Women in Theatre: Five Minutes with Rachel Tackley
Rachel Tackley, previously Chief Executive and Director of English Touring Theatre, former board member at Cambridge Arts Theatre and most recently Executive Director of Chichester Festival Theatre (the first woman to ever hold the post!) is certainly a busy lady...
To celebrate the final week in our Women in Theatre series, we sat down with Rachel to discuss her successful career, and being a female professional in the arts industry today.
To date, what are you most proud of in your career?
RACHEL TACKLEY: I recently took over as Executive Director at Chichester Festival Theatre, working alongside Daniel Evans (Artistic Director), and I am extremely proud of our first season. It took months of planning but I am really proud of what we have achieved. We wanted a season that would appeal to as wide and diverse an audience as possible. I don’t think it’s a bad start!
Other than that, I am enormously proud of what English Touring Theatre achieved under my directorship. I had the joy of working with some amazing people both on and off stage.
How far, if at all, does being a woman effect what you decide to produce?
RT: That’s a difficult one to answer. I have my own likes, dislikes, conscious and unconscious biases, but I don’t know if that is a result of being a woman or just being me. I am drawn to stories with an emotional heart and by practice I will always want to work with as many women as men (the theatre industry is still heavily male biased at the top) - but that’s more about being a feminist than a woman. There are plenty of men out there trying to address the gender imbalance (I am luckily enough to share an office with one!)
What do you think are the main challenges facing women today?
RT: The challenge is to get more women at the top table, especially in creative roles. We need more female writers, directors, designers, lighting and sound designers, composers, conductors… There are some amazing women making their way up, but we need to make sure they get the opportunities they deserve.
As a mother I would also say that balancing the desire to bring up a family whilst being a role model for that family and achieving financial security for them is enormously challenging!
Do you think the industry is changing in regards to how it considers women both on and off stage?
RT: Yes, massively. I think we are really waking up to inclusion and it is driving the industry forward in exciting ways. Not that we can afford to be complacent but I hope that these types of questions won’t need to be asked in a few years’ time!
What is the best piece of advice you have been given as a woman working in theatre?
RT: I am not sure I have ever been given any gender specific advice. I am not sure I would have taken it very well if I had (which might explain why!)
Who is your theatrical heroine and why?
RT: I make no secret of the fact that I am a huge fan of Erica Whyman (Assistant Artistic Director of the Royal Shakespeare Company). She was on the Board of English Touring Theatre and I learnt so much from her, she’s an inspiration. So calm and thoughtful, but enormously influential and therefore very powerful.
Our Women in Theatre series celebrates International Women's Day (8 March) - an exciting three weeks of three incredible productions written by women, about women and starring women! (Click here for more information)