Staff Profiles

Avril Hitman BEM: Artistic and Executive Director – avrilhitman@magpiedance.org.uk

Laura Graham: General Manager – lauragraham@magpiedance.org.uk

Jessica Lucy Richards: Operations Coordinator – jessicarichards@magpiedance.org.uk

Sally Atkinson: Finance Manager – finance@magpiedance.org.uk

Sarah Cobley: Head of Development & Partnerships – sarahcobley@magpiedance.org.uk

Natasha Britton: Training Co-ordinator – natashabritton@magepiedance.org.uk

Toby Lindsay: Business Development Consultant – training@magpiedance.org.uk

 


 

Avril Hitman BEM

Avril Hitman BEM

Artistic and Executive Director

Email: avrilhitman@magpiedance.org.uk

Avril has over 35 years experience of managing and leading on projects (collaborative, performance, etc), is a graduate of the London College of Dance and Drama, and brings over 40 years of dance expertise, management and entrepreneurial development to the organisation.  She completed a Clore residential short course programme in 2007 on cultural leadership.

Founded in 1985 by Avril; Magpie Dance is an inclusive dance company for people with learning disabilities, developing participation, performance and training programmes across London, the region and UK.   Magpie is at the forefront of dance for people with learning disabilities and has carved out a national reputation for its exciting and inspiring approach to inclusive dance, it’s mission is ‘unlocking individual potential and ability’.  Performances and workshops have ranged from Sadler’s Wells to local churches, from the Streets of Brighton to Trafalgar Square, the Royal Albert Hall, The Place, London, Trinity Laban and the Churchill Theatre, Bromley. Magpie has been written about in Dance UK, Foundation for Community Dance, Londondance.com, Learning Disability Practice, and Learning Disability Today.  Some of Magpie’s dancers were on BBC’s The One Show last year doing ‘The Strictly’.  Magpie won the overall Bromley Business of the Year award in 2015 beating 170 other local businesses.

Avril has led Magpie to develop a ground-breaking mentoring scheme for dancers with learning disabilities to profile their work in professional arts venues.    She has developed the IDPT (Inclusive Dance Practice Training) scheme for dance practitioners to learn more about inclusive dance to inform their future practice.    Avril has led Magpie to work with renowned internationally acclaimed dance companies Siobhan Davies Dance, New Adventures, Stopgap, Complicite and Ben Duke from Lost Dog.

Avril also led creative dance workshops in Bangladesh for young people with learning disabilities and their teachers and has delivered workshops at a conference in Malmo, Sweden.   She is currently undertaking a programme at Kent University Business School on Business Improvement and Growth to enable Magpie to explore opportunities to be more sustainable in the future.

In 2014 Avril led Magpie to establish Highfliers, a new programme for gifted and talented dancers with learning disabilities to experience professional training in dance.  This was established in response to few training opportunities for dancers with learning disabilities who aspire to have a career in dance.   The programme is held at professional dance venues in central London.

Avril has developed Magpie’s training programme to benefit a number of clients in the arts, health, leisure and teaching professions. The training will be rolled out for corporate and business clients.

A Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts, Avril has also been a trustee for six years of Community Links Bromley, the leading umbrella organisation for the third sector in Bromley.

In January 2017 her Majesty the Queen approved that Avril Hitman was to be awarded a British Empire Medal (BEM) in the New Year 2017 Honors List.

Avril has just announced her retirement in Summer 2017.

Laura Graham

Laura Graham

General Manager

Email: lauragraham@magpiedance.org.uk

As a member of Magpie’s Senior Management Team, Laura manages and maintains an efficient office and provides leadership for marketing/PR projects as well as ensuring there is robust financial management.  She also plays an integral part in Magpie’s vision and strategic business plan and supports the Artistic Director.  Previously Laura has worked as Laban’s Arts Marketing and Press Manager which encompassed marketing and press for Transitions Dance Company, marketing Laban Theatre and press for Laban generally and its award winning building.

