glanville, Chair, Boundless Theatre
Simon Millson, Chair, British Youth Music Theatre
Simon Johnson, Chair, Bush Theatre
Kate McGrath and Isobel Colchester, Co-Chairs, Camden People’s Theatre
Prue Skene, Chair, Cardboard Citizens
Richard Philipps, Chair, Cheek By Jowl
David Micklem, Chair, Chris Goode and Company
Kim Evans, Chair, Clean Break
Lucy Davies, Chair, Clod Ensemble
Vicki Busfield, Chair, CoDa Dance Company
Benjamin Yeoh, Chair, Coney
Catherine Rowan, Chair, Culture & Libraries Committee, Vision Redbridge Culture & Leisure
Lord Browne of Madingley, Chair, Donmar
Áine Duffy, Chair, Duckie
Dana Kohava Segal, Chair, Emergency Exit Arts
Dr Harry Brunjes, Chair, English National Opera & London Coliseum
Mark Beddy, Chair, English Touring Opera
Mark Hawes, Chair, Frantic Assembly
Sean Egan, Chair, Fuel
Sarah Howard, Chair, Graeae Theatre Company
Kevin Walton, Chair, Green Shoes Arts
Delphine Brand, Chair, Hackney Empire
Dawn Harrison-Wallace, Chair, Half Moon Theatre
David Tyler, Chair, Hampstead Theatre
Donna Munday, Chair, Headlong
Melissa Butcher, Chair, Immediate Theatre
Natasha Freedman, Chair, Improbable Theatre
Dawn Austwick, Chair, Kiln
Bernard Donoghue, Chair, LIFT
Joseph Seelig OBE, Chair, London International Mime Festival
Lisa Burger, Chair, Lyric Hammersmith
Jodi Myers, Chair, Musical Theatre Network
Sir Damon Buffini, Chair, National Theatre
Charlotte Mooney, Ockham’s Razor
Lisa Mead, Chair, Oily Cart
Nick Clarry, Chair, The Old Vic
Charlie Thompson, Chair, Out of Joint
Kim Grant, Chair, Paines Plough
Sarah King, Chair, Polka Theatre for Children
James Freedman, Chair, Punchdrunk
Simon Turner, Chair, The Roundhouse
Anthony Burton CBE, Chair, The Royal Court Theatre
Lady Heywood, acting Chair, Royal Opera House
Nigel Higgins, Chair, Sadler’s Wells
Dr Margaret Casely-Hayford CBE, Chair, Shakespeare’s Globe
Heather Rabbatts, Chair, Soho Theatre
Michelle Smith, Chair, Spare Tyre
Robin Saphra, Chair, Stagetext
Georgina Philippou, Chair, Stratford Arts Trust
Karen West-Whylie, Chair, Studio 3 Arts
Deepa Patel, Chair, Tamasha Theatre Company
Sunita Pandya, Chair, Tara Arts
Gareth Hughes, Chair, Theatre Centre
Sioban Whitney Low, Chair, Theatre Peckham
Elizabeth Lynch MBE, Chair, Theatre-Rites
Sophie Scott, Chair, Told by an Idiot
John Langley, Chair, Unicorn Theatre
Jonathan Meth, Chair, Vital Xposure
Nick Starr CBE, Chair, Yard Theatre, Hackney Wick
Wai Mun Yoon, Chair, Yellow Earth Theatre Company

 

The Chairs’ letter was originally shared by Theatre Royal Stratford East on 24th June 2020.

Vital Xposure presents

The Disappearance of Dorothy Lawrence
A new play by award-winning theatre artist Julie McNamara directed by Paulette Randall MBE explores the remarkable stories of the silenced First World War correspondent Dorothy Lawrence

UK tour September – October 2015
London, Wolverhampton, Ipswich, Salisbury, South Shields

It’s 1915. England is at war. Journalist Dorothy Lawrence aims to become War Correspondent, cycles to the frontline in France never to be seen in public again. ​

Vital Xposure interrogates the ways society deals with women who step out of line, back in 1915 or 100 years on when a Punk Prayer is screamed out in an orthodox cathedral.

A cast of four with integrated stage text and audio-visual elements leads the audience back in time to explore themes of inequality and power that still resonate today.

VITAL XPOSURE is a bold, dynamic, disability-led production company operating under the creative leadership of Julie McNamara, who has just completed a 19-month tour of her latest show Let Me Stay. Vital Xposure promotes hidden voices with extraordinary stories to tell. The company creates exciting, innovative theatrical experiences for audiences, artists and communities alike. All our work is inclusive and BSL integrated.

Vital Xposure is part of Arts Council England’s National Portfolio.

TOUR DATES AND TICKETS