The executive director of The Old Rep, Chris Sudworth on his first year in Brum, his passion in creating a new kind of venue to celebrate the city and all its communities – and why he never stops dreaming
BEEN THERE, DONE THAT
A cornerstone of my early career was the experiences I gained through the Edinburgh Fringe as director, producer and venue manager. Those experiences were alongside full-time roles as a drama teacher in London and head of education and youth theatre at The Octagon, Bolton, before becoming a freelance director and producer creating new, multi-artform productions with companies across the UK and leading a national young people’s programme for Arts Council England. From 2010-2015, I was the founding creative director of The Core at Corby Cube, in Northamptonshire before moving to The Old Rep last year.
IT’S WHAT I DO
The Old Rep relaunched a year ago as a young people-driven venue in the heart of the city, in partnership with Birmingham Ormiston Academy. As executive director, I am responsible for the overall success of this unique and historic venue, including our artistic programme which prioritises the development and showcase of the talent of our city and the wider West Midlands: on and off stage. Along with our team of apprentices and experienced staff, I am passionate about creating a new kind of venue that welcomes, reflects and celebrates our city and all its communities.
WHAT I’D LIKE TO SEE
I’ve always been driven by making the best opportunities available to the widest range of people. I think the source of it was growing up in a small town, being passionate about theatre but not knowing where to start. All my experiences have intensified this commitment. At The Old Rep, that’s through our partnerships with leading companies like Frantic Assembly and National Youth Theatre, but also with more local organisations and, most importantly, the people of our city.
I’m proud of everything we achieved in opening The Core at Corby Cube, the first professional arts venue the town had ever had. I’m equally proud of the three-year Urban Music Theatre project with Community Arts North West that brought together refugee and asylum seeker young people with others from communities across Greater Manchester. I’m delighted with the first year of the new adventure at The Old Rep, especially the reputation we have for being accessible and relevant to all our communities.
BIGGEST LESSON LEARNED
That no one person holds all the answers, the best work always comes from collaboration. That very few things are impossible: we just need to think creatively about how we can make them happen, to what scale, and when. To keep dreaming, be passionate, but stay humble.
WHAT I LIKE ABOUT BRUM
The warmth, generosity, humour and passion. People often say Brummies are slow to talk up the city, but I feel that’s changing and that we are becoming more confident to shout about the exciting things that are happening here.
I love the energy and creativity of cities, but I also love being out in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by nature, and discovering new places with my wife and daughter.