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Soho Theatre’s re-opening of the former Granada/EMD in Walthamstow takes a stride forward with the appointment of key posts: Jessica Draper in the newly created role of Head of Creative Engagement, and the new Co-Chairs of the board for the revitalised venue, Olivier Award-winning performer and Waltham Forest resident Alessandro Babalola and the Royal Court’s Executive Director Lucy Davies.
Speaking to the new venue’s vision for a ‘local theatre with a national profile’, due to open in late 2022, the new appointments combine the local knowledge from actor and writer and long-time resident Alessandro Babalola, the wide experience and cultural leadership of Lucy Davies, and the creative and participation expertise of Jessica Draper.
The new board for the former Granada/EMD also includes Waltham Forest Council’s Chief Executive Martin Esom, Soho Theatre Board Chair Dame Heather Rabbatts DBE (Chair of Vero Communications and TIME’S UP UK), Vice-Chair Beatrice Hollond (Chair of F&C Investment Trust and Chair of Millbank Financial Services Limited) and Trustees Nicholas Allott OBE (Non-Executive Vice Chairman of Cameron Mackintosh Ltd and former Soho Theatre Chair), David Aukin (one of UK’s most respected drama producers and former Soho Theatre Chair), Hani Farsi (Founder and CEO of the Corniche group), Fawn James (Director of Soho Estates, Founder of Boulevard Theatre) and Shappi Khorsandi (acclaimed Comedian and Writer), alongside Soho Theatre’s Executive Director Mark Godfrey (Co-Founder of Waltham Forest Cinema Trust as part of local campaign to save the former Granada/EMD) and Creative Director David Luff (Co-Producer of NETWORK, National Theatre / Broadway).
Alessandro Babalola and Lucy Davies said: “We are both delighted and privileged to be appointed together as Co-Chairs for this incredible venue. We share a passion for the arts, and for representation, equality and sustainability within a thriving creative sector. We are looking forward to working together alongside our Trustees, the visionary Soho Theatre and Waltham Forest Council teams, and especially the Waltham Forest community as we rebuild, reinvent and reinvigorate this venue together, ensuring this ‘local theatre with a national profile’ has an extraordinary future.”
Jessica Draper said: “I’m thrilled to join Soho Theatre’s trailblazing team. Soho Theatre has an unparalleled knack of producing invigorating stage performances born from its pioneering and rebellious spirit and ethos of nurturing and trusting artists. It’s a huge privilege to be taking on the new role of Head of Creative Engagement. I will continue to champion artists and makers from underrepresented backgrounds and even at this particularly difficult time, I know Waltham Forest is a place of creativity, resilience and collective power. The new venue will be a space to connect, collaborate and create. The most important issues of our time can only be fully explored by bringing new voices to the table. I am really looking forward to working with everyone to create something extraordinary.”
Alessandro Babalola is an actor, writer, musician and director on the rise. Born, raised and still residing in Waltham Forest, in his formative years with no working theatre in the area, Alessandro learned his craft outside of his beloved borough. He first attended Soho Theatre as a teenager in 2007 to see JOE GUY (directed by Femi Elufowoju Jr.), before performing on Soho Theatre’s stage twelve years later in the Olivier Award-winning FLESH & BONE. His performance led to roles in Netflix’s TOP BOY (Season 3) and CURSED. He has recently completed filming on ITV’s THE UNFORGOTTEN, Guy Ritchie’s upcoming WRATH OF MAN and the new Netflix film BLACKMAIL. Alessandro has written two plays: INVINCIBILLY (Wandsworth Fringe Festival, 2019) and THE PERFECT COMPANION (Pleasance Theatre, 2019).
Cultural and creative leader Lucy Davies is Executive Director at one of the UK’s flagship theatres, the internationally renowned Royal Court Theatre, also leading on its commercial and international touring transfer of its work. Prior, Lucy was the founding Executive Producer at the National Theatre Wales where she produced the first three year’s of the company’s work. Currently Chair of London Theatre Consortium, Chair of Trustees for Clod Ensemble, and on the Boards of Brighton Dome & Festival and the Society of London Theatre (SOLT), Lucy is also a Creative Climate Leader and Creative Green Champion 2020, leading on net zero practice across the theatre sector and a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts.
In an exciting time for Soho Theatre as the company broadens the work it creates and the audiences it connects with, theatre and arts producer Jessica Draper joins the team in its newest full-time position, Head of Creative Engagement. Within Soho Theatre’s wider vision and strategy of public engagement and advocacy across its Dean Street venue and acclaimed festival programme, fast growing digital wing, and UK and international touring, Jessica will lead on creating a pioneering creative engagement programme for Dean Street and the former Granada/EMD.
With over ten years’ experience in leading co-creative collaboration, community participation and artist development, across arts, education, homelessness and criminal justice settings, Jessica has developed projects with the Roundhouse, Young Vic Theatre, Royal Opera House, the V&A Museum and seven local authorities. She has led on expansive theatre and community programmes with charities and organisations including Crisis UK, Synergy Theatre Project and Waltham Forest’s London Borough of Culture.
