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.
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.
Jack HironsAdmin and Programme Assistant
Jack studied Drama and Theatre Arts at the University of Birmingham before moving back home and joining Collective Encounters. As a student, he worked as a Stage Manager on multiple shows, including one which played at the 2019 Edinburgh Fringe Festival. He has also been the Treasurer and run the social media accounts for multiple Student Theatre Companies. Creatively, Jack is an aspiring playwright who is currently enrolled on the Everyman Playhouse’s Young Writers course.
Amy WoodsMarketing and Admin Assistant
Amy is a recent Geography (BA) graduate from the University of Liverpool. She has a broad range of creative interests, which has included filmmaking at Clapperboard UK and Tyneside Cinema, managing Youth Strike 4 Climate Liverpool’s social media platforms and acting at the Young Everyman and Playhouse. Although her creative interests are always evolving, the one constant in her work is how she relates whatever she is creating to issues of social justice. Most recently, Amy completed a 6-month communications internship at the United Nations in Copenhagen.
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.
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.
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.
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 RobinsonConfidence through Creativity 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.
Eleanor KilroyProgramme Assistant
Eleanor Kilroy is a theatre workshop facilitator, an AHRC funded doctoral student and an associate lecturer at Goldsmiths, University of London. Whether Eleanor is working in the context of her PhD which explores the role of Instagram in the lives of young women, or as the co-founder of Flow n Flux, a feminist discussion club, there is a sustained emphasis on creating spaces for women and non-binary people to grapple with societal issues, through creative and embodied practices. Eleanor gained an MA in Performance in Culture at Goldsmiths and BA in Drama at Liverpool Hope University.
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, and Anthony Scott.

All can be contacted through

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