“Fio makes fearless theatre: work that tears down stereotypes and challenges injustice.”
Wales-born Sita Thomas, and Cardiff-based Beth House take up their new roles at a time of quiet excitement within the arts. Thanks to funding from Arts Council Wales and the Esmee Fairbairn Foundation, the new team at Fio can look ahead and make bold plans for 2021 and beyond. The pair bring a wealth of experience to their roles.
Sita is a multidisciplinary director from Pembrokeshire. She is a Creative Associate at Wales Millennium Centre, a Headlong Origins Director and a presenter of Channel 5’s milkshake! Sita holds a PhD from the University of Warwick examining cultural diversity in theatre, and a Masters in Movement Direction from Royal Central School of Speech and Drama. She is an Ambassador Trustee of Young Vic, a Trustee of Emergency Exit Arts and a member of the advisory group for Refugee Week.
She has worked as Trainee Artistic Director at Bush Theatre as part of Artistic Directors of the Future’s Up Next programme. Sita has held staff, associate, assistant and movement director positions at organisation including National Theatre, Southbank Centre, Royal Court, Theatre Royal Stratford East, National Youth Theatre, Out Of Joint, and Watford Palace. Sita also leads Tamasha’s Directors artist development programme and has directed Under the Mask (Tamasha, Oxford Playhouse), We Are Shadows: Brick Lane (Tamasha, Rich Mix), and Le Cabaret de Rien and Romani Girl (Theatre Royal Stratford East).
She gained a taste for working back home in Wales whilst covering maternity leave as Co-Artistic Director at Common Wealth Theatre, and last year, during lockdown, she decided the time was right for a more permanent move back to Wales. Following a four-year development, she found herself directing National Theatre Wales’ Go Tell the Bees in uncharted territory. Go Tell the Bees is a film made by, with and for the people of Pembrokeshire. Developed by NTW TEAM in collaboration with local artists and communities, it explores what has changed in the years since the Sea Empress disaster and how, with a few simple acts, we can change the way we connect with the natural world and with each other.
Sita explains her hopes for the company as she guides it out of the pandemic:
“Now is the time for positive and radical change within the arts. Returning home after a decade of studying and making working in London, I join Fio as Artistic Director with hope and determination to contribute to change in representation, opportunities and culture here in Wales.
Our team will work to make Fio a creative home and hub for Welsh black, Asian and global majority people, and for those who continue to face - and have historically faced - discrimination. We’re eager to work in partnership with organisations across Wales and beyond, to make change together, in solidarity and support for one another”.
Alongside Sita, new Executive Director Beth House joins Fio following 12 years at fellow Cardiff based theatre company Taking Flight.
Originally from Hastings, Beth went to university in Birmingham to study Drama and Theatre Arts and then lived, worked and travelled in various places including France and Dublin before planting roots firmly in Cardiff. Her background is in performing, but having founded Taking Flight Theatre in 2008, she moved more into producing before attending the National Arts Fundraising School in 2018, and find a new love, arts fundraising. Her work has always centred around and been driven by making space for new talent that perhaps hasn’t had the space to develop in the past. She’s worked closely with Deaf and disabled artists and has a lot of experience making work with profoundly disabled participants.
Beth sees her role in the arts landscape in Wales as a sort of fixer- putting together amazing creative people, funding and resources to make unusual projects which always seek to make time and space for under- represented stories and their tellers. She explains how she sees her new role at Fio:
“I’m honoured to be joining the Fio team at such an important time. I’m excited to work alongside Sita to navigate us out of the choppy waters of the past months and start rebuilding an open and responsive arts organisation. My work in the arts in Wales has always been about supporting people to build their creative careers and about making space for new leaders. I am absolutely champing at the bit to do more of this for Fio!”
Fio Chair Alison Woods explains what the appointments mean to the company:
“We are delighted that Fio is able to begin the next step on its journey with such an extraordinary new Executive Team. Sita and Beth bring with them a wealth of experience, a passion for transformative collaboration, and a commitment to building a genuinely welcoming and generous company that celebrates the creativity that lies at the heart of all communities. With the world facing new challenges and turbulence every day, it is our firm belief that Fio is needed now more than ever. Together, we will tell the unheard stories of everyday people and produce theatre that asks important questions. With such a clear cultural vision and commitment to change we know that they will provide the company with newly re-invigorated and celebratory leadership.”
Fio was founded in 2016 by former Artistic Director, Abdul Shayek, now Artistic Director at London’s Tara Arts. The company focuses on those who are currently under-represented or misrepresented in society, using as a powerful way to tell stories. Fio works for a time when everyone can access theatre, and a world where diversity is the norm, where discrimination is non-existent and where all voices can be heard – their mission to tell stories that are or would otherwise go untold or unheard.
“I’m so excited to get going on developing Fio’s projects and productions. I’ll be working with an incredible creative team of artists on our first production Landing Bolts, which is supported Cardiff Council and the Genesis Foundation. We’ll create the show at Spit & Sawdust skatepark incorporating skateboarding, fashion, choreography, music and text. People can find out more on our website and on social media. We have more announcements to come and would love people all across Wales to join us for Fio’s fresh new journey.”