Celebrating the creative, passionate, amazing women of the creative arts sector. The Dukes’ very own director Karen O’Neill spoke recently with Creative Lancashire on the strides the creative sector in the North has taken and the work that is still to be done.

“ I think women in the North are made of good stuff and our creative sector does offer opportunities for women to engage and develop creative careers. I think the northern cultural sector is working hard to recognise the achievements of women and there are many female arts leaders in the north. However, there is still more to be done – there are still issues with regards to pay gaps and the work of women being sidelined which needs to be addressed across the industry.” Karen spoke about her own experiences within the arts sector and how she is implementing change within her organisation. “The creative industries are uniquely placed to be a powerhouse for change in creating a more inclusive world. As a theatre director, my role is to open space up to a range of voices and experiences and encourage audiences to come and listen, learn, absorb, and reflect on the lives and encounters from all parts of our community. Theatre is an incredibly powerful tool to bring people together and challenge opinions in a safe and supportive way. Through creativity, we can express who we are to the world. The other side of my role is to create opportunities for others to develop either through training and skills, mentoring or leadership within the sector. As a woman from a working-class background who had an untraditional journey to where I am now, I can share that story and encourage others to take untraditional journeys too.” The Dukes strives to present more diverse and inclusive theatre and film and are constantly finding ways to connect with audiences and communities to share stories. Their spring season has seen artists from all communities represented on stage with a large proportion of those stories being female-focused - with audiences showing their support with sell-out shows of Black Is The Colour Of My Voice and Josephine. There is a real sense from The Dukes of incredible pride to be able to bring wonderful female-focused stories such as Josephine, Black Is The Colour Of My Voice, Kin, Bloody Chamber and Beryl to their audiences, whilst supporting the artists of the future.

KIN is a continuation of The Dukes ambition of ensuring incredibly talented women are held-high & given the opportunity to shine as this all-female production (both cast and creative team) shows. Christine Mackie (Coronation Street, Best Girl) Writer & Director of KIN spoke on what international women’s day means to her. “I have benefitted throughout my life from the courage, love and strength of women... In my new play KIN, two older women take centre stage. KIN is a dark comedy full of surprises and I know the fantastic all-female creative team will bring their considerable talent and sense of fun to the show. I can’t wait for audiences to see it. So, here’s to Creativity and Kindness! And amazing Women everywhere!” Continuing with their trend of celebrating women's voices, The Dukes have programmed exceptional female comics that demolish the stereotype that women can’t be funny. The likes of Fern Brady, Flo & Joan and Lou Sanders grace audiences with their presence this season. With comedian Lou Sanders stating… “People don’t realise this but women can be absolutely fabulous and many other things. I love to celebrate them and talk about them and think ‘yerrr they’re ok actually’ and don’t worry we do the same for men on their day too xx”

While continuing to support upcoming and established artists The Dukes work tirelessly to create opportunities for the community to discover and explore their own creativity working with young people from a variety of backgrounds to explore creative careers and find the next generation of artists. In 2020 The Dukes Centre for Creative Communities launched Our Voice, a drama project with young female members of the Gypsy, Roma & Traveller community. Designed to develop writing-for-performance skills and celebrate the experiences and communities of the young female travelers. The project was commissioned in collaboration with Lancaster University. It was led by the award-winning Bryony Kimmings, reality star Amy Hart, choreographer Sarah Blanc and Lancaster-based freelance creative Emma Rucastle. The project has since been highly commended by the BBC being nominated for community project of the year 2021. Driven by experience and with a motivation for change, it’s clear that with Karen O’Neill at the helm The Dukes are opening the doors for communities to share their stories, whilst offering support for emerging artists to succeed. With a final sign-off aimed at those looking to start a career in the arts sector, Karen said…

“Know yourself well and understand that you are not limited – you can do whatever you want. Set your goals and work towards them with passion, integrity and authenticity.”




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