guest post: “I’m really thrilled by our ambitions to imagine widely” — a conversation with kirsten burrows

“This February we had the delight of welcoming kirsten burrows into the tfhq family, as our first executive director, she joins us from China Plate with over a decade of experience in the industry.

What first attracted you to the tf company?

KB: I knew Artistic Director Natalie Ibu a little already as I’d asked her to speak to a group of PoC and D/deaf & disabled emerging producers as part of the Optimists course that I ran for China Plate. I was really impressed by Natalie’s clarity of vision and passion and clear vision for tf and her way of opening and leading rich, honest and useful discussions.

Reading more about tf; the company’s mission, values and plans for the future, cemented my interest in being part of the organization. The narrative around the company just made so much sense to me. I loved that tf referred to ‘the messy, the multiple and the complicated identity politics’ of our society. The company’s honesty in acknowledging the complexity of our audiences, coupling this with a set of hugely positive and exciting plans to invite and encourage a broad range of audiences was hugely attractive to me.

I was also ready for a new challenge and particularly excited about the prospect of meeting and working with a new range of artists, creatives and communities from the British-African diaspora.

How did it feel coming into a role that was new to the company?

KB: Great actually. My last role at China Plate was also brand new and I love working with Artistic Directors to figure out how that partnership should work. Certainly it takes a little longer to carve out the full scope of a brand new role in an organization, than taking over an established position, and I’m working out where I can be most effective on a day to day basis. However ultimately you have a fresh start and the room to implement your own processes and ideas – hopefully bringing your own new ideas and ways of working to the team. A new role also normally means that the company is expanding and developing – an exciting time to become part of the team.

What were your expectations of the role and how did they match up or differ?

KB: The reality is is far more varied than I’d originally thought, in fact my second day I was negotiating a film contract! Our conversations and investigations with artists cover literature, film, TV, music, poetry, photography and an emphasis on digital output – all really exciting as it means through the disciplines we work within we have a much broader potential audience base to connect with. Theatre will always be our main focus, so just imagine what we can do if we can truly and effectively tap into an audience for music or film and encourage them into our world. We’re working up to announcing our Spring 2019 show and planning a variety of ways to reach audiences by utilising digital assets through the connections made in key local communities by our brand new role of Friendship Producer. I’m really thrilled by our ambitions to imagine widely and not restrict our thinking in any way when it comes to new relationships.

What are you most excited to do?

KB: Ah, so much! Where to begin?

My goals span the full breadth of the company’s activity but my main focus is supporting the company to deliver: inspiring, brilliant quality creative output; artist and talent development; and the development of our audience base.

We’re awarding a variety of new seed commissions at the moment with amazing writers -focusing on female writers of colour and fascinating themes. It’s exciting to be involved in early stage work from a conversation about a burgeoning idea right through potentially to production.

We have plans afoot for Edinburgh 2019 – watch this space – and are building some brilliant connections with partner venues across the country and internationally which have brilliant potential.

The senior management stuff feels particularly exciting at this point as it is really helping me to get the tiata fahodzi business plan under my skin and second nature as I get out and talk to people about the company – I really enjoy that learning curve.

What’s been your favorite thing about working at tf so far?

KB: I think the best thing about working at tiata fahodzi so far is, with Natalie and the team, really feeling like I have a role in shaping the company’s future. This is hugely important to me.

Oh and there’s a fantastic shopping centre in Watford which is a bit dangerous for the purse.”


kirsten burrows is the new executive director.

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