Introducing our new Co-Chair

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We are thrilled to announce that Suzie Birchwood joins us as Co-Chair of our Board of Trustees at an exciting time of growth in our organisation

A black and white image of Suzie Birchwood. Dancing outside, she gracefully stands en pointe and leans back to grasp the frame and wheels of her manual wheelchair, tilting her chin to look upwards. Suzie is tall and slender, she wears a dark roll neck long sleeve top and black leggings with leg warmers over her shiny satin pointe shoes. To the left of her is a concrete wall and behind is railings and buildings blurred into the background.

A black and white image of Suzie Birchwood. Dancing outside, she gracefully stands en pointe and leans back to grasp the frame and wheels of her manual wheelchair, tilting her chin to look upwards. Suzie is tall and slender, she wears a dark roll neck long sleeve top and black leggings with leg warmers over her shiny satin pointe shoes. To the left of her is a concrete wall and behind is railings and buildings blurred into the background.

Suzie Birchwood joins us as Co-Chair of the board alongside Jane Hackett. Suzie is a Disabled dancer, choreographer and dance educator. As a dance artist Suzie has worked with artists such as Marc Brew and companies including Ballet Cymru, Candoco and The Scottish Ballet. As a Dance Educator, Suzie works to support artists in the discovery and nurturing of their unique movement personalities. With a practice informed by Universal Design, she works as part of the ‘Dance Unstuck’ team exploring accessible pathways into codified techniques of dance. In 2002 she established Silverbirch Dance Company (formerly ActOne ArtsBase) and enjoyed 15 years as Artistic Director.

“I am thrilled to be joining the Stopgap board as co-chair,” says Suzie. “As a longtime fan of Stopgap, I am incredibly excited about the opportunity to contribute to this wonderful organisation and its world-class performances. From students to professionals, Stopgap provides a platform for individuals to thrive and become valuable team members, and I am honoured to be a part of that journey. I am especially delighted to be co-chairing with Jane Hackett, whose extensive experience and knowledge are invaluable.”

“I am delighted to welcome Suzie as Co-chair of the board and am very much looking forward to working with her,” says Co-Chair Jane Hackett. “I have known Suzie for some time, as a talented performer and as an articulate advocate for the sector, and know that she has valuable skills and knowledge to contribute to Stopgap. Together with our committed and experienced Board of Trustees, and with the visionary team at Stopgap, we have an inspired group to take the organisation into its next phase.”

Building on strong connections

This new appointment builds on a strong connection to the company with Suzie previously working closely alongside Co-Artistic Director Laura Jones on projects such as Stopgap’s inclusive teacher training programme Seedbed, our international cultural exchange series Open Dialogo, and a part (2018) a dance film in collaboration with Lîla Dance which celebrates the art of wheelchair dancing.

Laura Jones and Suzie Birchwood in a part

Laura Jones and Suzie Birchwood in a part. They each face the camera, lifting their right arm to their head as if caressing their hair, each with eyes closed. Laura and Suzie are white women and both wheelchair users. Laura has shoulder length brown hair and wears a coral red vest and trousers. Suzie has shoulder length blonde hair and wears a turquoise blue vest and trousers. Their background is a graffitied wall.

“Suzie is a wonderful human being and a joy to work with,” said Laura Jones. “I really value our conversations when we’re discussing topics of disability dance, such as language and issues relating to barriers and access to dance. It’s always refreshing to speak with Suzie and I deeply value her as an artist too. The amount of knowledge that she brings to this new role is incredible”.

Co-Artistic Director Lucy Bennett said, “We are thrilled that Suzie Birchwood has been appointed Co-Chair of Stopgap’s wonderful Board of Trustees. For me as an artist I really appreciate another inclusive artist on board. Suzie has a wealth of expertise in dance and inclusion and has experienced both sides of the story as a non-disabled dancer and a Disabled dancer. Suzie already understands the language we want to use to bring both sides together to create sustainable change within the dance industry. We can’t wait to get working with her.”

A fond farewell

Stopgap also take this opportunity to thank outgoing Co-Chair Simon Minty for six years of commitment to the organisation, two as Co-Chair and four as a trustee.

“I would like to thank Simon for his invaluable insight and support that have guided Stopgap in its recent successful growth”, says continuing Co-Chair Jane Hackett.

“I understand the immense responsibility that comes with filling Simon’s shoes,” says Suzie. “While I may not be able to match his contributions, I am committed to advocating for Stopgap’s mission, being an attentive listener, and providing support in any way I can”.

“We can’t thank Simon Minty enough for his dedication as Co-Chair in supporting Stopgap’s ambitions”, says Lucy Bennett. “During the pandemic, the board under Simon’s Co Chairmanship was a rock for Stopgap’s leadership team. They encouraged us to look after ourselves, keep it light, and Simon led mental health support sessions for the artistic team. We feel incredibly privileged to have had Simon’s counsel over the years and we will miss his wit and wisdom at our quarterly meetings.”