We say “farewell” to our Artistic Director, Deborah Pakkar-Hull

We say “farewell” to our Artistic Director, Deborah Pakkar-Hull

Image by Valeria Luongo

At the end of December, after seven and a half years, I will be leaving the Blahs to focus on my own independent theatre-making and work as a freelance Director.  During my time as Artistic Director there have been many bumps in the road, but there have been many more reasons to remain in the driving seat…

…the inventive, playful and searching work done by artists in rehearsal rooms in India, Leeds, Birmingham and London

…the commitment and care shown by the teachers turning up for regular Zoom meetings during draining bouts of home schooling to support us in venturing into new digital territories 

…the children enthusiastically listening through headphones to stories from the past on the streets of Leeds, oblivious to the rain hammering down, the families staying long after a performance has finished to talk with one another about what they have seen together, the children literally rolling on the floor with laughter at a character’s mischievousness

…and the many young people who have profoundly connected with our work, such as the young woman sharing with her peers for the first time her own experiences of fleeing war after watching a show, and the young child earnestly explaining the reasons a character has stolen food from a garden, based on her own experiences of food poverty

These are some of the memories that I will carry with me beyond the Blahs, together with a sense of achievement that the company has continued to evolve during periods of volatility to make high quality work about things that matter to our audiences.  We’ve explored new platforms for work, including online, through audio storytelling and film; commissioned sector-leading research; sought new ways of involving children and young people in the process of creating work and reached out to more groups with limited access to the arts.   However none of this would have been possible without our brilliant artists and associate staff and the support of our dedicated Board; to all of whom I want to say a big, heartfelt thank you!

Looking ahead, I am excited for the company’s future.  Iain Bloomfield joined us in September as Executive Creative Director bringing with him a huge amount of expertise, strong connections and a fresh perspective to take the company forwards, including plans to apply to become an NPO again.  I wish Iain and the rest of the Blahs team all the very best for the future…I will be cheerleading them on from the stands!

A word from the Chair of the Board, Jane Storr

It’s been a real privilege working with Deborah over the past seven years. I have seen her working in role with children; directing actors; building partnerships; devising with teachers; presenting at conferences. She has brought empathy, intellect, rigour and creativity to every situation. Although known to the Company for her work on the Raft of the Medusa and seen as ‘a safe pair of hands’, when appointed, we could not possibly have predicted all that she has had to tackle. Loss of NPO funding, loss of premises, restructuring, austerity and the demoting of the Arts in the state school curriculum, not to mention a pandemic! But Deborah’s determination endured and she has turned each successive challenge into an opportunity.

Her many triumphs include A Tale to Tell, The Vultures Song and the Stirring Up the Past project with teachers and the City Museum Service. Fortunately for the Company, Deborah will continue to work with us as an Associate Director to carry forward an exciting new project already under development, exploring the unifying power of growing.

On behalf of The Board we give her a huge thank you for leaving the organisation with an enhanced national reputation for quality, innovation and resilience. We know creativity will be alive and well wherever she goes and we wish her all the very best in her future endeavours.