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Following the launch of ‘Phenomenal People’, a project celebrating inspirational women, founders of Fuel Louise Blackwell & Kate McGrath name the women who have inspired their careers.

Kate McGrath (left) and Louise Blackwell
Sheila Burnett


Louise’s Guru: Debbie Hewett

Debbie was my GCSE and A-Level drama teacher at Ifield Community College in Crawley. Still a formidable woman now, she introduced me to Antonin Artaud and Bertolt Brecht, and set the tone for my aesthetic and passions in my working life. She encouraged us to take creative risks and step out of our comfort zones. She also encouraged us to set up our own theatre company, with all the different roles that entails, and tour our devised show to local day care centres. The shape of things to come for me.

Louise’s Guru: Jackie Alexander

I met Jackie after I called the local arts council office in Brighton and asked if anyone needed voluntary help. Jackie was working for South East Touring Agency at the time. She introduced me to the UK theatre touring scene and later gave me a job at Brighton Theatre Events, a small scale, touring new writing company. Jackie taught me the values of introducing theatre to new audiences and how to make the experience of going to the theatre one that can be popular, political, relevant and a good laugh. She is still a force to be reckoned with.

Kate’s Guru: Elizabeth Maclennan

As well as being my brilliant, playful and loving mum, she is also a source of professional inspiration to me. Having forged strong political and social convictions early in life, and a passion for theatre that took her touring from the Highlands and Islands of Scotland to Berlin, Tbilisi, Cape Breton and beyond, she fills each day with energy, curiosity, and a commitment to making the world a better place, in big ways and in small.

Kate’s Guru: Judith Knight

Judith co-formed ArtsAdmin the year I was born. Years later, she's been incredibly supportive of Louise and me, ever since we first decided to set up Fuel, generously offering advice and wisdom, sharing challenges, and seemingly never tiring of the frustrations and rewards of independent producing. A passionate advocate for artists and the contemporary independent arts sector, she shows us how to keep going, keep caring, and laugh about it all over a glass of wine when that's what's needed most.

Louise & Kate’s Guru: Roanne Dods

We met Roanne when she was Director of the Jerwood Charitable Foundation. She gave us our first break as independent producers by giving us some funding when we set up Fuel. Always an ardent supporter of the work we do, Roanne is a brilliant sounding board and still encourages us to think differently.

Louise Blackwell & Kate McGrath are Co-Directors of Fuel.

Fuel has turned 10 this year, and has recently teamed up with the Cultural Institute at King’s College London to create ‘Phenomenal People’, a project that celebrates inspirational women through performances, discussions and lectures in a travelling indoor garden.

Link to Author(s): 
Louise Blackwell