From incredible directors, writers and musicians to empowering books, films and podcasts, our Head of Learning Jo Wright and Head of Community & Talent Development Mathilde Petford mark International Women’s Day by shining a light on inspirational women and their projects.  

Take a look at their top picks below: 

Jo’s Picks 

Ella Risbridger is a fantastic writer whose work is eclectic, thoughtful and beautiful. She writes brilliantly about food, grief, poetry and being human; her book Midnight Chicken (& Other Recipes Worth Living For) is about all of these things. She has recently launched a newsletter, which I will absolutely be subscribing to.  

Hosted by comedians and writers Caitlin Durante and Jamie Loftus, The Bechdel Cast is a podcast about the portrayal of women in movies. Often including equally hilarious guests, the podcast uses the Bechdel test as a jumping off point to examine how different films portray, discuss and treat women as characters, performers, writers and humans. I enjoy listening enormously, even when my favourite films are covered in all their problematic glory (The Princess Bride anyone?).  

Invisible Women is a book that everyone should read… but in small sections as it will make you furious! Activist and writer, Caroline Criado Perez, examines the gender data gap – a gap in our knowledge that is at the root of perpetual, systemic discrimination against women – and how a world designed with only men in mind harms us all.  

If you haven’t seen the movie Wakanda Forever, get on it! If you have, watch it again! The film features an Oscar nominated performance from the incomparable Angela Bassett and incredible Black women as scientists, generals, queens, mothers, warriors, flawed and grieving adults and heroes. The costumes alone make Wakanda Forever worth a second watch.  

French comic artist, Emma, brilliantly depicts The Mental Load, a concept in which women are viewed as the ‘manager’ of households chores – it’s a great quick read.   

I had the privilege to work with Sarah Brigham, Artistic Director & CEO at Derby Theatre, very early on in my career. She’s one of those women who sets the bar in integrity, creativity and innovation. Her directed work is always wickedly funny and full of joy, and her artistic directorship at Derby has seen fantastic growth in produced work, accessible and integrated performance and developing artists.  

I met Oluwatoyin Odunsi at a show where we weren’t sitting together but I could still hear her laughing at the same jokes as me; we’ve been delighted to see each other at every occasion since. She celebrated my move to the Midlands by relocating to Brixton House in London where she is building a ground-breaking programme in which artists, audiences, communities and spaces can have a dialogue together, creating alternative new stories for culturally diverse audiences. 

Lynne Gardner (@lyngardner) is not only a brilliant theatre critic, but a champion of work for young audiences and co-curation with communities. I always value her opinion! 

Mathilde’s Picks 

A legend in the music scene here in the Midlands, Ruth Kokumo and her band, Ruth and the Ark, would always fill the room with sweet soulful sounds. Ruth created so much beautiful music, including my personal favourite, Conquer. Sadly, she passed away at the end of 2022, but she will always be remembered and go down in history as true creative royalty in Birmingham. Rest in peace, Ruth.  

Sophia Griffin (@SophiaJGriffin) is Birmingham Hippodrome’s very own! I have the absolute fortune to know Sophia as a friend, and I knew when stepping in as her maternity cover that they would be very big shoes to fill. Sophia is tirelessly committed to creating incredible opportunities for young people as well as providing a deep level of care and community. She is a strategic thinker and has many fantastic ideas about how the industry can do and be better. Sophia is also an exceptional writer and artist and works with some of our region’s best artists to make really vital work. I couldn’t write this list without a nod to this legend.  

Loreal Stokes (@LorealStokes) is a local Brummie who is changing the way organisations approach Equality, Diversity and Inclusion. She is a project manager leading on a large programme to eliminate barriers to postgraduate study and has a Ted Talk on her idea of being a ‘professional troublemaker’. Loreal taught me so much about embracing who I am and who I want to be instead of what others project onto me. She is already and will continue to change the world for young women.  

Sue Emmas is Associate Artistic Director at Young Vic as well as Artistic Director of Regional Young Directors Scheme. Truthfully, Sue has probably been involved in the development of most of the theatre industry’s brightest new talents. She has been running artist development schemes for decades and I know first-hand just how much RTYDS has been a crucial step for so many directors, whilst also being incredibly caring, kind and inclusive.  

Artistic Director of The Bush, one of the UK’s most exciting theatres currently, Lynette Linton (@LynetteLinton) has headed up the creation of so many groundbreaking and award winning plays in recent years. Her work with former Brummie director, Daniel Bailey, has proven to be one of the industry’s best pairings. As one of the youngest ever Artistic Directors, Lynette has already shown she deserves to be right where she is and will continue to be not just an industry giant but an industry changer.  

I couldn’t write this list without mentioning the two women who laid the foundations for my own career. Jane Ward MBE founded Central Youth Theatre (@CYT_Wolves) back in 1983, a time when a youth theatre existing in small town Wolverhampton would’ve been hard enough, let alone it being led by a woman. She created an organisation that provides exceptional theatre experiences, including countless international theatre festivals, for young people in a city where there was nothing else on offer. Holly Parry, now CEO of CYT, has continued the legacy, taking the youth theatre to new heights, and consistently creating relevant and high-quality shows. Central Youth Theatre has an incredibly successful alumni, and it’s down to the commitment and care of these two women.