NOTES TO EDITORS
ALESSANDRO BABALOLA is an actor and writer of Nigerian descent, born and raised in Leyton, East London. He studied acting at the Arts University of Bournemouth. After graduating he performed in various short films, Off West End plays and Fringe Theatre productions before landing FLESH & BONE (National Theatre, Soho Theatre, Fringe First) with Unpolished Theatre company for which they and Soho Theatre, won an Olivier Award in 2019. His performance in FLESH & BONE led to his being cast in season 3 of TOP BOY on Netflix, as well as another Netflix original CURSED. He has recently completed filming on ITV’s detective series THE UNFORGOTTEN, Guy Ritchie’s upcoming film WRATH OF MAN and a new Netflix film BLACKMAIL. Alessandro has also written two plays: INVINCIBILLY which premiered at the Wandsworth Fringe festival in 2019 and THE PERFECT COMPANION which first showed at the Pleasance Theatre in November 2019.
LUCY DAVIES has been Executive Director at the Royal Court Theatre since April 2013, overseeing an organisation of around 120 staff with a turnover of £7m per year. The Court is an internationally recognised cultural flagship, producing around 20 world premieres per year. Lucy also leads on the commercial and international transfer of work.
She was previously the founding Executive Producer at National Theatre Wales, launching NTW in 2009 with Artistic Director John McGrath. She produced the first three years of the company’s work, including THE PERSIANS on a Brecon Beacons military base, CORIOLAN/US in an aircraft hangar, and THE PASSION with Michael Sheen across the whole town of Port Talbot: “the theatrical event of the decade.” (The Guardian)
Lucy is the current Chair of London Theatre Consortium, Chair of Trustees for Clod Ensemble, and on the Boards of Brighton Dome & Festival and the Society of London Theatre (SOLT). She is a Creative Climate Leader and Creative Green Champion 2020, leading on net zero practice across the theatre sector, and a Fellow of the RSA.
JESSICA DRAPER is a theatre and arts producer and programmer with over 10 years experience in making and presenting new work out of creative collaboration, participation, community engagement and artist development. Working in arts, education, homelessness and criminal justice settings, Jessica has developed projects with the Roundhouse, Young Vic Theatre, Royal Opera House, the V&A Museum, numerous HMPs and seven local authorities. She has led on expansive theatre and community programmes for Crisis UK, Synergy Theatre Project and Waltham Forest’s London Borough of Culture.
Jessica’s producing highlights include EASTSIDE STORY a theatre piece co-created by young people of Waltham Forest and recently chronicled by BBC’s Imagine; The Mayor of London’s Liberty festival of groundbreaking art and performance by Deaf and disabled artists, GIRLS LIKE THAT by Evan Placey for Synergy Theatre Project with a mixed professional and ex-prisoner cast, touring London schools, prisons and the Unicorn Theatre.
Jessica is on the board of Hoxton Hall and is a recipient of the London Theatre Consortium and MOBO Fellowship. @JessDrapes
SOHO THEATRE is London’s most vibrant producer for new theatre, comedy and cabaret. We pursue creative excellence, harnessing an artistic spirit that is based in our new writing roots, the radical ethos of the fringe and the traditions of punk culture and queer performance. We champion voices that challenge from outside of the mainstream, and sometimes from within it too. We value entertainment, accessibility and enjoy a good show. We are a registered charity and social enterprise and our audiences are diverse in age, background and outlook.
Ordinarily our work plays to live audiences of 250,000 audiences a year in our Dean Street venue, at the Edinburgh Fringe and beyond. Since our temporary closure due to Covid-19 we have re-launched our online platform Soho Theatre On Demand, which hosted the phenomenally successful live recording of Fleabag and will this month release Ryan Calais Cameron’s TYPICAL (24 February). We’ve partnered with Amazon Prime Video (UK) for a three-series deal, bringing existing and new comedy shows to the platform (2020-21).
Soho Theatre’s board is chaired by Dame Heather Rabbatts DBE and the company is led by Executive Director Mark Godfrey and Creative Director David Luff. sohotheatre.com | sohotheatreondemand.com | @sohotheatre
WALTHAM FOREST COUNCIL is a local authority in north east London named in June 2019 as the Local Authority of the Year at the prestigious Municipal Journal Awards and was London’s first Borough of Culture 2019. Bursting with energy and opportunity, it is a place where people want to live, raise a family and start a business.
Our Public Service Strategy sets out how we plan to take on the immediate challenges faced by residents, businesses and communities. We are connecting people with jobs, working with our partners and residents to lead safe and healthy lives, creating 15 minute neighbourhoods, where people have access to quality housing, services and facilities they need in vibrant town centres, and providing confidence in our future by addressing inequalities so residents can access the same opportunities.