Dr Anni Domingo talks about her appointment as Chair of Theatre Peckham’s Board

Courtesy of Stuart McClymont.

Formed in 1985 by the Theatre Peckham Company, the theatre troupe would go on to found what we currently know as Theatre Peckham in 1991, it’s initial incarnation a single story building located next to the Peckham Town Hall. Fast Forward to 2014 whereby the company would relocate to the 2nd floor of Peckham Library before settling on Havil Street in 2016, its focus of reflecting the lives of its local community a through-line that to this day powers what they do. With a continued commitment to further its reach, both on a local and wider scale, Theatre Peckham have recently announced a new appointment to their board, Dr Anni Domingo bringing with her a wealth of experience in the fields of academia, law and the arts. Having recently had their first board meeting, Anni reflects on what needs to be done to achieve the venue’s aims of reaching wider audiences!

Hi Anni, you’ve recently been announced as Theatre Peckham’s new chair, how are you feeling about the appointment?

I’m excited about it! It’s a new venture, so you’re not apprehensive, but just aware that there are things to be done, and from the people I’ve spoken to there seems to be a lot of support and that’s very good. I’m looking forward to it!

What drew you to want to work with Theatre Peckham further?

I don’t live in Peckham anymore, but I used to live in Camberwell, and then Brixton years ago. That area of South London is where I’m used to, I used to work around there and go to theatres and I think it’s really important that we have local theatres – that people don’t always have to take themselves to the West End to see something good! I like the fact that they work a lot with young people, I’ve worked with young people all my life and I like to see how children can be involved. It doesn’t all have to be active, but it gives them confidence, it gives them an awareness of themselves, an empathy for others and it gives them something constructive to do. Not everyone can play an instrument or be a dancer, but everybody can enjoy, especially the young children, being together, playing games, building something together. I’m extremely proud of what they do.

You will further strengthen Theatre Peckham’s reputation as one of London’s leading community-led theatres and Learning Academies and will work closely with the organisation’s CEO/Artistic Director Suzann McLean and trustees; Allyson Devenish, Aurea Garrido, Christopher Haydon, David Richards, Endy McKay, Natasha Brown, Rebecca Preston and Simon Manyonda. What will this collaborative process entail?

I’m only just starting, with each new person, you have to find your own style. So already, I’ve been talking to several people and we’ve been sharing ideas. We have had our first board meeting.  Of course, because of the pandemic and everything, I hadn’t met everyone, although I had spoken to them on Zoom and so on. It was good to have our first face to face where the interaction was more immediate, all together in one place. The theatre is not just us, but it is also for the people who live around Peckham, the people we want to serve. Together, we can find out how to strengthen our reputation because things change. A whole lot of things have changed since the pandemic so we’re all finding new ways, and part of that is through consultation, through talking. Not just talking, but talking and listening, and hopefully this is what we’re going to be able to do!

I’m really looking forward to seeing how we can make Theatre Peckham more forward in people’s thoughts about going to the theatre. It’s at a slight disadvantage in as that the underground isn’t close to it – like you have with the Young Vic or the Bush Theatre or some of these other theatres but it doesn’t mean that it isn’t impossible to get to it. So, what we need to do is, and one of the things I’m looking forward to promoting is for people to realise that they can get to it, it’s not out in the sticks! Peckham is quite central in the scheme of things if you think of London as a whole.  To start getting more people to seek out their local theatre rather than something they’d go to just for the pantomime – it’s got to be something that they are able to come to all the year round, and that comes from the kind of plays that we put on and the other things we put on. Bringing different people into the venue, not just to go sit in the auditorium, but for them to be involved. Make it somewhere where they don’t feel like the outsiders, they feel that they can be part of the space.

You’re currently a board member of various other boards and panels, and bring with you a wealth of experience as an actor, director, author and Shakespeare scholar. What so far have you taken away from your time as a board member?

With Theatre Peckham, I’ve only just started, and we haven’t had this close collaboration that will come with seeing people regularly and so on. As a board member, I think one of the things I bring to a board is the fact that I can listen, I can look at reports, I can get the main points quickly out of it and we can together, find a way forward. That we don’t stagnate, that we don’t rest on our laurels.

I was a magistrate for 20 years and was chair of the family court, chair of the crime court, as well as being on adoption boards and fostering panels. So, I’ve got a variety of different types of boards I’ve been on and it’s good to take from each of them and see what you can bring to it. All those things are dealing with people and making sure they’re getting the best out of their situation, whether it’s in court or a child that’s had to be adopted or children who want to join the theatre or whatever it is, it’s a service, being a member of the board to serve the community.

What are your hopes for the venue moving forward?

That when you go into it you’ll see a variety of people, that it’s multi-cultural, it’s not just going to be white or black, it’s going to be a mixture. We’re all understating each other much better by the different types of shows seen. Empathy and understanding is one of the things I want most from the theatre. I want people to, when they walk past, feel that they can pop in for a cup of tea or come in and say what’s going on? What can I do? How can I do something? Supporting the theatre isn’t always just giving money, even if it’s just sitting there and having a cup of tea or something, so that people see it being used and that it’s not an empty space.

Interview by Lucy Basaba.

To find out more about Theatre Peckham, visit here…

Written by Theatrefullstop