» About Talking Birds
» About our work
Since 1992 Talking Birds has been producing thoughtful, playful, resonant, mischievous and transformative meditations on people and place. Our work, which we call Theatre of Place, is characterised by a distinctive blend of humour, music and visual flair in venues both conventional and unconventional across the UK and internationally - from the Queen Elizabeth Hall on the South Bank, to Kilkenny Livestock Mart; from a cavernous underground car park in Scarborough, to a decommissioned hospital in Coventry, to a giant aluminium whale which swallows up audiences one at a time.
We aspire to make Art for Good, which we define as work that responds to the times in which we live and which aims to provide opportunities for dialogue and fresh perspectives; helps develop and promote empathy, human connection, social and ecological responsibility, and international understanding; and nurtures, supports and helps develop the next generation of artists and theatre makers, particularly in Coventry.
Talking Birds’ work champions the quirky, small, overlooked or unexpected, and chooses to sit just outside the mainstream. Our projects are built on: collaboration, conversation, participation, trust, warmth, generosity and sharing - and will be: fun(ny), accessible, gently provocative, ethical, relational and thoughtful.
We are guided by our Values, Talking Birds’ Six Big Ideas:
1. To define, and be leading exponents of, Theatre of Place.
2. To revolutionise the creative possibilities of accessibility.
3. To help reinvent the training required for the sector’s next generation.
4. To make work that is diverse, inclusive and empowering for those involved.
5. To be financially healthy, sustainable, and efficient.
6. To be green theatre makers.
We're particularly interested in making work in places which the public don't often get into, the sorts of places that you might stumble across by accident. Places which have interesting features, histories and former uses, perhaps layered with recollections and associations which are on the brink of slipping from living memory. Or places that are at the end of one use and not quite ready for the next.
Our projects invite people to explore a particular place of interest in a mediated way; weaving together its stories - real and imagined - to make accessible this neglected or forgotten space and encourage people to examine it in a new light.
We put accessibility at the heart of our work and are pioneering affordable captioning/audio description with The Difference Engine. We call ourselves 'green theatre-makers' and strive to make responsible choices when making work, conscious of our shared responsibility to ensure a sustainable future for our planet.
» the people involved
Composer and Co-Artistic Director Derek Nisbet has written a piece for cathedral organ to accompany a tightrope walk, a score for a performance in an underground car-park and a work for telephone answering machine. He scored Twin Song for the Volgograd Children’s Symphony Orchestra which was premiered at Coventry Cathedral with the Coventry Youth Wind Orchestra in April 2015, and given its Russian premiere in November 2015. Derek’s work with some of the leading artists and companies of the day - including Claire Cunningham (Guide Gods), Ockham’s Razor (Arc and The Mill), Untied Artists (Intimate History) and Theatre Absolute (Powder, Far From The Sea) - has been performed at the Queen Elizabeth Hall, the National Theatre, the Royal Opera House, the Lillian Bayliss Theatre at Sadler’s Wells and at venues in Moscow, Vancouver and Sweden. His music has been heard on BBC Radio 3 (Late Junction) and BBC Radio 4 (The Balloonists, Dr Pfeffer’s Lonely Hearts Club and Messages to a Submariner).
Designer and Co-Artistic Director Janet Vaughan has designed site specific and touring performances, created installation artworks for unusual and digital spaces and made controlled forays into the world of public art. Janet’s freelance career has included visual art commissions (Mrs. Gibson’s Coat for the Herbert Art Gallery & Museum redevelopment and Mrs Porter’s Coat for IKEA), residency-based public artworks (Pull Focus for the Norwich Cinema City redevelopment) and digital pieces (Contourlines for the mac redevelopment and t42 in Stoke). She led Coventry Artspace’s capital development 1999-2006 and sat on the board of C&T 2004-6. She has also designed set and costumes for Theatre Absolute (Street Trilogy, Hang Lenny Pope, Cloudburst, Always), the Belgrade Theatre (We Love You City, Drink the Mercury, The Tempest, Spring Awakening, Red Snapper), Soho Theatre (Play to Win), the Birmingham Rep (Paradise), designed the infinitely flexible ‘gymnasium’ set for the Belgrade Community & Education Dept’s youth season in 2012, and the pop-up shop kit for the ground-breaking Retail Ready People run by vInspired and the Retail Trust in 2013. Janet’s designs were chosen to represent UK scenography at the Prague Quadrennial World Scenography Exhibitions in 1999 and 2015, and she is part of Julie's Bicycle's first cohort of Creative Climate Leaders.
General Manager Philippa Cross has worked in arts policy and management since 1995, as fundraiser, funding advisor, policy developer, programme manager, facilitator, coach and evaluator. She has worked for the Tate Gallery as Corporate Development Officer; West Midlands Arts as Lottery Officer and Director of Policy & Resources; Arts Council England WM as Arts and Regeneration Officer; Creative Partnerships as Evaluation Manager, Programme Manager and Creative Agent; and with a wide range of freelance clients including local authorities, universities and arts companies. Her experience and expertise lie particularly in strategic planning, organisational development, financial and project management, evaluation and supporting reflection through keen questioning. She holds an MA in European Cultural Policy and a Diploma in Coaching from the University of Warwick. Alongside working part time as General Manager for Talking Birds, Philippa continues to support small arts companies and to coach individuals and teams on a freelance basis.
Administrator/Projects Assistant: Dom Watson
Resident Technologist (Working predominantly on Talking Birds' Access Tool The Difference Engine): George Mcgonigal-Webb
Outdoor Arts Producer (booking The Whale, The Cricketers, The OakMobile, The Q and The Female Warrior): Lou Lomas
Val Birchall, Sujana Upadhyay Crawford, John Gore, Andrea Mbarushimana, Laura Nyahuye, Mahendra Patel, Jess Pinson, Jack Shuttleworth, Sylvia Theuri, Dan Thompson.
Talking Birds is part of Arts Council England's national portfolio.