Meet the Traverse's new artistic leadership team and board members

News 13 Nov 2019

The Traverse Theatre today announces the successful candidates who will join the organisation’s artistic and producing team following an extensive recruitment process. The appointments form part of a new leadership structure to evolve the organisation’s position as a leading voice for the arts in Scotland and beyond.

Gareth Nicholls – previously the organisation’s Associate Director and Interim Artistic Director – becomes Co-Artistic Director of the Traverse Theatre Company, in partnership with director Debbie Hannan, who was born and raised in Edinburgh and joins the organisation fresh from her recent success directing the National Theatre of Scotland’s acclaimed stage adaptation of Jenni Fagan’s The Panopticon.

Lesley Anne Rose will join the Traverse as Director of Creative Development, working with both Gareth and Debbie to develop new pathways for the most exciting new voices in Scotland and further afield, to create crucial and exciting new work for the Traverse’s stages. Alongside this position, she will continue her work as an appointed Embedded Artist working with Creative Carbon Scotland and Climate Ready Clyde.

Lesley Anne will be supported in her role as Director of Creative Development by Sunniva Ramsay – currently the Traverse’s Creative Producer – as Senior Producer, Creative Development. Eleanor White – currently the organisation’s Literary Assistant – becomes Literary Associate.

The new team members will be active in their positions from early 2020.

Alongside these new leadership positions, the Traverse is thrilled to introduce its three newest Board members – Rebecca O’Brien, who has enjoyed a successful career as an independent film producer who has worked on many of Ken Loach’s acclaimed films; award-winning writer and theatremaker Kieran Hurley, who wrote the Traverse’s recent smash hit production of Mouthpiece and the British Independent Film Award nominee BEATS; and Bryony Shanahan, Joint Artistic Director of the Royal Exchange Theatre in Manchester.

They join current board members former Permanent Secretary of the Scottish Parliament and Chairman of Edinburgh Airport Sir John Elvidge (Chair), Sponsorship and Development Director of the Edinburgh International Festival Christopher Wynn, Arts Consultant Morag Ballantyne, Director and Chief Executive of Manchester’s HOME and Director of Culture for Manchester City Council Dave Moutrey, Blackadders’ Legal Partner (specializing in Employment Law) Donna Reynolds, and former president of the Chartered Institute of Management Accountants (CIMA) Myriam Madden.

The Traverse will also open applications early in 2020 for additional board positions to provide additional support and consultation in evolving the organisation’s work in the areas of digital, artistic and audience diversity. More details of this recruitment will be forthcoming.

Linda Crooks, Executive Producer says:

“The Traverse Theatre is absolutely delighted to welcome such exciting new additions to our leadership team. Gareth, Debbie and Lesley Anne will join a passionate, talented and driven team and help propel us into the next phase of our evolution, representing new voices and stories on stage and reaching new eyes and ears in audiences. We look forward to the innovative, important and entertaining work we know they will discover, develop and present in collaboration with the other members of the artistic and producing team.

We are additionally thrilled to have such inspiring new Board members in Rebecca O’Brien, Kieran Hurley and Bryony Shanahan. They join us at a pivotal moment and their collective insight, experience and counsel will be crucial in supporting the wider team in achieving its many ambitions in upcoming years.”

Sir John Elvidge, Chair of the Traverse Theatre Board says:

“This is an important and extremely exciting moment for the Traverse, as it moves forward with a more dynamic and sustainable business model to better realise its vision to deliver excellent and challenging work to audiences at home and across the world. These additions to the leadership team and Board speak to the organisation’s ambitions to nurture stories from unheard voices and continue to break new ground with the plays we produce.

We welcome our new colleagues and the valuable contributions they will make in widening the Traverse’s engagement with artists and audiences beyond our building’s walls. Together we will continue to break down barriers and boundaries in everything we do. Sharing stories and experiences may never have been so important as they are now, and we are eager to represent as many of them as we can to curious and enthusiastic audiences.”

Gareth Nicholls says:

“It’s a thrilling time to be at the Traverse and I’m honoured to be continuing my work here alongside Debbie, Lesley Anne and the rest of the brilliant team at the Traverse. Scotland is blessed with an abundance of passionate writers telling vital stories and I’m looking forward to working with them to create entertaining, dynamic and ambitious new work that places audiences at their heart. I can’t wait to get started.”

