Five Minutes With... Theatr Clwyd executive director Liam Evans-Ford

Theatr Clwyd's executive director Liam Evans-Ford joined the Flintshire-based theatre and arts centre in 2016, becoming its first executive director. Prior to Theatr Clwyd he had worked for companies such as York Theatre Royal, Sheffield Theatres, Sprite Productions and the Factory Theatre. Here he talks about his passion for the theatre and the impact coronavirus has had on the industry.

What's your role at the theatre?

My role, alongside our artistic director Tamara [Harvey], is to ensure the theatre has a secure and vibrant future supporting our community and creating amazing shows. I oversee our business planning and finances but also work a lot with local and national politicians and major funders to make sure they understand the important work we do at Theatr Clwyd, both on stage but also in health and wellbeing and in communities. I'm also leading on the exciting plans to redevelop and refurbish the theatre.

What inspired you to work in theatre?

The people, the excitement, the joy and laughter. All this inspiration remains - it's just that I am responsible for all the other things that surround and support such things.

What's your best moment at Theatr Clwyd so far?

One of our long-standing members of staff had a serious form of cancer and was fighting for his life through the treatment. To lift his spirits, we wanted to send him a video, and the team gathered together on the main stage behind the panto backdrop. The panto cast started singing It Must Be Love (a song from that year's panto) and after a few lines the backdrop lifted to reveal all 150 of us signing to him. He is fit and well now but says he watched that video regularly for the next six months to get him through the tough times. That's the kind of place I want to work!

What challenges is Covid-19 bringing the theatre?

Like many businesses the pandemic has had a huge impact. The theatre is, however, in a relatively strong position compared to many other UK theatres. Flintshire County Council have been amazing and fully supportive of their cultural and leisure facilities, who normally generate so much of their own income.

Our audiences have been equally incredible, donating the price of their tickets or crediting their account rather than taking on refunds. All these things, alongside the government's furlough scheme, will ensure that we will open its door to the public for some much-needed entertainment and social interaction as soon as it is safe to do so.

How has the theatre responded to Covid-19?

We've delivered food parcels and creative packs, as well as run a massively successful shoebox appeal with Flintshire County Council for vulnerable children in North Wales. Our weekly theatre groups have moved online, with more than 200 people doing sessions each week, while our music service has delivered lessons online for 800 families. The building's been open for blood donations as we support the NHS in keeping up donation levels - and this is before we even get to our online creative tasks and snippets of culture as part of Theatr Clwyd Together. We're just trying to help people in whatever way we can.

What do you do to relax/in your spare time?

I love spending time with my family (thank goodness as we're getting a lot of it at the moment!) and my eight-year-old daughter and 12-year-old son certainly keep me busy with their own social commitments (mainly sports and dancing). My great, great love outside of the theatre is cricket. I play for Northop Hall in the Liverpool and District League. Obviously, we can't play at the moment, but my son is in the Wales Cricket pathway, so we've come up with some inventive ways of practising and hopefully keeping ourselves in decent form!

What's the mantra you live by, or try to?

I'm not sure I've ever had a mantra that I've lived by - I guess I've always tried to be kind to people in everything that I do. Theatr Clwyd has a strong mantra (or mission) which is 'To make the world a happier place, one moment at a time' and we really do call upon that throughout our work - especially during such times as these.

What's been your favourite show?

What we achieved with Home, I'm Darling (being made and crafted in North Wales and then selling out in the West End and winning an Olivier Award) means that I'll always have fond memories of that show.

If you could ask people to do one thing to support the theatre and its work what that would be?

To come back when we do open our doors - all our work is about sharing with audiences and communities and we need you to make what we do worthwhile. Also to keep in touch, spread the word and support arts and culture wherever you can - the sector will need huge amounts of support to emerge from this crisis.