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Who we are

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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.

Sarah [at]

Annette Burghes, Executive Director

As Executive Director Annette is responsible for the strategic direction of the organization as well as day-to-day operations. Annette has worked with Collective Encounters since its inception in 2005 playing a key role in its evolution and growth. Annette studied Arts Administration at London Metropolitan University and has an honours degree in Law from the College of Law. Prior to Collective Encounters Annette worked as General Manager for Graeae Theatre Company and as the Director of Camden’s largest community centre Highgate Newtown. Annette has also acted as a business development consultant for numerous arts and community organisations.

Annette [at]

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.

Harriet [at]

Abi Horsfield, Other Theatres 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.

Abi [at]

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.

Ben [at]

Matthew Elliott, Emerging Artist Training Manager 

Matthew is a facilitator and director based in Liverpool. After training at the Liverpool Institute for Performing Arts, Matthew has worked collaboratively on a national and international basis with a range of companies including Collective Encounters, Colectivo Sustento (Chile) and Lagnet (Kenya). Specialising in theatre for social change practice, he has worked extensively with young people and adults in a range of settings including the criminal justice system and educational institutions. Matthew is a Winston Churchill Fellow and recipient of the Koestler award for work undertaken at HMP Altcourse. He Is currently completing a practice as research PhD; Embodying Critical Engagement: Experiments with politics, theatre and young people in the UK and Chile.

matthew [at]

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:  Jim Johnson (Chair), Anna Jones (Vice-Chair), Mike Eccles (Treasurer), Professor Eric Weitz, Graham Boxer, Rachael Hankin, and Jamie Beddard.

All can be contacted through

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