Julie Williams, Chair for the overall RWB Arts Festival, and Music Chair as well.
Ever since I can remember, music, singing and performing is something I’ve always wanted to do. Having been trained in classical singing as a child, I very quickly turned to being a big band singer, as well as doing cabaret singing, dancing and playing trumpet. I performed with an all-girl big band called Ivy Benson all over the world, it was a lot of fun as well as hard work!
I opened my performing arts school in Swindon, in 1993; I have been lucky enough to sing on National Tv and radio many times and to produce and direct many shows at the Wyvern theatre and Arts centre among venues. I am also a Governor of two Swindon schools which has helped me understand special needs children and the different ways of teaching.
I’m very excited to be Chair of RWB Festival and hope I can pass on some of my experience to a committee who have a wealth of knowledge!
Sandra McDowell LGSM., ALAM., Bronze, Silver & Gold Medallist – Chair for Speech and Drama at RWB Arts Festival, and Musical Theatre Chair
I have always loved literature and the spoken word. I commenced my own Studio of Speech and Drama in 1982, having qualified long before that, originally working in schools. I have been a Committee Member of the Mid-Somerset Festival in Bath for over 30 years, and subsequently was Chair of the Speech & Drama Section for five years. Together with a small team I helped to create the Wootton Bassett Arts Festival in 2009, which very swiftly became affiliated to BIFF. In 2014 we were given the honour of the title of Royal. I have been an Examiner for LAMDA since 2000, travelling all over the UK. My joy is seeing young people achieve and excel, to help their self-esteem and confidence, and to enrich them for a valuable future.
Tracy Cuthbert – Chair for Dance at RWB Arts Festival
I am the chair of the Dance Section at the RWB Arts Festival. Although I am relatively new to this side of the festival, my daughter has been taking part for quite a few years now. Performing is also a big part of my life; I danced for many, many years at Tanwood School for Performing Arts in Swindon, performing in professional pantomimes, shows and festivals. I currently sing with Ten in a Bar, and our range of music is vast: from 1940s jazz to pop songs to contemporary classical music. We perform annually at the Arts Centre each February and we are regularly booked to sing at weddings and concerts in various venues throughout Wiltshire and beyond.
I was pleased to launch our first ever Dance Section (2021).
Lucy Barbour – Social Media Team
LLAM and ALAM, LAMDA Acting Diploma and LAMDA Teaching Diploma Qualified
I have experience in running drama workshops and I have assisted on the Mid-Somerset Festival committee previously. Having enjoyed Speech and Drama throughout my childhood, gaining the highest qualifications and performing in festivals from the age of 6, I am enthusiastic to be a part of the RWB Arts Festival committee and help this wonderful festival be enjoyed by all.
Lorna Davies (MA Hons)
Following a degree in Music and German from the University of Glasgow and a role in managerial administration, I am now a peripatetic music teacher. I teach piano and keyboard in schools in and around Swindon through the Swindon Music Co-op. As well as giving individual piano lessons, I have taught recorder groups and mixed instrument ensembles that have performed at a variety of local events. I feel it is important for young musicians to be encouraged to perform and have local opportunities to do so. I am delighted to be a member of the RWB Arts Festival committee, and to be able to contribute to music in the local area.
I originally worked in London as a PA, but since moving to Cirencester 35 years ago, I have pursued my passion for the guitar by teaching at local primary and secondary schools. In 1999 I formed the Corinium Players Guitar Ensemble to encourage young classical guitarists to perform together. The Group has now over 30 players aged 8-18 from around the Cotswolds and they have been on tour to Germany and Holland. I am secretary to the Trustees for the charity Guitar Circus and Festival Director for the World Youth Guitar Festival, a biennial residential course. This charity also manages the National Youth Guitar Ensemble.
I have been singing from a very early age and still sing now. I learnt my stage art from belonging to the following societies: S.A.L.O.S. Gilbert & Sullivan society, Highworth Amateur Drama Society and W.B.L.O.S. who I have the honour of being their President. I have been with the RWB Arts Festival from its conception when it was a ‘one man band’ under the baton of Brian Taylor. I was asked to ‘help out’, and I have been ‘helping out’ every since! Long may this Festival run in helping the very talented students and young adults in their singing career’s.
Lara Farahar BSc Honours PGCE
I run my own business teaching Speech and Drama and I am also a qualified LAMDA examiner. I have been a primary school teacher for eighteen years and have always tried to hard to incorporate speech and drama in to my teaching. I am passionate about international education and have taught in different countries, always encouraging the use of the creative arts. I am so grateful for the opportunity to be involved in the RWB Arts Festival which I believe has such a positive impact on children.
Dr. Liz Howells OBE
I am a clinical psychologist, and the highlight of my career has been the implementation of an innovative service model to help improve the mental health processes within and around Swindon: for which I was honoured to receive an OBE. I have been a long-serving member of the RWB Arts Festival committee and I am very interested in the arts.
Although my background is in law, my passion has always been for music and musical theatre and I spend as much of my spare time at the theatre as possible. When not doing this I am usually taking my children to dance or music lessons and attending dance festivals. My children have enjoyed taking part in this festival for many years and continue to do so and I’m delighted to be part of it having always found it an exciting event to attend. I am very new to being this side of the festival but I am looking forward to learning a lot and hope to be part of it for many years to come!
Jackie Lawrence BA PCertLAM
Having spent many years working as a broadcast journalist and public relations specialist, I decided to change my career and use my experience and love of drama to help children build confidence in presenting themselves in public. I am now a speech and drama teacher and work with children both in schools and privately. I have a degree in English and Drama from Goldsmith’s College, University of London, A level Drama and the LAMDA PCertLAM. Growing up, I spent much of my youth rehearsing for plays, preparing for speech and drama exams and entering festivals! I learned so much through my own experience that I am absolutely delighted to be helping with the RWB Arts Festival.
Katie McDowell BA (Hons)., ALAM., Bronze, Silver & Gold Medallist
I have grown up enjoying Speech & Drama since the age of four, taking exams and entering Festivals, eventually going on to achieve my LAMDA Acting Diploma. I initially joined as a volunteer to run the Festival café, which provides a vibrant social hub over the festival weekend. This swiftly became a passionate undertaking, which I look forward to every year. What better place to be than selling delicious homemade cakes and interacting with everyone taking part! The festival is such a happy and rewarding weekend, it is so uplifting to see those taking part and celebrating their achievements with such joy and delight. It takes me back to my own childhood. My background includes some teaching of English (in Poland), but my passion has always been textile centred: my degree is in Textiles Fashion; I’ve worked at Jaeger & Liberty; I’ve designed and renovated two cottages; and I now run my own interior design business.
Madeleine Emerald Thiele MA PCertLAM – Social Media Team
I am an art historian by nature and profession, with a passion and a background in English Literature, and Speech and Drama. I undertook many exams in LAMDA in my youth, and competed in the Longwell Green Eisteddfod and the Mid-Somerset Festival where I was variously successful. Having undertaken a BA many years ago, where I focused on Jacobean theatre, and watched many a play, I am now delighted to return more formally to Speech and Drama to assist in the ongoing creation of this wonderful Festival.