Meet The Crew

Director - FXXX BXXXXX

FXXX is an artist working across opera, theatre and installation. He is artistic director of Oedipa, a Links Partner with the Royal Opera House in 2017-18, which is now developing contemporary operas at ROH and with Les Théâtres de la Ville de Luxembourg. FXXX is currently developing a collaborative opera-making process with adults with communication disabilities, supported by UCL’s Communication Clinic and Snape Maltings. FXXX has made work for Strike a Light, the Young Vic (where he won the Genesis Future Directors Award), Stroom Den Haag, Festival d’Aix-en-Provence, London Sinfonietta, Open House London, Live Drafts at the Yard and the Music Theatre Creation Lab at Helsinki Festival. In 2015 he held the Lina Bo Bardi Fellowship, appointed by the British Council, Sesc São Paulo and Instituto Lina Bo e P.M. Bardi.


Composer - Kate Whitley

Kate Whitley (b. 1989) is composer and pianist based in South London. She runs The Multi-Story Orchestra with conductor Christopher Stark, which performs in car parks around the UK: “forget fusty concert halls, the future of music is emerging in a municipal car park” (The Times). She writes music for concerts, ballets, choirs and orchestras and her music has been broadcast on Radio 3 and performed as part of the BBC Proms. Her piece Speak out to words by Malala Yousafzai was commissioned by the BBC for International Women’s Day 2017 and has since been performed by orchestras around the world. Her pieces for children’s choir and orchestra include Alive which won a 2015 British Composers Award and was described as “a remarkable feat” (The Telegraph), and I am I say to words by Sabrina Mahfouz, described as "a tremendous work" (The Times).


Producer - Kate McStraw

Kate McStraw is an independent creative producer, designer and artist. She is fiercely passionate about inclusive practice for artists and audiences, and re-imagining public or unusual spaces through cultural experiences. Kate currently works collaboratively with a range of organisations,  including large-scale outdoor arts festival Inside Out Dorset (Associate Producer, 2018 Festival and Dorset Moon 2019), puppet theatre company Green Ginger (Creative Producer, Intronauts),  Strike A Light, Gloucester (Producer, Never Better - a mental health stories project) and with visual artist Anna Berry (Producer, Breathing Room). 

Kate is the co-director of the immersive theatre company Butterfly, alongside Aileen Gonsalves, creating school-led immersive and participatory Shakespeare projects in unusual spaces across England and Germany. Other notable credits include: Designer of First Encounters - The Tempest with The Royal Shakespeare Company; commissioned artist creating Museum of Memory; Producer of Beneath Our Feet, a dance in caves projects with Made by Katie Green; Designer of Breathe, the Olympic 2012 opening celebrations in Weymouth with integrated performance company Diverse City.


Architect - Carlotta Novella 

Carlotta is an architect, artist and gathering designer part of London based practice public works. Originally from Vicenza, Italy, she now lives and works in London after completing a Master in Architecture: Cities and Innovation at Central Saint Martins, UAL. Carlotta’s work addresses contemporary socio-political and cultural issues through a spatial lens, focusing on the interplay of use within and between private and public spaces. A great believer in collaborative work and making, her projects include temporary, socio-spatial and mobile structures, architectural drawings, participatory workshops, events and performances. Her practice focuses on the role of cooking, hosting and food as a medium to facilitate, create and celebrate communality. Her work challenges the idea of gathering and looks at how spaces and rituals of food can develop civic practices, promoting direct involvement and collective action in order to transform and re-appropriate contemporary public life.

Together with public works, Carlotta is currently working on several collaborative projects in and outside the UK and regularly travels between London and Sweden, where she teaches at master level at Umeå School of Architecture.


Architect - Mary Katherine Spence

Mary Katherine is an architect based in London. She explores subjectivity and the built environment through the policy, performativity, utility and cultures of building, which includes an evolving dialogue between garment and bricks-and-mortar. She has co-authored projects that make space for daily life in contested territories and historic settings as part of muf architecture/art and Hayatsu Architects. She has worked in multidisciplinary teams in applied research and advocacy with organisations including London College of Communication, SPACE Studios and the Greater London Authority.


