Posted: 02 November 2021

Tamasha announces Pooja Ghai as its new Artistic Director

Pooja Ghai. Photo credit: Bettina Adela

Tamasha announces the appointment of Pooja Ghai as its new Artistic Director. Pooja takes up the role with immediate effect. She succeeds Fin Kennedy, who departs Tamasha to start his own company and return to freelance writing. Valerie Synmoie, currently Tamasha’s Executive Director, steps into the role of sole CEO. Together Pooja and Valerie will lead Tamasha into its next chapter, creating a home for a new generation of artists from the Global Majority.

Pooja is an award-winning director, actor, and mentor who is recognised as a fierce advocate for giving voice to marginalised groups. She is at the forefront of leadership change and active in organisations whose ethos helps achieve this. She is co-Chair of Artistic Directors of the Future, and Stage Directors UK and is a trustee of Pop-Up Org CIC.

Pooja was Associate Director of Theatre Royal Stratford East (2015 – 2017) and is an Associate Artist of Kali Theatre. For Tamasha, she directed Ishy Din’s APPROACHING EMPTY (a co-production with Kiln Theatre and Live Theatre). Her credits also include Tanika Gupta’s LIONS AND TIGERS (Sam Wanamaker Playhouse, The Globe Theatre) for which she won Best Director at the Eastern Eye Arts, Culture and Theatre Awards.

Valerie Synmoie. Photo credit: Bettina Adela

Valerie has been Tamasha’s Executive Director since 2015, and during her tenure has led the company to deliver a number of new initiatives including leading a new producer placement programme, funded by Arts Council England, which involved a consortium of seven venues. Prior to becoming ED, Valerie was Tamasha’s Developing Artists Producer and lead producer for the company’s national tour of THE ARRIVAL in 2013. Valerie has extensive experience in the sector and has worked for a variety of organisations including Arts Council England, the Cultural Leadership Programme, Border Crossings, The Advance Network, Cultural Brokers, The Albany and BAC.

Pooja Ghai: “Tamasha has been an incredible platform for showcasing and touring marginalised voices and creating pipelines for ethnically diverse talent. I look forward to continuing and developing that mandate and further growing the impact we make, especially at this critical moment in time. The past 18 months have tested us all, and despite the challenges that we have endured, I also see an opportunity burgeoning. There is a growing awareness of the deep-seated inequalities in the sector and society at large, which we can leverage as a catalyst for change by building authentic and ongoing collaborations that celebrate our differences and firmly establish the Global Majority as an integral part of the theatre landscape.

Tamasha has been instrumental in furthering my career first as an actor then as a director, so to have the opportunity to lead the artistic vision of a place I call home is humbling and so very exciting. Tamasha has a distinguished legacy of breaking new ground and we will continue to tell bold and courageous stories which explore new perspectives and bring our communities together. I am thrilled to be working with Valerie and the incredible team at Tamasha to create theatre with integrity, curiosity, and care.”

 Valerie Synmoie: “When I was approached by the Board to take on the single CEO role I was honoured. The Board’s decision to make this change demonstrates their faith in me, which I am hugely appreciative of, and I am excited about leading the team through the next stage in its development. During the last six years at Tamasha I’m proud of the work we have done to address some of the inequalities that we see in the sector, and our Developing Artists programme has supported many of the rising stars that we now see going on to make their mark in the sector. I’m proud of the resilience and commitment of the team, despite the challenges of the last 18 months, and very much look forward to working with Pooja, as we set out our artistic ambitions for the next five years and beyond.”

Valerie and Pooja. Photo credit: Bettina Adela

Deepa Patel, Chair of Tamasha’s Board: “On behalf of the Board trustees, I’m extremely happy to be welcoming Pooja as the new Artistic Director. She is a tremendously talented artist and an important advocate for issues faced by ethnically diverse talent in the arts sector. We are also happy that Valerie has taken up the role of CEO. She has been at the core of why Tamasha has been able to carry out its vision of shaping and sharing stories of those from the Global Majority.

The challenges that we face now mean that we have to find inspiration, think imaginatively and strategically, and have courage to make brave changes in the way we work and what we present. We are delighted to be working with Pooja and Valerie as we focus on shaping the future to take on these challenges.

Their talent, creativity, and leadership are vital in ensuring that equity and justice are not just words but impact the lives of artists to share their creativity and serve audiences today.”