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
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.
Harriet WarnockGeneral 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. Harriet also works as a freelance producer and has recently worked with The Everyman Theatre, Paperwork Theatre, Migrant Artists Mutual Aid and The Bluecoat.
Ruvimbo MunodawafaAdministrative Assistant
Ruvimbo Munodawafa is a creative writer and proactive artist with a zine, an e-magazine that is a combination of art & poetry. A zine that was funded by the national lottery to develop into an e-commerce business. Ruvimbo has shown her versatility and ability to use her creativity in various roles including working on a feature film (Nine Nights) as a prop assistant & producer’s assistant. A film that went on to premiere in Lós Angeles at the Pan African Festival in February 2019. She worked as a Poet and Production runner with Ariana Ventures on a multi-award winning short film.
Abi HorsfieldParticipation 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 MellorYouth 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.
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.
Yemi BolatiwaRadical Makers Learning Administrator
Yemi Bolatiwa is a singer, facilitator and community engagement officer based in the Manchester arts scene. She has over the past 4 years worked in cultural venues in theatre outreach, youth and family workshop delivery and programming. Yemi brings a host of insights and creative skills to the organisation. She is a freelance session and function musician, singing in orchestra and is a vocalist and songwriter for record labels across the UK & EU having been heard on Kiss FM, BBC Radio 1, BBC Radio Manchester & more. Passionate about anti-racism, global culture, sustainability and community cohesion; she volunteers and works with charities in her spare time and prides herself on being a highly-functioning social extrovert!
Tessa BuddleWomen in Action Manager & Communications Coordinator
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.
Amy HailwoodTrainer for Women in Action
Amy is a theatre director and facilitator based in Greater Manchester. Her focus is making contemporary theatre for positive social change. She has worked with a range of companies to deliver creative workshops, campaigns and performances, including the Octagon Theatre, Royal Exchange Theatre, Lowry, Bush Theatre, Time to Change, British Council and her own Theatre for Social Change company Ordinary Glory, founded in 2019. Amy has a broad range of experience working in community settings over 15 years, both arts based and other social action projects, including community radio, community mediation, peace activism and work in prisons. She has variously worked with young people, older people, women, those with mental ill health and those with additional learning needs.
Marianne MatuszSector Development Programme Coordinator
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.
Beth HopkinsMusician/ Composer for Women in Action
Beth is a songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, composer and community musician from Birmingham. She performs with avant-pop band The Nature Centre and solo as Bethany Kay. Beth is a versatile musician who turns her hand to almost any instrument but her focus is wind, banjo, found sounds/field recording and singing. As musical director of Cloud Cuckoo Land Theatre Company she devises and performs in their participatory plays for children, which tour schools, theatres and community settings including hospitals. She has also composed music for The Playhouse and Little Angel Theatre productions. Beth is a keen collaborator and works with children aged 8-11 on Friction Arts/Natalie Mason’s project Multicultural Music Making, using international repertoire as a stimulus for composition.
Matthew ElliottAssociate Artist
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 completed his PhD at the University of Leeds in 2019; Embodying Critical Engagement: Experiments with politics, theatre and young people in the UK and Chile
Denise KennedyAssociate Artist
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.

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 current team includes:

Jim Johnson (Chair), Anna Jones (Vice-Chair), Mike Eccles (Treasurer), Professor Eric Weitz, Graham Boxer, Jamie Beddard, Jane Pratt, June Hudson, Anthony Scott and Arti Prashar.

All can be contacted through

If you are interested in joining the trustee team please get in touch.