Birmingham community theatre pioneer recognised in honours list

New Year’s Honour for director.

Birmingham-based Janice Connolly has been awarded a British Empire Medal for services to Community Arts in the West Midlands, a fitting accolade for a woman who has dedicated her life to using theatre to promote equality and the wellbeing of the whole community.

Janice Connolly, who is also well known as her stand-up comedy character Mrs Barbara Nice, originally trained as a teacher before working for Barnardos for several years as a youth worker. In 1983 she co-founded Women & Theatre as a vehicle for delivering drama work with the power to affect change.

Over the past 33 years, Janice has produced over 50 plays, which have shone a light on pressing social issues, tackling taboo subjects such as domestic violence and mental health. Janice’s participatory projects have enhanced the lives of thousands of people from all walks of life. Whether running comedy courses in old people’s residential homes, working with women on probation, or creating new theatre with Looked After young people, Janice is perceptive to people’s needs and draws out their creativity.

Responding to the news Janice Connolly said: “What a huge and fantastic honour this is, I am overwhelmed and delighted. I share this honour with all of the artists, staff, partners and participants I have had the pleasure of working with for so many years. I share it with people from across the whole community, it is their stories that inspire me and it is their voices that I strive to share. It is extremely important that the arts are available for everyone and continue to be so, they are essential and civilising. They help us makes sense of the world and make it a better place for people to live in.”

Janice has established a positive working culture at Women & Theatre. She is respected and respectful, promoting open communication and a solution-focussed philosophy. She is passionate about supporting local artists and ensuring the sustainability of new theatre in the West Midlands. Many regional artists who have worked with W&T, talk about the profound impact that working with Janice has had on their practice.

As Artistic Director, Janice has led the company to great success, creating employment for over 300 artists and arts workers, delivering over 5000 performances and workshops, engaging over 150,000 people and attracting external recognition such as winning GlaxoSmithKline’s Impact Award for excellence in community health. The fact that W&T has endured challenging funding climates whilst still creating innovative, powerful theatre, reflects Janice’s tenacity and entrepreneurial talent.