Presented by HOME in partnership with The Royal Exchange Theatre

Ignition Key: Producers, Writers, Directors

On Sat 2 Dec at 14.00 we invite you to join us for a panel discussion and networking event focused on producing new writing. This event will take place in the front room at the Royal Exchange Theatre, Old Bank St, Manchester, M2 7PE.

The Royal Exchange recently did a survey with writers living in the North-West to find out what they needed from the theatre industry in the current climate. The feedback we received was loud and clear: writers wanted to improve their knowledge of how new writing is produced on stage, and a better understanding of the producer’s role in this process. In response, HOME and the Royal Exchange are teaming up to host Ignition Key: a day of panels and possibilities to kickstart conversations between writers, directors and producers.

We’re incredibly excited to have a panel of award-winning producers Natalie Chan, Max Emmerson, Sarah Verghese and Alistair Wilkinson, who will discuss the joys and challenges they face when producing new work. This will then be followed by breakout time for attendees to meet and talk with their fellow artists about projects they want to kickstart next…

Who is this event for?

  • Writers who want to get their work produced.
  • Producers interested in new writing.
  • Directors/makers looking to develop new text-based work.

Reserve Your Ticket

This event is FREE. Please note that there are 90 places available for attendees, which will be allocated on a first come first served basis.

To secure your ticket, please complete the following form: Ignition Key: Producers, Writers & Directors – Google Forms

Programme on the day

2pm: Panel discussion with Natalie Chan, Max Emmerson and Sarah Verghese, chaired by Alistair Wilkinson.

3pm: Break out into groups designed by HOME & Royal Exchange (using information you’ve submitted when signing up) to kickstart artistic inspiration.

4pm: Alistair Wilkinson gathers closing reflections.

4.30pm: Free time to enjoy refreshments and network with fellow producers, directors and writers.


About the Panel:

 Natalie Chan – she/her

Natalie is the Director for Kaiklang, bringing her experience working as a producer and fundraiser. Highlights include as Associate Producer for Best of Enemies in the West End and Producer for This Is Not A Show About Hong Kong, which won Fringe First and New Diorama Theatre and Underbelly’s Untapped Award in 2022. She’s also held the role of Creative Producer for In Good Company, leading the Midlands’ artist development programme with 12 venues, and as General Manager for Creative Youth, where she has won the Arts Fundraising and Philanthropy’s Giving Tuesday Competition for the charity.

As a committed change-maker to support fellow Global Majority arts leaders, she is an innovator with Artistic Directors of the Future. Natalie is also a recipient of the Blackbaud Scholarship for completing her Postgraduate Certificate in Philanthropic Studies at the University of Kent in 2022. She’s supported the company development and produced projects for independent companies Chalk Line Theatre, Chronic Insanity, Nuu Theatre. She proudly started her career working as Assistant Producer for Theatre503, Spun Glass Theatre, Arch468 and the Bread and Roses Theatre, and through Stage One’s Bridge The Gap scheme.


Max Emmerson – he/him

Max is Creative Producer of Emmerson & Ward, Producer for Secret Cinema and works as an independent producer. He has previously worked as Producer for Leeds Playhouse, Executive Producer for Box of Tricks, Freelance Producer for ThickSkin Theatre, Oldham Coliseum, TransCreative, The Letter Room, Knaïve Theatre, Assistant Producer for the Royal Exchange Theatre and Production Co-ordinator for Bill Kenwright Productions in London.

Producing credits include: Rum by Joe Mallalieu (in development), 365 Days Remembered by Nessah Muthy (in development), Wishmas by Secret Cinema (London), Love It If We Beat Them by Rob Ward (Live Newcastle) BI-TOPIA by Sam Danson (UK Tour), The MP, Aunty Mandy & Me by Rob Ward (UK Tour), A Passionate Woman by Kay Mellor (Leeds Playhouse), Of Mice & Men by John Steinbeck (Leeds Playhouse & UK Tour), Lord of the Flies by William Golding (Leeds Playhouse & UK Tour), Sappho by Daneka Etchells (in development), Nine Night by Natasha Gordon (Leeds Playhouse & Nottingham Playhouse), Walk This Play Audio Series by ThickSkin Theatre (App), Riot Act (UK Tour), Last Quizmas by Alison Carr (Online), The Last Quiz Night on Earth by Alison Carr (UK Tour), Under Three Moons by Daniel Kanaber (UK Tour), Don’t Bother by Broccan Tyzack-Carlin (Edinburgh Fringe, Brighton Fringe & Manchester Fringe), No Miracles Here by The Letter Room (UK Tour), Gypsy Queen by Rob Ward (UK & International Tour), SparkPlug by David Judge (UK Tour), The Tempest (Royal Exchange Young Company), The People Are Singing by Lizzie Nunnery (Royal Exchange Theatre), Adam & Eve & Steve by Chandler Warren (Edinburgh Fringe Festival), Shout! The Mod Musical (Liverpool Royal Court Theatre).