Prior to this, Laura worked as the Press Officer (dealing with talent management) at the New Wimbledon Theatre & Studio and at the Churchill Theatre in Bromley, which is run by leading theatre producer, Ambassador Theatre Group (ATG).  Through her original training in the Performing Arts, Laura decided to move into Arts marketing and PR which she found extremely rewarding.  When the role of General Manager came vacant with Magpie Dance, Laura decided a new challenge and direction would enhance her career, and 9 years on, she is still very much enjoying it; she finds Magpie not only rewarding to work for, but is excited by the way it is evolving and is proud to be part of it.

 

Jessica Lucy Richards

Jessica Lucy Richards

Operations Coordinator

Email: jessicarichards@magpiedance.org.uk

Jessica’s passion for dance began from an early age, completing a BA (Hons) in Dance and Culture at the University of Surrey, and Masters in Choreography at Trinity Laban. As a dance maker, Jessica’s enthusiasm and previous knowledge and experience in various aspects of dance, in particular inclusive and outreach work for all ages and abilities continues to grow. Jessica has performed and assisted for a number of projects including Big Dance, Dance Umbrella and Tate Modern’s Live Performance Events. She has worked as a freelance dance teacher/choreographer and most recently in the position of Public Programmes Administrator at South East Dance, supporting the Public Programme Producer and Public Programme Manager in delivering the artistic and community programme.

As Magpie Dance’s Operations Coordinator, Jessica looks after the day-to-day running of the Magpie Dance Office. She provides administrative support to the whole organisation, assisting with logistics and planning, project coordination, marketing and communications and is the first point of contact for all enquiries to the charity. Jessica is excited to support the work Magpie Dance facilitates for professional dance artists, the community and the wider public, generating exceptional experiences in inclusive and creative dance.

Sally Atkinson

Sally Atkinson

Finance Manager

Email: finance@magpiedance.org.uk

Sally Atkinson joined Magpie Dance as Finance Manager in January 2011. She is ACCA qualified with a wealth of Financial experience having previously worked for 10 years at BDO Stoy Hayward and prior to that at a number of other smaller accountancy firms. Sally works part time and shares her time between the office and homeworking. In 2015, Sally was awarded a Financial Leadership Award by Sayer Vincent under the category, ‘Best Small Charity’.

Sarah Cobley

Sarah Cobley

Head of Development & Partnerships

Email: sarahcobley@magpiedance.org.uk

Sarah is a Freelance Arts Manager; she joined Magpie in September 2014. Before embarking with a freelance career Sarah was the Regional Strategic Director at Dance South West where she led on region wide projects for young people, dance and health and the Cultural Olympiad. Previously, Sarah spent five years with Attik Dance as their Business Manager, was the Commercial Manager for an Educational Consultancy and has set and run her own production company. She is currently Chair of Plymouth Dance, who recently hosted the National Youth Dance Festival and on the board of Trustees for Storybook Dads and Arts and Heath South West.

Natasha Britton

Natasha Britton

Training Co-ordinator

Email:natashabritton@magepiedance.org.uk

Natasha has worked with Magpie Dance since 2003. She is the Youth Group Director, a Community class facilitator and Magpie’s Training coordinator. She also wrote the ground breaking ‘Inclusive Dance Practice Training’ (IDPT) programme in 2010 and mentored dancers on the course.

Natasha has a BA (Hons) in Dance Theatre from Trinity Laban and a PGCE in Post Compulsory Education. She has been working as a freelance dance practitioner since 2000. The majority of Natasha’s work has been focused on her specialism of inclusive and disability dance practice. Natasha has taught a number of inclusive dance projects as a freelance teacher for councils, organisations and schools, including numerous inset training days for special school teachers and dance practitioners. She was also on the Education team for Candoco Dance Company.

Natasha set up her own inclusive dance education company 3ddance in 2008. She was dance tutor at The Orpheus Centre in Godstone and in 2015 became an Associate Artist for a new inclusive dance company; Rounded Rhythm

Natasha has held a number of positions including head of dance, in schools and colleges in the South East. In these posts Natasha has taught GCSE, A Level and BTEC dance. She also taught professional level contemporary technique classes in Brighton for a number of years. Natasha worked as Brighton and Hove Council’s Youth Dance Development Officer (maternity cover) and alongside her teaching she has performed in a range of projects/ shows (2000-2008).

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