This summer marks my 12 year anniversary at Soho Theatre and people are often surprised to hear I’ve stayed working at one place for so long.
Growing up in South East London (shout out Bromley!) and starting to come out through school at 16, the Soho area became an escape and freedom I craved, the queer mecca I’d heard people whisper about. When I first stepped into the area, a few weeks after my 18th birthday, I felt like I’d found a place which felt more like home than anywhere I’d grown up.
“I felt like I’d discovered a place I could merge my queer identity with my creative curiosity, in a welcoming and accepting environment.”
Thanks to a bursary scheme for low-income families, I was lucky enough to be given a place to study performing arts at uni and immersed myself in the LGBT+ society, going on to become the uni rep. After graduating and moving back to London, like many people I struggled to find my feet and one day I walked my CV around to as many theatres as I could reach. After a pretty soul-destroying day, my last stop was Soho Theatre, where I was greeted by smiling faces and rainbow flags.
I’ve always been struck by how Soho Theatre attracts such a cross-section of people, from all over London and beyond. With the theatre and area deeply rooted in queer history, artists and stories, I’ve always felt a visceral connection to the building and Dean St. When I started working here, I felt like I’d discovered a place I could merge my queer identity with my creative curiosity, in a welcoming and accepting environment. I wonder how many brilliant minds aren’t thriving in their industries purely because they’re holding back from being their true selves.
Over the years I’ve been lucky enough to work alongside artists like David Hoyle, Le Gateau Chocolat, Ursula Martinez, Jonny Woo, Justin Vivian Bond, Hannah Gadsby, Penny Arcade, Panti Bliss, Mae Martin and also see the new generation evolve through the likes of Lucy McCormick, Amrou Al-Kadhi, Ross Willis, Charlie George, Pecs, Lol Word and plenty more. It’s also important to recognise the influence of artists whose Soho shows pre-dated me like Taylor Mac, Bette Bourne, Kiki and Herb, Rhona Cameron, and producers such as Tim Whitehead, part of the Soho team that from the early days has made LGBTQ+ work central to our programme and welcomed LGBTQ+ audiences.
"We usually find each term that around 30-35% of applicants identify as LGBTQ+ and it’s a real joy to see these people grow and evolve in a safe space.”
12 years on, I’m in my dream job supporting artists develop their playwriting, comedy and cabaret skills and with around 150 people coming through the programmes each term, there’s an interesting mix of people to meet. We usually find each term that around 30-35% of applicants identify as LGBTQ+ and it’s a real joy to see these people grow and evolve in a safe space. It’s empowering to see so many of our alumni go on to do brilliant things through our Soho Rising festival and elsewhere in London and beyond.
I genuinely get excited to walk through the doors each day and feel privileged to support and develop the next generation of artists taking over the UK stages. As we continue to work towards opening a new Soho Theatre building, in my local area Waltham Forest, I’m looking forward to continuing our work with LGBTQ+ communities and welcoming others into the new space.
If like me, you’re looking for a way to connect with community, check out:
See you around in Soho, I’ll be one of the many people covered in rainbows.
You can find me at @JulesMHaworth.
UK Theatre members get discounts on tickets and drinks at Soho Theatre, as well as priority reservation on booths. Click here for to find out how to claim.