Max was the first recipient of the Anthony Field Producer Prize at LIPA and began his career with the support of Stage One through the apprenticeship scheme.


Sarah Verghese – she/her

Sarah Verghese is a South Asian, Olivier-nominated independent theatre producer working on London’s West End, regionally and internationally. She is excited by work that is culturally and politically relevant, engages new audiences and is widely accessible.

Most recently she produced FOR BLACK BOYS WHO HAVE CONSIDERED SUICIDE WHEN THE HUE GETS TOO HEAVY by Ryan Calais Cameron at the Apollo Theatre and Queens of Sheba by Jessica Hagan at Under the Radar Festival, New York. She is currently running Sarah Verghese Productions and is Senior Producer at Nouveau Riche. Nouveau Riche is a multi-award-winning theatre company set out to create and nurture new thought-provoking, challenging, and culturally inclusive writing. She has previously worked for Zoo Co, Arch 468 and Graeae. Sarah’s productions include Invisible Animal at Omnibus Theatre 2023, Pitch at Pleasance Edinburgh Fringe 2023, Santi & Naz at Pleasance Edinburgh Fringe 2023, How to Build a Wax Figure at Pleasance 2022, Fester at Camden Fringe Festival 2021, and Every Sinner has a Future Kensington and Chelsea Festival & Golden Goose 2021.


Alistair Wilkinson – they/them

Alistair is a highly experienced, multiple award-winning Curator, Maker, Cultural Producer, and Artist Developer, working across stage, screen, sport, gaming, and immersive environments. They trained at Royal Central School of Speech and Drama, as well as on The Royal Court’s Invitation Writers Group, and completed an MA at RADA/ Birkbeck. In the past they have made work for organisations such as the BBC, Punchdrunk, Sky TV, the National Theatre, the FA, and the Barbican Centre, amongst many others. Alistair was recently appointed as the first ever Creative Lead at the National Football Museum; they are also the former Head of Artist Development at The Old Vic; and in 2022 lead on all talent development at Punchdrunk, working in the UK, internationally and digitally, with a specific focus on launching the critically-acclaimed The Burnt City, as well as settling them into their new Woolwich home. Their work at Punchdrunk won the company the Business of the Year from the Royal Borough of Greenwich, and Partner of the Year from Greenwich University. In 2017 Alistair founded WoLab, a working laboratory for artists to create. They are an Associate Artist at The National Youth Theatre, a Connect Artist for RTYDS, a Trustee for Boundless, and a Script Reader for The Bush Theatre, Theatre503, and The Papatango Prize. They also work as a Wellbeing Practitioner and Access Worker, supporting across all disciplines realise their creative ambitions. In addition to this, Alistair is as an experienced fundraiser; to date, they have raised over £18m in funding for various artistic adventures.

WoLab is a working laboratory for artists to create. They provide performance makers of all experiences with the opportunity to have a go. WoLab trains, mentors, nurtures, and creatively entitles artists, helping them discover and refine their talents, and then showcases those talents to the industry. Recent work includes ENG-ER-LAND by Hannah Kumari, which in 2022 toured to 30 venues; For a Palestinian by Bilal Hasna and Aaron Kilercioglu, which enjoyed an acclaimed five-star sellout run at Camden Peoples Theatre and Bristol Old Vic, and RAINER by Max Wilkinson – which dazzled audiences last summer at London’s Arcola Theatre. In Spring 2023, WoLab previewed Naomi Obeng’s thrilling London debut, We’ll Be Who We Are at VAULT Festival, as they embarked on phase two of their new work development programme, which continues with the world premiere of Kwame Owusu’s multiple award-winning play, Dreaming and Drowning, at the Bush Theatre in Autumn.

Past work includes: First Commissions (Paines Plough); The Actor-Writer Programme (Theatre N16/Bunker Theatre); Man-Cub (RADA/King’s Head); PlayList (King’s Head); happy ever after? (Bunker Theatre); In the Net (Jermyn Street); and R&D’s of heavymetalsexyanimal by Sam Rees (Theatre Deli); TIGER by Tom Kelsey (Shoreditch Town Hall); a nightmare is witchwork by Billie Collins (City of London School for Girls/Pendleton College) and Asperger’s Children by Peter Machen (Trinity Laban).

X: @allstarwilkinsn         X and Instagram: @WoLaboratory


Royal Exchange Theatre

2 hours and 30 minutes

Sat 2 Dec at 14.00

This event will take place in the front room at the Royal Exchange Theatre, Old Bank St, Manchester, M2 7PE.


This event is FREE. Please note that there are 90 places available for attendees, which will be allocated on a first come first served basis.

To secure your ticket, please complete the following form: Ignition Key: Producers, Writers & Directors – Google Forms