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Biographies


Dr Chris Bilton lectures at the Centre for Cultural Policy Studies at the University of Warwick where he specialises in management and policy in the creative industries. He was Director of the Centre from 2008 to 2014. Before coming to Warwick, Chris spent ten years working in the cultural sector as a theatre performer and as a local arts development officer. He helped set up Warwick Creative Exchange (WCE) to provide opportunities for academics and arts professionals to share ideas and develop joint projects – and to pursue his interests in digital innovation in the arts, the creative process and organizational change. He is a member of WCE’s Steering Group.

Professor Jonothan Neelands PhD, DSc is a National Teaching Fellow, Professor of Creative Education at the Warwick Business School (WBS) and Chair of Drama and Theatre Education in the Institute of Education at the University of Warwick. As Associate Dean for Creativity in WBS, he is working with colleagues to develop a range of creative infusions and interventions both into the curriculum and the extra-curricular life of the School. Research interests include: the theory and practice of drama and theatre education; participatory pedagogies and politics; teaching artistry and the work of teaching artists; models of cultural and creative learning; the politics of cultural and education policy-making; teaching in urban settings; creativity and entrepreneurship. Jonothan was Co-director of Study for the Warwick Commission on the Future of Cultural Value and is a member of WCE’s Steering Group.

Vikki Heywood CBE is Chairman of the RSA and of 14-18 Now, the national programme of artists’ commissions commemorating the First World War, and Mountview Academy of Theatre Arts. She is also a mentor and advisor to a range of cultural and creative professionals and institutions and lecturer on the Clore Leadership Programme. Vikki was joint Chief Executive of the Royal Court Theatre for ten years and Executive Director of the Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC) from 2003 – 20012. She has been a board member of the Society of London Theatre (SOLT), The London 2012 Cultural Olympiad, the Coventry and Warwickshire Local Enterprise Partnership and a member of Warwick University Council. She was awarded an honorary doctorate from the University of Birmingham and an honorary doctorate from the University of Ohio in 2012. She was awarded a CBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours in 2012 for services to theatre. Vikki was Chairman of The Warwick Commission on the Future of Cultural Value.

Paul Roberts is a graduate in Philosophy and Mathematics, teacher, schools inspector and was a Director of Education. He was also a Director for Capita Education and Managing Director at the IDeA, adviser to UK Government on Cultural and Creative Education and author of “Nurturing Creativity in Young People”. He is now Chair of the Board for Creativity, Culture and Education, for the Innovation Unit (both UK-based organisations with international portfolios) and a member of the UK Government’s Ministerial Board for Cultural Education. He is vice-Chair at Nottingham Contemporary and at Mountview Academy of Drama. Paul’s recent writing includes joint authorship of “The Virtuous Circle – why creativity and cultural education count.” Paul is a FRSA and was awarded an OBE in 2008 for services to Education and the Creative Industries. He was a commissioner for the Warwick Commission on the Future of Cultural Value.

Chris O’Connell has written plays for theatre, TV and radio. Since 1992 he has been Artistic Director and writer for Theatre Absolute, in Coventry. His plays Car and Raw won Fringe First Awards at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, and a Time Out Live Award. In 2009, in collaboration with Julia Negus, Chris co-founded the UKʼs first professional shop front theatre in an empty fish and chip shop in Coventry city centre’s shopping precinct. Theatre Absolute has transformed the space into a flexible 55 seat theatre and multi arts user space. According to a recent audience member: “...this space has the value that Stratford’s Theatre Royal East gave to theatre in the 1960s viz Joan Littlewood. A vital part of Coventry’s contribution to creativity.” Chris’s plays are published by Oberon Books.

Laura Elliott is a cultural practitioner working as an artist, curator, project manager and developer of visual arts and contemporary heritage in the UK. She devises projects that connect people with place and is Director of Artspace, Coventry, an experimental and approachable visual arts organisation. Laura is co-curator of Artspace's City Arcadia, a two-year programme of creative commissions exploring Coventry as a historical test bed for new ideas and innovations and the Modernist architectural vision for its post-war centre: building a futuristic city that cultivates "the total, harmonious, physical, spiritual and intellectual well-being of a city's inhabitants”.

Laura McDermott is Joint Artistic Director (along with Harun Morrison) of Fierce Festival – an international festival of live art and public intervention in Birmingham. Fierce takes place in arts venues and unusual sites across the city (car parks, swimming pools and underneath Spaghetti Junction). In 2012-13 Laura was awarded a CLORE Fellowship in Arts Participation and Engagement, supported by the Paul Hamlyn Foundation. As part of the Fellowship she completed a secondment at Collide@CERN, an artist residency programme at CERN – the particle physics laboratory, located just outside Geneva in Switzerland. Previously Laura was a creative producer at BAC (Battersea Arts Centre) in London, where she programmed seasons, festivals and was lead producer for the Punchdrunk and BAC co-production The Masque of the Red Death. Laura currently sits on the Board of Directors of Uninvited Guests theatre company.

Professor Pam Thomas is one of the four academic members of the Senate who are also members of the University Council. She is Pro-Vice-Chancellor for People and Public Engagement. She also serves on the Building Committee, the Honorary Degrees Committee and the Equality and Diversity Committee. She was educated at Oxford University, where she took a BA (Hons) in Physics and a DPhil. Following a period as a Research Fellow at the Clarendon Laboratory, she moved to Warwick in 1990 to found and head the Ferroelectrics and Crystallography Group in the Physics Department. From October 2009-2011, Pam was the Director of the Science City Research Alliance (SCRA) for the Universities of Birmingham and Warwick. This involved leadership of the cross-disciplinary scientific programme around a multi-million pound investment in research infrastructure and people in the two universities by AWM/ERDF and from HEFCE. Pam took up the role of the Chair of the Faculty of Science at Warwick in September 2011.

Dreadlockalien (Richard Grant) is a wandering wordsmith, graduate of Warwick University and former Birmingham Poet Laureate 2005/6. Currently living an art project entitled 'Poet without residence', documenting the life and times of a poet on the road. Next big stop is a long declined TedEx appearance at Aston University where he will debut his new piece 'One voice, three words verses the world.' A direct challenge to the usage and etymology of the words : Black, White and Race. Don't look for answers, that's the preachers and teachers job, this poet asks questions then retreats.

Talking Birds has created over 100 projects in more than 20 years, producing thoughtful, playful, and resonant work, characterised by a distinctive blend of humour, music and visual flair. The company has worked in venues both conventional and unconventional across the UK and internationally: from the Queen Elizabeth Hall to Kilkenny Livestock Mart, from a decommissioned hospital in Coventry, to a giant aluminium whale which swallows up audiences one at a time.

Mathew Beckett is a director, film maker, DoP, professional musician/sound artist and creative advocate with broadcast and feature film credits. Working from the US to the UK and around the world, Mathew has a technically focused and exciting approach to more left-field artistic creative activity that often links film, music and other art forms. Mathew is the owner of the film production company River Rea Films.