It is with more than a little sadness that we announce that our Development Director, Joint CEO and co-founder Beth House will be leaving the company this month.
Ahead of her departure to explore new challenges, Beth writes: It’s hard to believe that it’s been almost 13 years since Elise Davison and I were wandering round a woodland in Pembrokeshire where the idea came to us to put on a piece of theatre in the woods. Hot on the heels of that idea came the vision of working with an inclusive team of disabled performers to create a promenade version of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. I don’t think at that point we realised the enormity of what we were about to embark on. We got £5000 from Arts Council Wales, assembled a team of 6 actors, rehearsed for 5 days straight then performed 7 times over a weekend, dragging audiences through muddy woodlands, through clouds of midges and accompanying them, armed with Ikea lanterns, into the gloaming. From there, Elise and I founded Taking Flight and the hard work really began!
My memories of those formative years are mainly rooted in the exhilarating sensation of being deep in the woods, down some (accessible) pathway, surrounded by wild garlic and bluebells, rehearsing Shakespeare, driving down country lanes to put posters in remote village halls, mending costumes, 2 performances a day in the pouring Welsh rain, late nights counting ticket money and writing endless funding applications. It never seemed to stop- nor did I want it to- I was hopelessly in love with all of it! We became expert- or at least proficient- in juggling building a busy charity with the demands of our ever-growing families.
Fast forward those 13 years and together, Elise and I – and in the last 5 years Louise too – have created over 20 tours across Wales, England and even to Ireland and Germany. We’ve employed hundreds of Deaf, disabled and non-disabled creative professionals, supported people to start or continue their careers in the arts through training and mentoring and pushed forwards creative access.
My 4 children have grown up embedded in the Taking Flight family, coming on tour, watching rehearsals and later, volunteering – or more accurately being hoodwinked into helping out.
None of this would have been possible without the enormous support of so many people, from trustees old and new (especially our current chair Emily and Taking Flight stalwart Nigel) to generous collaborators – the artists and creatives who make and grow our work, access providers, supporters and of course our amazing, loyal and often hardy audiences. Equally none of this would have happened without the backing of my amazing family- my children who did without me so many times, my rock; Dean- who put up with stuff all over our house and me talking about work ALL the time, and my wonderful Mum who looked after my babies, was an early trustee and a she-roic champion of Taking Flight’s work before she passed away in 2019.
My proudest moment came when in early 2020, we launched Wales’ first and only Youth Theatre for Deaf children, and it has been my enormous privilege to work alongside Steph Back, Anna and all our amazing volunteers, and to meet so many amazing young people and their families. Youth Theatre.
So… 13 years. I co-founded this organisation, nurtured it and witnessed it grow and flourish. I’m in awe of all we’ve achieved together, how far we’ve come. But there comes a time in the lifespan of every organisation- and indeed every human- where it’s time to move on, to make way for other voices and for new challenges. This is that time. I hope this is not a goodbye- I’ve made so many friends, worked alongside so many amazing humans. Part of my heart will always belong to this wonderful company that we’ve built; but now, for both Taking Flight and for me, it’s time for the next adventure”.
Chair of the board of trustees of Taking Flight, Dr Emily Garside writes:
“It’s a bittersweet goodbye to Beth after more than 12 years with Taking Flight. On one hand we will miss greatly Beth’s energy, commitment and drive which built the company along with Elise. On the other hand, Taking Flight is about empowering people to spread their wings and – yes – take flight which is exactly what Beth is doing. So while we are sad to see her go, we’re also incredibly excited, and more than a little proud to see her move on to the next chapter.
For a company like Taking Flight, we really do run on the strength of our people (and more than a little goodwill) and everything else aside, it’s the goodwill, the support and all the little things that we as a company will miss.
As Chair it has been a joy to work alongside Beth, and I know I speak for the Board past and present when I say we are incredibly grateful for her hard work and helping us to make Taking Flight what it is today. We as a board are incredibly excited about the next chapter for Taking Flight, and incredibly grateful to Beth for helping us get there. We also are incredibly proud of Beth personally, in her journey from performer, to theatre company co-founder, to developing a passion and skill for fundraising and to be able to use all this as she takes the next exciting step. And while we won’t be working together, I know myself and the board will still be cheering for Beth every step of the way.
On a personal note, it has been a privilege to work with Beth over the last five years. I’ve learned an incredible amount from her-not least that determination and a drive to make a change can sometimes really pay off. As women in the arts, it’s crucial we support and lift each other up, and I’m grateful to Beth for always doing that. Professionally, Beth has been an inspiration, and personally I’m proud to call her a friend. From everyone at Taking Flight, past, present and future, a huge thank you Beth, we wouldn’t be here without her”.
Artistic Director of Taking Flight, Elise Davison will continue to lead the company into its next exciting stage of development. She explains:
“Twelve years ago, Taking Flight was just a dream created during a walk in the woods. Now it’s a leading force in theatre in Wales. None of which would have happened if it wasn’t for Beth’s tireless enthusiasm, commitment and drive. In the early years it was all about ‘making it work’ with whatever was to hand and jumping in (sometimes headfirst) to make projects happen. We took on the world and any project that ignited a fire in our bellies. Now, all these years later, Taking Flight is a company that has created over 20 successful productions, toured internationally and worked with, and learnt from, many amazing Deaf and disabled artists. And that is in no small part thanks to Beth’s hard work. We built this company together against the odds. We poured our souls into it and to see that it has touched so many lives makes me so happy. I cannot wait to see what Beth does next; I know she will be a huge asset to her new employers and sorely missed at Taking Flight. We have been through so much together over the years. Beth is a wonderful human and a great friend – the time is right for her to move on in her career but she will always be a huge part of the Taking Flight family”.
Taking Flight Theatre
Chapter Arts Centre
Canton, Cardiff, CF5 1QE
029 2023 0020
Youth Theatre meets at:
Chapter Arts Centre
Canton, Cardiff, CF5 1QE
029 2023 0020
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