Who we are


Sarah Thornton, Artistic Director

Sarah Thornton is founding Artistic Director of Collective Encounters.  She established the company to make exciting, collaborative theatre and explore its potential to contribute to social change.  Her work with the company has drawn on her varied background which over the past 20 years has included applied work in diverse community contexts, developing and directing fringe and professional theatre, university lecturing and practice-as-research. As Artistic Director, Sarah works collaboratively with the Executive Director to oversee the company’s overall strategic direction.


Annette Burghes, Executive Director

As Executive Director Annette is responsible for designing, developing and implementing the strategic plans of the organsiation as well as day-to-day operations. Before working with Collective Encounters Annette worked extensively with Graeae, and has also undertaken a number of senior level roles within the arts & community sector.  Annette studied Arts Administration at LMU and also has a degree in Law.


Amanda Redvers Rowe, Head of Participation

Amanda’s career as a lecturer, writer and performer both regionally and nationally spans 25 years. For five years she acted as Artistic Director of North West Disability Arts Forum (now DADA) and spent many years as a lecturer in Community Theatre practice as both Liverpool Institute for the Performing Arts and at Liverpool Hope University. Her written work has been produced by the Royal Exchange (Manchester), BBC Radio, Graeae, Paines Plough and BBC Television. Amanda joined the Collective Encounters’ team in February 2012.


Harriet Warnock, General Manager

Harriet studied Drama and Theatre Studies at the University of Hull before moving to London where she worked at Arcola Theatre, as Box Office Manager and at The National Theatre, in both the Marketing and Tours & Information departments. She has a Masters degree in Arts Administration and Cultural Policy from Goldsmiths. She returned to Liverpool after a year traveling and has been working at Collective Encounters since September 2015.


Abi Horsfield, Transitions Director

Abi Horsfield is a community theatre/arts professional with over 25 years experience of theatre facilitation, performance and project management. Her long career has seen her deliver workshops across 300 projects in 27 challenging countries such as Ghana, Thailand, Uzbekistan, the Philippines and Nigeria.


Ben Mellor, Youth Theatre Director

Ben studied English & Drama at the University of Manchester and prior to joining Collective Encounters worked for over ten years as a freelance writer, performer and educator. As a facilitator and director he has worked with a wide range of young people and adults from a variety of backgrounds in schools, colleges, universities, theatres, youth centres and prisons. He has delivered workshops and projects for venues and organisations such as Apples & Snakes, Contact, The Lowry, The Royal Exchange, Manchester Literature Festival and Shakespeare Schools Festival.


Matthew Elliott, Youth Theatre Director (Associate)

Matthew trained at Liverpool Institute for Performing Arts, graduating in 2011. Matthew has worked with young people in a wide range of contexts: education settings; criminal justice;  refugee’s and asylum seekers services. He is also musician and  musical director (Aesops Fables and various Brecht productions) and has been awarded a Koestler Bronze Award for participatory project with HMP Altcourse, Liverpool. In 2014,  Matthew became a Winston Churchill Memorial Trust Fellow, undertaking research into arts engagement practice in South America. Matthew is also in the first year of his PhD research in political theatre practice in the UK and South America.


Denise Kennedy, Artist (Associate)

Denise is a writer/performer based in Liverpool with a background that includes a Masters degree in Writing from Liverpool John Moore’s University and the Playwright’s Programme at Liverpool’s Everyman/Playhouse. She has worked with Collective Encounters as a facilitator for over 4 years, delivering outreach workshops and performance with the Transitions group and, most recently, skills development workshops with the Youth Theatre.  Denise is currently working with the Youth Theatre as support artist on the Political Theatre Writing Course.


Aidan Jolly, Lead Artist (Associate)

Aidan is a singer, song-writer and performer. He regularly collaborates with writers, filmmakers, theatre companies, choirs and communities to create cross artform performances, most recently with B-Arts in Stoke-On-Trent (‘Down To The Roots’ CD and a series of outdoor and site specific performances in 2010, 2011 and 2013), and Virtual Migrants (at the Arnolfini, Bristol, in 2009, curated by Platform, in Manchester at the Anthony Burgess Foundation in 2010, and at the Club Row Gallery, London, in 2011). He has toured extensively in the UK and abroad.


We also employ a wide range of associate artists, technicians and project staff on a project-by-project basis.


Our trustees are: Graham Whitham (Chair), Mike Eccles (Treasurer), Jim Johnson (Vice-Chair), Professor Eric Weitz, Graham Boxer, Rachael Hankin.

John Dermody acts as an advisor to the trustee team.

All can be contacted through admin@collective-encounters.org.uk