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Showcasing those without a voice

Theatre Director Ali Pidsley (BA English and Theatre Studies, 2014; MA English Literature, 2016) shares how Warwick inspired him to set up a different kind of theatre company.

Tell us about your current role
I’m a co-founder of Barrel Organ – a theatre company that tells new stories about the world we live in and how we can change it for the better. When we set it up, we really wanted to create something outside pre-existing models to showcase those who might not have a voice otherwise.

We work across the UK in three main areas. The first is touring work that we produce alongside other artists, community and youth groups, and other artistic specialists and is presented to audiences around the country. We have our outreach work, where we work with specific communities to increase participation in the arts and offer an opportunity for people to creatively express themselves. Lastly, we work with under-represented artists and companies who are at the beginning of their journeys.

How did Warwick influence your career path?
For starters, Barrel Organ wouldn’t exist if it wasn’t for Warwick! Two of our directors were at Warwick together, and we set up the company in 2014 while I was still a student so the two are incredibly connected. Collaboration is a big part of what we do. We studied different subjects, but it was an environment that encouraged us to go out and be ourselves. It meant we could ask ‘what if we didn’t do it this way?’ and question the status quo. There was so much support right from the beginning that enabled us to get off the ground.

What should theatre lovers look out for next?
We need to find new ways of staying relevant and working with other creative platforms, not just in theatre but across creative industries. As long as a live event is at the heart of what we do, everything else can be adapted as the world changes, and that’s key for us. Our biggest years were 2020 and 2021 as they gave us time to reflect and develop. The absence of being together during the multiple lockdowns showed just how important coming together is. People value connections. So, we’ve expanded our digital work to give us a wider reach.

Finally, do you have any advice for arts graduates taking their next step?
Definitely make the most of being in a collaborative environment and spending time with other creatives. Find those people who ignite a spark, who you can collaborate with, and hold on to them.