Debbie Hannan says:

"I am thrilled to be returning to my home-town to join such a brilliant and ambitious team who are transforming theatre from the inside out. The Traverse’s adventurous and inherently democratic mission to deliver new stories and expand their audiences encourages a widening where the world is currently narrowing: it is rooted in the kind of radicalism that Scotland does best – bold, brilliant, inclusive, in a voice of our own.

I first came to the Traverse as a local kid on a school trip, and heard working class characters speaking in my accent on stage for the first time. I knew then that my voice was valid, that the stage wasn’t an exclusive space. We will bring this experience to a whole new range of people, as we go beyond the building to expand who tells and experiences our stories."

Lesley Anne Rose says:

“It’s a privilege and a pleasure to be joining the Traverse at such a pivotal and exciting time for the organisation. The Traverse offered me my first job in Scottish theatre when I moved here ten years ago and forms an important and formative part of my past. I look forward to being part of its future and discovering the as yet unknown voices and untold stories which will be brought to vibrant life on its Edinburgh stages and far beyond.”


Gareth Nicholls
Co-Artistic Director, Traverse Theatre Company

Gareth joined the Traverse in May 2017 as its Associate Director before becoming the Interim Artistic Director in late 2018. For the Traverse Theatre Company he has directed Crocodile Fever by Meghan Tyler, the award-winning Ulster American by David Ireland as well as the world premieres of Gary McNair’s Letters to Morrissey, Morna Pearson’s How To Disappear, Clare Duffy’s Arctic Oil and Oliver Emanuel’s The Monstrous Heart – a co-production with The Stephen Joseph Theatre.

Previously he held the post of Citizens Theatre’s Main Stage Director in Residence (2014-16), where his shows included Into That Darkness, Vanya, Blackbird and a sell-out production of Irvine Welsh’s Trainspotting.

Other directing credits include: The Scottish Premiere of Yasmina Reza’s God of Carnage and Under Milk Wood by Dylan Thomas (Tron Theatre); Donald Robertson Is Not A Stand-Up Comedian, A Gambler’s Guide To Dying by Gary McNair (Show & Tell); Voices From The Black That I Am by Karl O’Brian Williams, Moby Dick by Herman Melville and Prom by Oliver Emanuel (A Play, A Pie and Pint, Òran Mór); Educating Ronnie by Joe Douglas (Utter/High Tide); The Little Boy That Santa Claus Forgot (Macrobert Arts Centre); The Tin Forest South West (National Theatre of Scotland); Tis Pity She’s A Whore, Coriolanus, and The Burial At Thebes (Royal Conservatoire of Scotland).

His Traverse Festival production Ulster American won several awards including the Carol Tambor Best of Edinburgh Award 2018. It went on to tour internationally and gained three Critics’ Awards for Theatre in Scotland in 2019 – Best New Play, Best Female Performance and Best Production.

Gareth has also won four Fringe First awards (Ulster American, Letters to Morrissey, Educating Ronnie and A Gambler’s Guide To Dying), a BroadwayWorld award (Crocodile Fever) and a Scottish Arts Club Award (Donald Robertson Is Not A Stand-Up Comedian).

Debbie Hannan
Co-Artistic Director, Traverse Theatre Company

Debbie directs new writing and makes new work. She trained in directing at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland and was Trainee Director at the Royal Court Theatre, London.

Theatre credits include: The Panopticon (National Theatre of Scotland); Cuckoo (Soho Theatre); Pah-La, Who Cares, Primetime (Royal Court); Things of Dry Hours (Young Vic); The Ugly One (Tron Theatre); Lot and His God, Notes from the Underground (Citizens Theatre); PANORAMA (Arches); Girl Meets Boy (developed with The Yard and National Theatre of Scotland); Latir (Compania Nacional de Mexico), The Wonderful World of Dissocia (RCS), Pandora (Etch, Pleasance), Conspiracy (Royal Welsh College/Gate Theatre); SHAME: A DOUBLE BILL (Bang Bang Bang Group); The Monica Lewinsky Project (MGC Futures); Nights at the Circus (Paradok).

