Exeter Northcott Theatre Heritage logo + text: THE IMPACT OF WOMEN a panel discussion with Natalie McGrath, Rachel Vowles and Sandhya Dave

The Impact of Women

with Q&A

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We began our work delving into the Northcott’s archive last Autumn with a team of brilliant interns from the University of Exeter, who uncovered some fascinating and provocative themes from the collection. The first one of these that we will be exploring is the impact of women on the history of the theatre.

Who were some of the key women whose work we have been exploring in the Northcott’s archive? How were they often some of the most trailblazing, challenging and innovative people who have been connected to the theatre? What does the archive reveal about how they were viewed, understood and represented at the time of their work?

We will explore these questions and discuss how they are still relevant for women working in the arts today at a live streamed event. With a panel of talented and impactful women working to develop Exeter’s current arts and cultural landscape, we will look at the stories we have discovered in the archive and discuss how we can use this knowledge to shape the future culture of our city and the South West.

Chairing the panel will be Natalie McGrath – writer and Co-Director of Dreadnought South West, an organisation that connects individuals and communities through the telling and keeping of great and courageous stories about women’s activism that have lain undiscovered and often untold. She will be talking with Rachel Vowles – an Arts Education and Community Engagement professional, renowned for her work with young people and wonderful community productions during her time at the Northcott in the ’90s and ’00s, and Sandhya Dave – a well-known cultural champion in Exeter and beyond; a diversity and inclusion specialist leading on anti-racist work across the region and supporting communities with diverse ethnicities.

This event has already taken place, but you can watch a recording.


Image of Natalie McGrath

Natalie McGrath

Natalie is Writer, & Co-Director of Dreadnought South West, an organisation that connects individuals and communities through the telling and keeping of great and courageous stories about women’s activism that have lain undiscovered and often untold. Natalie is also a project director of Queering the Museum at RAMM, and currently writing a play about LGBTQIA Loneliness in partnership with the Wellcome Centre for Cultures and Environments of Health at the University of Exeter, Exeter Northcott and the Intercom Trust.

“Archives don’t just hold the past they are routes to uncovering what has been lost or forgotten, whilst also acting as portals to activate change for the future. I’m really excited to be working with Sophie McCormack on this panel about women in theatre at Exeter Northcott, celebrating those who have paved the way, whilst enabling us to consider how to be inclusive of all women’s voices into the future.”

Image of Rachel Vowles

Rachel Vowles

Rachel first came to Exeter in 1993 where she spent a number of years as a lecturer in Drama and Theatre Arts at Exeter College before becoming part of the team at the Northcott. During her time at the theatre she set up the Northcott Young Company and Northcott Community Company becoming Associate Director for Education and Community. Since being freelance she has worked for Plymouth Theatre Royal as a Lead Practitioner and now spends much of her time as a communication skills facilitator and role player working across both the private and public sectors. She is co artistic director of both Nuts & Volts and Playing Dead theatre companies and is the programmer for The Theatre Tent at Beautiful Days Festival. She continues to direct and has recently returned to stage acting. This summer she will be directing an ACE funded adaptation of A Midsummer Night’s Dream set in a care home within the context of Covid, and after performing in a socially distanced production of The Comedy of Errors last year, she will be completing the Shakespeare trio by performing in a four hander production of Macbeth later this year.

“I am thrilled to be part of the panel and am very much looking forwards to discussing the enormous challenges faced by women in theatre, particularly in light of the recent report by Sphinx Theatre. I also hope to have the opportunity to celebrate and champion some of the women (many unseen) who have been a part of the Northcott’s long history.”

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