Sarah ThorntonArtistic Director
Sarah Thornton is founding Artistic Director of Collective Encounters. Growing out of 20 years of experience as a professional theatre director, community arts facilitator, arts manager, theatre academic and researcher, she established the company to make exciting, ethical, collaborative theatre and to explore its potential to contribute to social change. Sarah works alongside the Executive Director to oversee the company’s overall strategic director, as well as leading on creative and research aspects of the programme.
Annette BurghesExecutive Director
Annette has managed arts and community organisations for twenty-five years, and has been with Collective Encounters since it started. Annette studied Law at the College of Law and has also worked with Graeae (General Manager), Highgate Newtown (Director) and as a consultant for DrugFam, Actiontrack, Windows Project and Evolve. Annette is currently a trustee of Evolve and is partway through a MRes with Edge Hill University. For Collective Encounters Annette leads on development, research and fundraising.
Abi HorsfieldOutreach Director
Abi is currently leading Above and Beyond, embedding creativity and Theatre for Social Change in geographic communities. Prior to turning forty Abi worked around the world often in conflict areas, using creativity and theatre to get people telling their stories, but she gave that up in 2010 when she had her son. As well as facilitating for over 35 years with people of all ages and abilities Abi is also a performer, specialising in Cabaret and street theatre, you can often find her at festivals on the ‘Melodrome Stage’ being outrageous in a wig and wild make up, or compering Cabaret Heaven at the Trades club in Hebden Bridge. She trained in Community Theatre Arts at Rose Bruford and recently began her MA in Facilitation for Theatre and Drama at LIPA.
Tessa BuddleGeneral Manager | Women in Action Director
Tessa gained her BA in Theatre Studies from Lancaster University, then moved to Liverpool and trained as a physical theatre performer with Hope Street Limited. Since then she has worked with a range of companies as a project manager and creative practitioner including 20 Stories High, Lantern Company, People Show, Talking Birds, and the company she co-founded in 2008: The Suitcase Ensemble. Tessa also has a MA in Contemporary Arts from Manchester Metropolitan University, and recently completed a PhD at the University of Glasgow, exploring the relationship between theatre-making, touring and utopia.
Aidan JollyRadical Makers Course Director
Aidan is a musician, songwriter/composer and performance maker, taking inspiration from world wide cultural movements, and the history, identity and undocumented stories of particular communities and environments. For Collective Encounters he has worked on ‘Other Ways Of Telling’, ‘Break Free’, and ‘What If?’. He is a core member of Virtual Migrants, a Manchester based Digital Arts Association that explores issues of race, migration and globalisation. He also also works with the Threepenny Festival Association (3PF). Founded in 2013 to look at artistic responses to austerity, it has since developed into a solidarity organisation that works in partnership with people affected by fracking in the UK, and indigenous people in Latin America around issues of extractivism and environmental justice.
Marianne MatuszSector Development Programme Coordinator | Confidence through Creativity (national) Lead Artist
Marianne is a freelance theatre artist, facilitator and project coordinator. Working with diverse communities across the North of England, she believes using theatre as a lens through which we can dare to see ourselves, each other and the world differently. She has delivered projects across many settings, including: mainstream and alternative education settings, community venues, refugee
centres, frontline mental health services and residential care settings in addition to traditional theatres. She has a Master’s Degree in Applied Theatre and Intervention from the University of Leeds.
Michelle RichardsLead Artist, Where You're At
Michelle is a director of The Art Clinic Liverpool and co-ordinates and facilitates community arts and well-being programmes through this programme. She has also worked within or in partnership with community projects, including The Ariel Trust, Heal 8 Healthy Living Centre and One-to-One productions. In addition to delivering community arts projects Michelle works as a freelance therapist.
Alise MierkalneAdmin & Programme Assistant
Alise has newly joined our Collective Encounters team keen to learn about participatory arts. Alise is passionate about working within the community and helping others and is looking for different opportunities to engage with the local community. Alise has a care work background and qualifications in Health & Social Care, and now is looking to change a career path. Alise is looking forward to studying business and approaching her interest in administrative work.
Zorazelda KingConfidence through Creativity (national) Artist
Zorazelda is a freelance theatre maker and facilitator working across the North West and South Yorkshire. After graduating with a BA in Applied Theatre and Community Drama from the Liverpool Institute for Performing Arts she went onto working as a representative on the National Freelance Task Force focusing on the needs of Early Career Artists and Practitioners and is a member of the Creative Connections Network which seeks to better the creative opportunities for young people in Greater Manchester. Zora is passionate about working with diverse communities utilising theatre as a tool for social change and as a platform for participants to feel empowered to have their voices heard.
Heidi RobinsonWomen in Action Learning Administrator
A current member of Collective Encounters’ Radical Makers programme, Heidi has a degree in Sport studies and Business Management. Heidi is an actress and singer/songwriter and studies Song, Acting & Dance at Lipa. Her singer name is Harmoni Zax and her published songs are under this name. Heidi’s most recent acting role is Laura in After Affects 2020 available on Amazon Prime.
Wendy O'ConnorRadical Makers Learning Administrator
Wendy in an actress and vocalist who has studied performance arts at HE. She’s completed the Confidence Through Creativity and Radical Makers programmes with Collective Encounters. She plans to use her skills to develop & facilitate classes focused on bereavement for children and young adults, a subject that is significantly close to her heart.
Harriet WarnockOpen Awards Administrator
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. Harriet also works as a freelance producer and has recently worked with The Everyman Theatre, Paperwork Theatre, Migrant Artists Mutual Aid and The Bluecoat.

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

Collective Encounters’ committed trustee team meet regularly to support delivery and strategic development.

This team is comprised of individuals with expertise in the arts and cultural sector, and those who have direct experience of the communities we serve.

Our Trustees are:

Jim Johnson (Chair), Anna Jones (Vice-Chair), Graham Boxer, Jamie Beddard, June Hudson, Anya Winful, Ithalia Forel and Anthony Scott.

All can be contacted through

We are currently seeking new trustees. If you are interested in joining our trustee team, read about Becoming a Collective Encounters Trustee.