2022 has been a year full of challenges for everyone, not just us at Clean Break. However, we are so grateful to be part of a community of women who care deeply for one another, and we are incredibly proud of all our achievements this year.
Our Members programme returned to our building full time, with the highlight being our first ever Members Festival: Limitless. Designed and co-produced by Members, the festival centred around the themes of Empowerment, Freedom and Kindness and featured sharings from our Members Programme, commissioned pieces and workshops led by our Members as well as online content.
We saw more Members on stage this year, with our first production More Than We Can Bear: The Women’s Centre Workers’ Play, written by Eno Mfon. The play was part of the Keyworkers Cycle at the Almeida Theatre, a programme of new works celebrating the stories of those who kept our daily lives going during the pandemic.
Sonya Hale’s legacy continued and flourished with Blis-ta winning the Tinniswood Award at the BBC Audio Drama Awards. This was a hugely significant, moving and emotional moment for the whole Clean Break community, and testament to how compelling and valuable Sonya’s words continue to be.
At last we were able to engage once again with women in prison, with the Inspiring Futures project taking place in HMP Downview. A group of women in the prison collaborated to create a beautiful play with playwright Yasmin Joseph called A Proposal for Resisting Darkness, directed by Anna Herrmann, which some of the Clean Break team were lucky enough to go and see in the prison chapel.
Our major production this year was Favour at the Bush Theatre, written by Ambreen Razia and directed by Róisín McBrinn and Sophie Dillion Moniram. Favour was part of the Bush’s 50th anniversary season, and told the story of a working-class Muslim family navigating life as one of them returns home from prison. A highlight of the production was a well-deserved nomination in the Stage Debut Awards for Designer Liz Whitbread. Liz is a Clean Break Member Artist who has been on a journey with us for the past ten years, discovering her talent and love for design.
With Favour, we saw Róisín’s last production as Joint Artistic Director of Clean Break, as she left the company over the summer. We are so grateful to have had eight wonderful years with Róisín, and continue to stay in touch as she settles into her new role as Artistic Director at the Gate Theatre, Dublin – not least because she is directing our co-production Dixon and Daughters with the National Theatre next year, which we announced in November.
Following Róisín’s departure, an interim leadership structure was put in place, including long-standing team member and Head of Participation Jacqueline Stewart stepping into the role of Interim Deputy CEO. The interim model has served us well whilst the company has taken this time to review, reflect and consider our aspirations for leadership moving forward.
Our leadership team saw another milestone, as Artistic Director Anna Herrmann celebrated 20 years with the company, fittingly coinciding with International Women’s Day. Anna’s continued commitment to transformative theatre was recognised by the Royal Central School of Speech and Drama with an honorary fellowship in December this year, a moment of pride and celebration for all of Clean Break.
Clean Break’s artistic team expanded as we welcomed two Creative Associates this year, Titilola Dawudu and Rachel Valentine Smith. They both have enriched our company in so many ways, including through the creation of a new Playwrights Pathway programme with the Royal Court theatre, which is an in-depth offer for six Members who want to take their playwrighting further.
The final piece of our 40 Year Anniversary Heritage project came together in May, with the launch of our Digital Archive, meaning the extraordinary gems we unearthed in 2019 can now be explored online from anywhere in the world.
Our anti-racism work continued in 2022 with us working with darvaja, a collective of women practitioners working to address systemic and structural inequality. This year we shared our anti-racism action plan with the Clean Break community, which we co-created over 18 months of work. We would like to once again thank darvaja for challenging us and holding this work with such care, and to the whole Clean Break community for your engagement and commitment on this journey.
Towards the end of this year, we received the fantastic news that our Arts Council England National Portfolio Organisation application had been successful, meaning we will continue to receive their support until 2026. We are so grateful to have this investment and to know that the transformative work Clean Break does is recognised and valued. We would like to extend enormous thanks and appreciation to our Development team, for working tirelessly to ensure we can continue changing lives through theatre.
As well as our NPO funding, earlier this year we confirmed a successful application for Capital Project funding from Arts Council England, which will enable us to improve our building and infrastructure, with a focus on ensuring we maintain a safe, trauma informed space with improved environmental sustainability.
As well as developing our physical space, we are proud to be participating in Bloomberg Philanthropies’ Digital Accelerator for Arts and Culture, which supports arts organisations through strategic improvements to technology infrastructure.
Clean Break is the work of an extraordinary group of people and we would like to thank everyone who has been part of our company or engaged with us over the past year.
This includes our amazing partners, our Patrons, our Trustees, our community of supporters: the Arts Council England, and all the Trusts, Foundations, statutory partners, corporate partners and individual donors who have made our work possible.
A special thank you to our team of staff and volunteers for their continued commitment and perseverance; to our board for guiding us once again with such passion and respect for our company; to our artists for helping realise our shared vision with such imagination; and to Clean Break’s Members for bringing our building to life every week with your talents, laughter and friendship. We are endlessly inspired by you all, your creativity, care, and commitment to building a world where women reach their full potential, free from criminalisation.
We are excited to embark on this new year with you all, and until then we hope you all have a restful break and celebrate yourselves.
From Anna and Erin and the Clean Break team.