Bird College – Conservatoire for Dance and Musical Theatre today announces several new appointments including Sonia Watson-Fowler as a trustee of the Doreen Bird Foundation and Tosh Wanogho-Maud and Kamel Chahal joining the board as Non-Executive Directors.

In addition, Ryan Francois is announced as a new patron joining Gary Avis, Christopher Biggins, Baroness Tessa Blackstone, Cavin Cornwall, Gavin Lee, Lara Pulver, John Reid, Liz Robertson and Dougie Squires OBE MVO.

Joint Principals Shirley Coen (CEO) and Luis De Abreu (Artistic Director)said today, “This is a pivotal time and we are honoured that each of our new appointments are sharing their expertise and experiences with the Bird College community. We are wholly committed to empowering all our students and staff, ensuring they are fairly and equally represented within the structures of the College at every level. Through these vital appointments we are continuing to develop and deliver meaningful change both within the college as well as to the Performing Arts industry more widely.”

Sonia Watson-Fowler, Trustee of the Doreen Bird Foundation commented, “Since founding Inclusive Communication Consultancy, I have worked with various establishments at different stages on the journey to cementing inclusion, equality and diversity in their organisational culture; it was immediately clear that Bird College is galvanised and ready to actively tackle the challenges, have the discussions that really matter and actually implement strategies affecting change – engaging in empathetic reflection and approaching issues of diversity from a human, not tick box perspective – as per my practice. During years of working with young people from diverse backgrounds, an essential truth for me has been the right for all individuals, regardless of their background, to have quality education and for those providing said education to be open to learning and evolving for the good of their students – putting them first. This organisation genuinely seeks to create and serve a more diverse cohort and curriculum. Therefore, I am honoured to be able to use my expertise to assist in this progression and was moved by the openness, appreciation and drive for change encountered in exchanges with staff and students.”

Kamel Chahal, Non-Executive Directorsaid, “Bird College recognises that although racism remains a difficult and highly emotive topic for us all in the UK, the international Black Lives Matter movement has created a pivotal and reflective opportunity for White and BAME communities to engage in developing a far richer and more meaningful dialogue and deconstruct racism in all its covert as well as overt guises. As a member of Bird College’s Board I hope to facilitate and drive our objective of ensuring true equity through critical analysis of our practices and change at all levels of the organisational structure and teaching as required, within a systematic way so Bird College truly develops the fullest potential of all its students by engaging with the richness of their diverse identities.”

Tosh Wanogho-Maud Non-Executive Directoradded, “As a graduate of Bird College, I am absolutely honoured to be given the privilege of becoming a Non-Executive Director. Some of my most cherished years were spent within its walls, sweating, and grafting and slowly but surely becoming the actor I was meant to be. Bird College was always a place that felt to me to promise infinite possibilities, a place where you were held accountable for your successes and failures, a place where the winners were the people who made their losses mean something and a place where you choose what your destiny will look like. For me, it has always been a safe environment that nurtured its students regardless of ethnicity, sexual orientation, religious beliefs or gender, and I hope, with my support, that we can continue to put an emphasis on diversity and how we can better serve its students from an ethnic background.”

Ryan Francois, Patron of Bird College commented, “As a teacher and a scholar of the forgotten eras of jazz dance I am without doubt very proud and humbled to be given the honour of Patron of Bird College. For me, the college and its ideals for the future of its students, stands as a beacon of hope, that there will be truth, diversity and equality in the art of musical theatre. Bird College has always been in my opinion a name synonymous with excellence, professionalism and impeccable training for the performance elite. I believe with my support and knowledge of the true history and the physical execution of the vernacular dances. I can help to illuminate the minds and bodies of the present and future faculty and students.”