After seven successful years, Aaron Wright, artistic director of Fierce Festival – a festival of international theatre, performance and experiences which takes place in and around Birmingham – is stepping down. They are moving on to become head of performance and dance at the Southbank Centre, London. Fierce’s executive producer, Pippa Frith, and general manager, Catherine Groom, will step up as co-directors in the interim.
A press release from the festival company said: “Everyone at Fierce is thrilled for Aaron, and wish[es] him the very best in this new venture – they will be at his side as friends and champions.”
Aaron joined Fierce in 2016 and “worked to build a strong team around him, securing two rounds of Arts Council England NPO funding, building company reserves and developing an office base.” They also steered the company through the coronavirus pandemic with online events, before returning the festival to in-person activities in 2022, which was a record-breaking year for Fierce.
Aaron says: “It has been the honour of my life to steer this remarkable organisation for the past seven years. It has exceeded all of my wildest expectations. I’ve made lifelong friends and will miss seeing the Fierce team daily, deeply. I’m incredibly proud of all that we’ve achieved, none of which would have been possible without Pippa Frith and Catherine Groom: my two closest accomplices and the brilliant Fierce board members; past and present. I leave full of bizarre anecdotes that I will dine out on for years. If you see me, do ask me about Trevor the Fly Man.
“The Fierce artistic director role is surely one of the most exciting jobs in the UK arts landscape, offering huge artistic freedom but with real support from an engaged and experienced board. It’s allowed me to see the world whilst building relationships with some of the most exciting artists, at the cutting edge of practice. It’s a life-changing role for someone with buckets of enthusiasm. I can’t wait to see who will lead Fierce astray next.”
Paul Burns, chair of the Fierce board, added: “Aaron is an incredibly gifted curator with a rare set of qualities. He has trust in his own instincts and a bravery to try ideas that seem impossible to realise; care and kindness for the artists and colleagues he works with; and a passion for the organisation, for the work it presents and for its deep rootedness in Birmingham. All of these can be seen in the festivals and projects Aaron has led since starting at Fierce in 2016, but can also be seen in the collaborative, adventurous and confident organisation he leaves behind – all qualities that have flourished under his leadership.
“I think I speak for the board, the team and the city’s arts sector when I say he will be hugely missed, but we look forward to seeing what incredible things he’ll make happen at Southbank Centre.”
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