Staff Profiles

Sally Atkinson: Finance Manager –

Natasha Britton: Co Artistic Director – Youth, Education & Training –

Sarah Cobley: Head of Fundraising and Development –

Alison Ferrao: Co Artistic Director – Adults & Health –

Laura Graham: General Manager –

Angela Hay: Corporate Development Consultant –

Thalie Martini: Chief Executive –

Mark Slaughter: Marketing and Communications Manager –

Laura-Ann Whitlock: Operations Coordinator –


Sally Atkinson

Sally Atkinson

Finance Manager


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’.

Natasha Britton

Natasha Britton

Co Artistic Director – Youth, Education & Training


Natasha has worked with Magpie Dance since 2003. Natasha leads on Magpie Dance’s Youth, Education and Training programmes.

Natasha wrote the ground breaking ‘Inclusive Dance Practice Training’ (IDPT) programme for Magpie Dance in 2010 and has mentored practitioners on the course. Natasha heads the content planning of all education and training (professional development) courses, all of which have gained Affiliate status from CDET.

Natasha has been a key player in the youth programme at Magpie Dance since it launched in 2003. Natasha delivers on and oversees the programme which comprises of five weekly classes plus Easter and Summer intensives.

Natasha has a BA (Hons) in Dance Theatre from Trinity Laban and a PGCE in Post Compulsory Education. Natasha has been working as a freelance dance practitioner since 2000. The majority of her work has been focused on her specialism of inclusive 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. Natasha was on the Education team for Candoco Dance Company and ran her own inclusive dance education company 3ddance for a number of years. 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

Alongside Natasha’s inclusive dance experience she 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 and worked as Brighton and Hove Council’s Youth Dance Development Officer (maternity cover). Alongside her teaching, Natasha has enjoyed performing in a range of projects/ shows (2000-2008).

Sarah Cobley

Sarah Cobley

Head of Fundraising and Development


Sarah is a Freelance Arts Manager; she joined Magpie Dance 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.

Alison Ferrao

Alison Ferrao

Co Artistic Director – Adults & Health


Alison joined the company as a volunteer in 1997 and has never left! She leads on Magpie Dance’s Adult and Health programmes.

Formally the Adult Group Director, Alison has collaborated with: Retina Dance Company (‘9 Windows’ Ballroom Blitz at Southbank Centre); Phew! Arts Company (‘We Can Get There from Here’ Bromley Arts Festival); Krazy Kat Theatre Company (various workshops); New Adventures (‘Edward Scissorhands’ Big Dance 2012); Ad Hoc Dance Co (‘Every Body Talking – Anyone Listening?’ which launched the very first Liberty Festival in Trafalgar Square).; StopGap and most recently Complicite (‘Gimme A Break’ for Big Dance 2016).  She worked as choreographer alongside physical theatre director, Danny Scott to create ‘Beyond the Mask’ which premiered at Brighton Street Festival and formed part of the line-up for the first Xposure Festival held by Sadler’s Wells (2002).

She currently leads both Adult Groups and following on from Magpie Dance’s ground-breaking Choreographic Mentor Scheme (an initiative led by former Youth Group Director, David Nurse), Alison mentors dancers wishing to create their own work for public performance. She is one of the lead facilitators for the Community Classes and has delivered multiple workshops for Magpie Dance in organisations ranging from schools and summer play schemes through to hospitals and social settings (e.g., Youth Clubs and Mencap’s Gateway Social Clubs). She has been an assessor for Magpie Dance’s IDPT (Inclusive Dance Practice Training) since its inception and has led CPD workshops at Trinity Laban, Greenwich Dance Agency, Canterbury Christchurch University and Kent University.

Alison heads the unique Oxleas NHS Trust partnership. Working alongside health care professionals, Alison drives a highly impactful programme engaging people with learning disabilities who also have: severe challenging behaviour and/or Autistic Spectrum Disorder; complex health needs and/or dementia; complex challenging behaviours/mental health needs/neuro developmental needs and/or offending behaviours.

Alison was part of the presentation team representing Magpie Dance at the first National Arts in Health Conference & Showcase for health decision-makers at the Royal Festival Hall in London (2016). This event was hosted by AESOP (Arts Enterprise with a Social Purpose), in association with the NHS Alliance and College of Medicine.

