For me, it’s a passion thing, it always has been. My mother used to take me to Chichester Festival Theatre, which is where I fell in love with this world. The school I was at didn’t teach drama so I left at 16 and signed up for theatre studies at college, but it was at university in Leeds that my passion really caught fire.
There was a tutor called Amanda Parsons who exposed us to the likes of Trestle Theatre and Théâtre de Complicité and directors like Peter Brook and Augusto Boal. I loved Shakespeare at school and the theatre of narrative text, but at Leeds I found other things to explore, such as physical theatre, work that crossed boundaries and spoke to me in new and exciting ways.
That thrill of coming across something that touches you emotionally, intellectually or both, and makes you want to bring other people to experience it has never gone away for me and my job at Activate allows me to actually do that. What a privilege.
I joined Activate in 2005 after several years on the road at home and abroad as a performer and tour manager, followed by a spell in festival and event management, then social enterprise and organisational development, predominantly in the creative industries. In that time Activate has grown from its roots as a dance agency and now produces a wide portfolio of theatre and outdoor arts, ranging from dance and health, youth programmes and inclusive arts practice, to supporting artists, promoters and producers. It produces Inside Out Dorset, which makes it unique in the region.
I love the intimacy of being up close to things, it’s where I feel very connected, but there are some things – particularly the outdoor work we do with Inside Out Dorset – that command a grand scale, those jaw dropping moments where an artist has transformed the landscape and played with our sense of time and place. The outdoor work is very important to me as it’s where people that might not ordinarily find themselves in a theatre space or gallery can come across work, for free, in spaces they already know and react to it on a completely different level.
The partnerships we have formed at Activate, on local, regional, national and international levels are all about working to bring more people to experience and take part in the arts. That could be bringing a French circus company to village halls, or commissioning artists to stage extraordinary events in extraordinary locations for Inside Out Dorset – it’s all about the live experience, the communication between the artist and the audience that can be life changing.
There is a real and growing appetite for contemporary arts in Dorset. It doesn’t matter if a piece was first performed two or three years ago, if it hasn’t been to Dorset then there is still a place for it here. We hear a lot about how disconnected we are becoming and yet, whether it’s conscious or not, there’s something wonderful about coming together with people you don’t know to share experiences collectively.
Kate Wood chairs the Dorset Theatre Promoters Consortium and is part of the dance and theatre partnerships in the South West that look strategically at the development of the sector: Pavilion Dance South West and Theatre South West. She sits on the Arts and Culture Board in Bournemouth and has chaired one of the strategic hubs within the Arts Development programme in Dorset, now named Dorset Arts Trust.
She is on the industry panel for Weymouth College, has sat on a panel for Arts University Bournemouth and is a former board member of Creative Dorset, championing the performing arts and culture within the creative industries agenda and sitting on the Dorset Cultural Partnership championing festivals.