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Lights Up is a living history project developed by Fifth Word in partnership with Derby City Libraries, with support from Derby Theatre and supported by The National Lottery Heritage Fund.

Lights Up shines a light on the inspirational women who have led the way in the theatre industry and who have a connection with the East Midlands. Our subjects have all been interviewed on camera, and their portraits taken by a group of young women aged 16 to 21 who received training in photography, film and oral history capture delivered by an all-female team of  practitioners.

The women featured are all pioneers, game changers and have made a real, lasting and tangible difference to the world of theatre. These fascinating conversations chart the individual experiences of each woman bringing to light first memories of theatre and how their background informs their work; cutting their teeth and the ‘big breaks’; coping with challenges and setbacks and offering practical advice to the next generation. This  collection of interviews are inspiring, honest and,  at times,  funny and infuriating as they explore what it feels like to be a woman in this industry.

The women featured in our project are:

The photographs are being collected and displayed on this site together with childhood pictures and images of memorabilia that document some of the significant stages in each woman’s career in the theatre. The interview recordings themselves are being published as a series of accessible, aspirational podcast episodes made available through established, popular platforms, bringing these stories to as wide an audience as possible.

Lights Up sets out to address the imbalance, that women have always been 50% of the population but only hold around 0.5% of our recorded history; whilst engendering  self-belief and offering practical advice to the next generation of East Midlands women. In order to ensure that future generations are able to see the achievement of women who came before them, the interviews will be transcribed and held at Derby Local Studies and Family History Library.