In addition to her work at Magpie, Alison was a dancer for various projects and performances, most notably in the corps de ballet with the Bolshoi Ballet Company (‘Sleeping Beauty’, London Coliseum).  She ran her own dance school (with around two hundred students) for ten years, teaching ballet, tap, jazz, contemporary and creative dance to children and adults (for both mainstream and those with learning and/or physical disabilities), producing shows with often two and sometimes three generations of the same family dancing alongside one another!

She has delivered workshops for 3D dance at the East Sussex Inclusive Sports Festival, held at University of Brighton for trainee PE teachers and 120 students from local special schools.

She instigated a 3-month pilot programme for Bexley Moorings Project (a charity which supports vulnerable young people, aged 8 – 17, in the London Borough of Bexley) with the aim of empowerment through dance and has taught a variety of dance styles, drama and gymnastics in settings ranging from nursery and primary schools through to adult education. She currently delivers multicultural dance and drum workshops for key stages 1 and 2 across London and the South East.

Alison was thrilled to be appointed Co-Artistic Director for Magpie Dance in August 2017.

Laura Graham

Laura Graham

General Manager


As a member of Magpie Dance’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 Dance’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 10 years on, she is still very much enjoying it; she finds Magpie Dance not only rewarding to work for, but is excited by the way it is evolving and is proud to be part of it.


Angela Hay

Corporate Development Consultant


Angela trained as a classical ballet dancer but after injury had a successful career in the oil industry and the city. She moved into the not for profit sector and has worked as a fundraiser and events planner for many charities. She combines this with working in marketing and comms as a freelancer.

Angela is passionate about education and equality for all and raises money for charities that primarily espouse these causes. She is very drawn to the work that Magpie Dance does and hopes to help make a difference to all those they support.

Avril Hitman BEM

Avril Hitman BEM

Founding Artistic Director

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 Dance 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 Dance has been written about in Dance UK, Foundation for Community Dance,, Learning Disability Practice, and Learning Disability Today.  Some of Magpie Dance’s dancers were on BBC’s The One Show last year doing ‘The Strictly’.  Magpie Dance won the overall Bromley Business of the Year award in 2015 beating 170 other local businesses.

Avril has led Magpie Dance 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 Dance 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 Dance to explore opportunities to be more sustainable in the future.

In 2014 Avril led Magpie Dance 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 Dance’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.

In July 2017 Avril was shortlisted down to the final three for the Lifetime Achievers Award (for One Dance UK Inaugral Dance Teaching Awards 2017) and in September 2017 Avril won the Lifetime Achiever award at the National Diversity Awards 2017.

Avril stepped down as Artistic and Executive Director in July 2017.

Thalie Martini

Thalie Martini

Chief Executive


Thalie has a BA in Theatre and Film from the University of New South Wales, Sydney (she was born in France but largely brought up in Australia) and worked for over 15 years in Australian national and state governments leading public health and cultural engagement programmes before running a major project for the Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences in Sydney.

She then moved to the south of France where she ran a Business English consultancy.  Prior to joining Magpie Dance, Thalie ran a major national programme to transform care practice in schools for children with medical conditions for Diabetes UK. Thalie is passionate about social empowerment, equal opportunity and supporting those who most need it.

Mark Slaughter

Mark Slaughter

Marketing and Communications Manager


Mark began his career in PR & marketing roles with the Royal Shakespeare Company, The Bush Theatre and Cheek by Jowl Theatre Company. He was an Account Handler for the West End marketing and advertising agency McCabes, and has been working as a freelance Marketing Consultant and Campaign Manager since 1998.

Mark also currently works with BalletBoyz and previously worked with Shared Experience, Graeae Theatre Company, Carousel, Disability Arts in London (DAIL), English Touring Theatre, The Almeida, Donmar, Young Vic, Royal Court (as Acting Head of Marketing), Out of Joint, Paines Plough, STOMP, the London Philharmonic Orchestra, the National Theatre on Tour and Creative Cow. He has also worked as a Tutor on the Arts Administration course at City Lit, London.



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