Liz Whitbread on becoming a designer — Clean Break



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Liz Whitbread presenting the I am a theatre exhibition

Liz Whitbread on becoming a designer

Liz Whitbread tells us about her journey to becoming a designer through Clean Break

Liz Whitbread is a Designer and Clean Break Member Artist who joined us in 2012. Since then she has been on an incredible journey of self-discovery, developing her many talents, building friendships and embracing her inner confidence. Liz has shared some of her story with us, read below. 

I joined Clean Break over ten years ago, on what was their Education Programme at the time. I started by doing a couple of short courses learning about what happens backstage, including an introduction to Set and Costume Design. I completed these while doing an Introduction to Drama course, which I found to be Clean Break’s golden recipe for confidence building.

Building my skills and confidence on these courses led me onto Performance Levels 1 and 2. I also had a go at Workshop Skills course by Clean Break, which inspired me to sign myself up for a PTLLS (Preparing to Teach in the Lifelong Learning Sector) course at Hillcroft College in Surbiton.

In 2015 I was at a crossroads and decided I prefer being behind the scenes, not on the stage. So, I followed my heart and did what I felt I was good at. I completed an Art & Design Diploma at the Working Men's College, which then meant I was able to go onto Wimbledon UAL, graduating in 2019 with BA Hons for Theatre Design. During my time at Wimbledon I learned how to create a space for actors to bring people’s stories to life. I found my passion! Which is to help change people's minds and attitudes by creating a setting through which a story can be told.

In 2016 I worked as a Set and Costume Designer on Clean Break's Education Programme, for Sabrina Mahfouz’s 'A Casting Call For Arms.’ It was such a great experience that gave me a chance to put into practice my knowledge so far. I gained such a good level of confidence, by the time I was on my next assignment at University, I was flying.

Coming to the end of training I was given the opportunity to work with designer Miriam Nabarro on the mobile exhibition for Sweatbox. Again, Clean Break was running alongside me, supporting my journey by giving me experiences which were helping me work towards to my goals. I had a wonderful experience as an assistant, learning more on the job with a brilliant designer.

After graduating, in 2021 I had the opportunity to co-design Clean Break’s Archive Exhibition celebrating the company’s 40-year history as a radical theatre company, again with visual artist Miriam Nabarro. The exhibition was titled 'I am a theatre' and was held at Swiss Cottage Library. I loved learning more about how Clean Break came to be, the drive and compassion of two women, Jackie Holborough and Jenny Hicks and a prison governor, who started something that has changed and help build many lives, one of which, being my own. I learned so much more from Miriam, an amazing designer, it was such an incredible project to be a part of.

I am a theatre exhibition, Swiss Cottage Library // Chloë Plumb

I am a theatre exhibition, Swiss Cottage Library // Chloë Plumb

The next year, I had another exciting opportunity to work with Clean Break. With mentorship from Kat Heath, I designed our co-production with Bush Theatre, Favour by Ambreen Razia. The cherry on top and my proudest moment to date, was I got nominated for Best Design in the Stage Debut Awards! I attended the award ceremony with Clean Break’s Artistic Director Anna Herrmann. The experience was filled with pride and was a celebration of all the hard work that not only I had got through, but also all the hard work the Clean Break team strive towards. As one member of staff once said, "they want to see me rise!!" and I felt myself rise, I couldn't be any happier or more proud.

“Liz's level of detail and sensitivity was inspiring to watch. She is a truly special artist, and I can't wait to see what she takes on next.” - Ambreen Razia

“Liz Whitbread’s scuffed but homely domestic interior — with a sunken kitchen — becomes almost a character in its own right.” - The Times

Anna Herrmann and Liz Whitbread at the Stage Debut Awards 

Anna Herrmann and Liz Whitbread at the Stage Debut Awards

It has been such a journey of opportunities, support, new friendships, comradery, blood sweat and tears, challenges, love and joy with Clean Break. I love how everybody's achievements come with certificates that everybody celebrates, (I've got every single one of mine). It has been such a special, magical time in my life. For ever thank you to all the Clean Break team who make it possible!

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