Lighting Designer & Production Manager - Tom Richmond

Tom graduated from the Bristol Old Vic Theatre School with a DipHE in Stage Management and Technical Theatre in 2004. Since then he has worked as a lighting designer, tour technician and production manager for a range of theatre, circus and dance companies. Past companies include Criterion Theatre (west end), Gonzo Moose, Circomedia, NCCA, Bristol Old Vic, Green Ginger, Tessa Bide, Tobacco Factory and Raucous. Current projects include production managing Pentabus Theatre Company’s autumn season and PMing and lighting Breathing Room, an outdoor installation by UK artist Anna Berry. Tom is also co-artistic director of Apocalyptic Circus and he is currently production managing and touring their show “My House”, for which he designed and built the set.


Phoebe Kemp - Assistant Director
Phoebe Kemp is an actor and theatre maker based in Bristol. She trained at East 15 Acting School, as one of the first graduates of BA World Performance. Phoebe’s work has been rooted in the South West since graduation, and is an associate artist at Town Hall Arts, Trowbridge and Wyldwood Arts. This is Phoebe’s second project working with archives, having researched, written and performed in “May”, a one woman production based on the life of Rosa May Billinghurst, a disabled suffragette. Phoebe recently directed the first performance of the Speaking of Witch Collaborative “Witch:Unburied, Unburnt, Unbound”. This is her first project with Strike a Light, and is very excited to be joining the creative team of “Never Better”.


Eliott Sheppard - Producer/Production Assistant

Eliott trained at Coventry University in Theatre and Professional Practice, before going on to train in Stage Management at Bristol Old Vic Theatre School. Recently he has got involved in Events Management and in the future would aspire to run his own arts festival, something which has been inspired by his involvement working with Paradise Green at The Edinburgh Fringe Festival.

His credits include; The 39 Steps (The Barn Theatre), Producer & Promoter Workshop (Strike a Light Festival), Coram Boy (Jenny Wren Productions), The Sad Club (Sherman Theatre), asimplelife (Moya Jane Productions), The Elephant Man (Bristol Old Vic), Four Play (Wardrobe Theatre), and Pomona (Belgrade Theatre).


Carys Eaton - Stage Manager

Carys is a freelance Stage Manager, Event manager and Technician. She is delighted to be returning to Strike a Light and Blackfriars for the second time. Since last working with SAL Carys has been Event Managing the Virtual Orchestra for Philharmonia Orchestra. Other Stage Management credits include Contentment Productions, Lyric Hammersmith and Royal College of Music.


Choir Leader - Philippa Smith 

Philippa is a vocal coach based in Gloucester. She has a background in musical theatre and performing arts which has given her the opportunity to travel and work in countries such as Malaysia and Ghana. Philippa has a passion for music and performance and her practice is based on helping people achieve their artistic goals as well as increase or maintain a state of wellbeing.

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Choir Leader - Gillian Yates

Gillian Yates is a singer, theatre maker and voice coach. Initially trained in Italy as a bel canto opera singer, Gillian has since developed practice in movement and performance in non-theatre spaces, including art galleries, parks and churches. Gillian has worked for 20 years as a university lecturer,  specialising in physical theatre and voice. She is a member of the Natural Voice Network and runs voice and confidence-building workshops, with an emphasis on helping people find their voice and to overcome stage fright. She is currently leading a series of theatre and music projects to raise awareness about homelessness in Gloucester in partnership with Gloucester cathedral.


Community Gatherer - Caroline Jester 

Caroline is a writer, dramaturg and educator and her work has been published by leading publishers Bloomsbury, Routledge and Oberon Books and  she has worked for theatres regionally, nationally and internationally. Her work over the last few years has been interview based and it has been a privilege to have conversations with so many inspiring people for the Never Better project.

David Drakeley