Credits as assistant include: The Maids, Sleeping Beauty (Citizens); Enquirer, A Doll’s House (National Theatre of Scotland); The Nether, Teh Internet is Serious Business (Royal Court); A Pacifist’s Guide to the War On Cancer (Complicite). As associate, credits include Our Ladies of Perpetual Succour (West End), Constellations (West End) and Little on the Inside (Clean Break).

Debbie is an alumnus of Holy Rood High School.

Lesley Anne Rose
Director of Creative Development

Lesley Anne has worked in the cultural sector across various regions of the UK for over two decades. Most recently as Head of Artistic Development at Aberdeen Performing Arts where, as part of the organisation’s Leadership Team, she led on produced and commissioned work, talent development, creative learning and community engagement as well as playing a key role in the strategic development and management of the company.

She has recently been appointed Embedded Artist working with Creative Carbon Scotland and Climate Ready Clyde – a position she will continue whilst working with the Traverse Theatre.

Lesley Anne is Fellow of the Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce, a member of Scottish Pen – a not-for-profit organisation which champions freedom of speech and literature across borders – and sits on the Board of Directors of Magnetic North Theatre Productions.

Rebecca O'Brien
New Traverse Theatre Board member

Rebecca is a BAFTA-winning film producer, known especially for her work with Ken Loach. Together with Loach and scriptwriter Paul Laverty, she runs the production company Sixteen Films, formed in 2002. The trio received an ‘Outstanding Contribution’ award from BAFTA Scotland in November 2016.

Her career began in theatre and children's television, and her early cinema work includes My Beautiful Laundrette (1985), on which she was location manager, and Bean (1997), which she co-produced.

She was co-producer on Loach's Hidden Agenda (1990) and sole producer on Land and Freedom (1995) and many of his subsequent films, two of which, The Wind That Shakes the Barley (2006) and I, Daniel Blake (2016) received the Palme d'Or at the Cannes Film Festival. Laverty, Loach and O'Brien won the 2017 BAFTA Award for Outstanding British Film, for I, Daniel Blake. Their most recent collaboration Sorry We Missed You is currently on general release.

Rebecca has served as a member on the boards of the UK Film Council, until that body's dissolution in 2010; the UK Film Industry Training Board; PACT, the trade body for independent film production companies in the United Kingdom, and of the European Film Academy. She is currently a board member of the British Screen Advisory Council.

Kieran Hurley
New Traverse Theatre Board member

Kieran is an award-winning playwright, performer and theatremaker, writing across stage, radio, TV and film.

He has twice won the Critics’ Awards for Theatre in Scotland (CATS) ‘Best New Play’ award, in 2012 for Beats and again in 2017 for Heads Up. Kieran has also been awarded two Scotsman Fringe First Awards, for Square Go, co-written with Gary McNair, and Heads Up, in which he also performed. Beats was adapted – with co-writer and director Brian Welsh, and Exec Produced by Steven Soderbergh – into a feature film, which premiered at the 2019 Glasgow International Film Festival. Kieran has been nominated for the Debut Screenwriter award at the 2019 British Independent Film Awards for his work on Beats.

Mouthpiece, Kieran’s first commission for the Traverse, premiered at the theatre in 2018, before a successful transfer to the Soho Theatre and subsequent re-mount for a sell-out run during Traverse Festival 2019, which won the coveted Carol Tambor Best of Edinburgh Award and will tour to Adelaide and Auckland in March 2020.

Kieran is an alumnus of Holy Rood High School.

Bryony Shanahan
New Traverse Theatre Board member

Bryony is the Joint Artistic Director of the Royal Exchange Theatre, Manchester. She won the Genesis Future Directors award and directed Trade at the Young Vic in 2016.

Directing credits include: Queens of the Coal Age (Royal Exchange Theatre and New Vic Theatre); Chicken Soup (Sheffield Crucible Theatre); Operation Crucible (Finborough Theatre/Sheffield Crucible Theatre/59E59 Theaters, New York); Weald (Finborough Theatre in association with the Royal Exchange Theatre); Bitch Boxer (Soho Theatre/Adelaide Fringe); Boys Will Be Boys (National Theatre as part of Women Centre Stage Festival); You and Me (Greenwich Theatre) and Nothing (Royal Exchange Theatre), winner of the Youth Panel Award at the Manchester Theatre Awards 2017.

Bryony directed the Traverse Theatre’s Scotsman Fringe First Award Winning production of Enough, by Stef Smith, for Traverse Festival 2019.