Bristol Old Vic announces 2019 Leverhulme Scholarship recipients

5 Mar 2019

Bristol Old Vic today announced the latest recipients of The Leverhulme Arts Scholarships for 2019–20. Bristol Old Vic’s Ferment initiative has once again partnered with The Leverhulme Trust to offer five exceptional local artists a year-long opportunity to explore their practice. This year’s recipients are Jenny Davies, Stephanie Kempson, Ania Varez, Caroline Williams and Rebecca Wood.

Over the course of the year, the scholarships will enable these exciting artists to receive support from the Ferment team, encouraging them to think about their own creative and professional development alongside a £5000 bursary. They will also have the opportunity to explore how the support from Ferment can enable them to experiment and try out new ideas.
Ferment Producer Ben Atterbury today said:
“Now in its third year, the demand this year for a Leverhulme Scholarship was overwhelming, demonstrating what a clear need this programme addresses. We are so used to a working model for artists that concentrates on product and outcome, that it is easy to forget the enormous value that pause and reflection has on the creative process, let alone the wellbeing of an individual. The Leverhulme Scholarship offers that, and two years into the scheme it is becoming clear just how transformative this opportunity can be for the artists involved, as they emerge with a renewed clarity and intent that has fed directly into projects which may have seemed out of reach before their Leverhulme year.

This year, we’re so happy to welcome this brilliant group, all of whom demonstrated an unquestionable need for the opportunities for change Leverhulme provides. I can’t wait for them to work with us and each other. It’s worth noting that out of 15 scholars across 3 years, 13 have been women. The energy, clarity and urgency with which this group articulated their ideas was clear to us across this process and these five women really communicated to us the unique value that the scholarship could hold for them.

We’re thankful for the generosity of the Leverhulme Trust, whose support over these past 3 years will have an irrefutable impact on 15 artists making work here in the South West for many, many years to come.“


Jenny Davies

Jenny is a Bristol-based theatre maker and director. She is co-founder of Propolis Theatre, Associate Artist of Soap Soup Theatre and regularly facilitates workshops and projects for Bristol Old Vic, the egg, Theatre Royal Bath and Tobacco Factory Theatres. She is a graduate of Bristol Old Vic’s Made in Bristol Programme and has gone on to work with Twisted Theatre, Documental Theatre, Fen, Uninvited Guests and Common Wealth. She is currently on placement at Tobacco Factory Theatres and was the Assistant Director on Mary Norton’s The Borrowers, adapted by Bea Roberts and directed by Nik Partridge before assisting Artistic Director Mike Tweddle on the current production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

Jenny is using the Leverhulme Scholarship to take creative risks, forge new collaborations and take up opportunities that further her development as a director of theatre. Alongside this, Jenny wants to explore how formal and informal artist-led support networks operate nationally and regionally and how they might relate to her own practice, and that of her peers.


Stephanie Kempson

Stephanie Kempson is a director and writer/dramaturg. She has worked with the Tobacco Factory Theatres, Bristol Old Vic, Bath Theatre Royal, Part Exchange Co, Viv Gordon, The Wardrobe Theatre and Documental Theatre. She was awarded the JMK Regional Assistant Directing Fund to assist on Bristol Old Vic’s Jane Eyre and has completed the National Theatre Director’s Scheme, and Bristol Old Vic’s Made in Bristol course. Her productions include Polly: The Heartbreak Opera, Parlour Games, Eclipse, Score, Pulling Out and The Gigantic Beard That Was Evil. She is also the Artistic Director of Sharp Teeth Theatre.

Stephanie will be using the Leverhulme Scholarship to work towards understanding her process better, looking at how she can move towards midscale work, whilst also understanding how to exist sustainably in the industry as a director with ME/CFS. She hopes to foster an understanding between theatres and companies and artists with ME/CFS.

Ania Varez

Ania Varez is a Venezuelan interdisciplinary artist who lives in Bristol. She facilitates opportunities for people to exercise care, choice and attention through different mediums such as choreography, text and sound. She graduated with honours from London Contemporary Dance School and is a member of Interval, an artist-led support network in Bristol. Ania is also a Resident Artist at Trinity Centre as part of the IGNiTE Residency Programme 2018-19. Her work has been shown at SPILL Festival 2018, the National Gallery of Caracas in Venezuela, Howl Space, The Cube and the Taipei Contemporary Arts Centre in Taiwan.
Ania will be using the Scholarship to explore how art practices can co-exist or merge with educational spaces, in order to influence civic structures of power. This research will reconcile her experience as an immigrant from a country in severe crisis and support her desire to create spaces for people to creatively help each other fight structures of power that harm them.


Caroline Williams

Caroline is a director and dramaturge working in multi-disciplinary participatory performance. With a background in social and environmental activism, Caroline’s work often focuses on current political issues, for example the semantics of screens in relation to the war in Syria, migration or the relationship between loneliness and technology. Using personal narratives, she works to find a performative language that will most powerfully communicate the heart of these stories. She seeks stories that matter and people who have something important to say. Caroline’s ongoing practice is to explore how the dramaturgy of reality can activate conventional theatrical forms.

Caroline is using the Leverhulme Scholarship to carve out time to reflect on and enrich her practice. She will forge new artistic collaborations with practitioners in dance and film who share her passion for ambitious and meaningful participatory work. Throughout the year she will research how this work is programmed and supported within the performance industries, as well as visiting companies in the UK and Europe who she believes do it best. 


Rebecca Wood

Rebecca Wood is a designer working across theatre, opera and cross-genre performance. Rebecca was a Linbury Prize finalist in 2015 and is a founding member of award-winning theatre company Bucket Club. 

Having spent her last 10 years in Bristol, Rebecca is keen to raise the profile of designers working outside of London and encourage the role to be seen more as collaborators and instigators in the creative process. In order to do so, she has set up Bristol Design Assembly, a monthly gathering of set and costume designers in Bristol who meet to discuss their practice, industry and support each other.

Rebecca will be using her Leverhulme year to undertake crucial creative professional development opportunities that will make her own practice more sustainable, as well as spending more time working to build the Bristol Design Assembly as a crucial regional peer network and resource.

Selected Credits: Paradise Planet (English Touring Opera) Fel Anifail (Meic Povey at Sherman Theatre, Cardiff); The Flop (Hijinx & Spymonkey at Chapter Arts and UK Tour); Goldfish Bowl (Paper Birds feat. Caleb Femi at Battersea Arts Centre); Hireth (Costume for O-region site specific work); The Depraved Appetite of Tarrare the Freak (Wattle&Daub for UK tour, Wilton's Music Hall), Fossils (Bucket Club for UK Tour, 59E59 New York); Terrible Things I’ve Done (Alan Harris at Chapter Arts & Wardrobe Theatre); Epiphany (David Lane at Theatre Royal Plymouth); Lorraine & Alan  (Bucket Club for UK Tour).

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Bristol Old Vic is the longest continuously running theatre in the UK, and celebrated its 250th anniversary in 2016. The historic playhouse aims to inspire audiences with its own original productions, both at home and on tour, whilst nurturing the next generation of artists, whether that be through their 350-strong Young Company, their many outreach and education projects or their trailblazing artist development programme, Bristol Ferment.

They use their funding to support experiment and innovation, to allow access to their programme for people who would not otherwise encounter it, or be able to afford it, and to keep their extraordinary heritage alive and animated.

On 24 Sep 2018, Bristol Old Vic completed its 2-year multi-million pound redevelopment project, which transformed its front of house space into a warm and welcoming public building for all of Bristol to enjoy, created a new studio theatre and opened up its unique theatrical heritage to the public for the first time.

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