Biography


Em Whitfield Brooks is a director, facilitator, choral leader, singer and songwriter. She works with professionals, amateurs and groups of all ages and abilities and across all sectors with theatre, voice and communication. Her quest is the search for personal liberation. Em can help anyone who wants to make a piece, write a song, form a group, explore their voice, communicate effectively or operate more creatively in any way.

With extensive performing experience in street theatre, straight theatre, circus and clowning, Em has also sung professionally since 1988. With a Drama degree (2:1) from Hull University, she trained at Fool Time, the National Centre for Performing Arts and Circus Skills in Bristol in 1988, where she co-devised and led its children’s workshop programme, working for two years as a clown before touring with Snapdragon Circus as tour manager/singer in 1990.

Em trained with a variety of singers and vocal explorers; from classical singing through learning live in folk clubs to the ‘total’ approach of Czech singer Ida Kelarova.  Inspired in the ‘80s by Helen Chadwick, Venice Manley, Frankie Armstrong and Cicely Berry as well voice/theatre improviser Guy Dartnell, she sung since the early ’90s in close harmony as one half of The Ruby Larks.

Em has led community choirs Ellacapella, ‘York’s first female blues choir’, 1990-’95,  Voicebox 2000-’07, Global Voices for Stephen Joseph Theatre ‘s Outreach Dept 2010 -11, the Bridlington Chorus for Opera North’s 2010 Sing Up Bridlington project, and was the first conductor in 2011 for Hull Freedom Chorus, for Hull City Arts, with whom she enjoys a regular ongoing connection. She conducted Hull Freedom Chorus at the launch of the 2017 UK City of Culture with a 150-strong performance of Caravan of Love, arranged by Tim Brooks, and has led Helmsley Community Choir since 2013.

Em was founder director of the inclusive Ryedale Festival Community Opera, which produced mainly new operas annually for 14 years and reached many thousands of people. Her educational work has included voice and performance projects for Opera North, West Yorkshire Playhouse, York Theatre Royal, Leeds College of Music, University of York, York St John’s University, Youth Music, Yorkshire Young Musicians, Music Leader and Trinity Guildhall.

 

From 2003-2011 Em worked extensively for Sage Gateshead as vocal animateur, community performance director and trainer/co-manager of the pioneering government- funded Vocal Union programme. She was part of the team bringing new ideas and approaches to workforce development, which led to her developing and leading training across the UK for Sing Up, the National Singing Programme, for which she was also Vocal Force Advisor for three years. Em appeared regularly as a trainer at numerous music education conferences across the UK, offering courses in creative approaches to singing, songwriting and vocal health.

Em directs large-scale community performance and smaller-scale professional theatre. She worked with Angus & Ross Theatre Company,  directing three of their shows on UK rural tours; Kings of Cloth of Gold  by Tony Lidington, Frankenstein Live by BAFTA nominated Tom Needham and The Mystery of Irma Vep by Charles Ludlam.

Em was Artistic Director at Helmsley Arts Centre from 2011 – 2016, where she produced and directed four pantomimes and commissioned three community plays, two of which she directed.

She works regularly as facilitator alongside a variety of renowned artists as Lead Associate with The Map Consortium.

Underpass

Em’s piece Underpass, performed by Hull Freedom Chorus at Freedom Festival 2016