Be Festival




Joseph Seelig OBE (Chair)

Joseph Seelig OBE (Chair) was born and educated in Birmingham. He is the founder and co-director of London International Mime Festival and co-founder and chair of HQ Theatres Trust. He was co-founder and director of Hetherington Seelig, an international arts management/production company presenting opera, ballet, theatre, circus and music world-wide between 1980-1994. He has been international programme director of the Hongkong Arts Festival and artistic director of the New Zealand International Festival of the Arts. He is an honorary fellow of the Royal Central School of Speech and Drama, University of London.

Andy Lavender

Andy Lavender is Vice Principal and Director of Production Arts, and Professor of Theatre & Performance at Guildhall School of Music & Drama, London. Previous posts include Head of Theatre Studies at the University of Warwick; Head of the School of Arts at the University of Surrey; and Dean of Research and Head of Postgraduate Studies at Central School of Speech & Drama.

Andy’s writing includes the monograph Performance in the Twenty-First Century: Theatres of Engagement (Routledge 2016); and a number of articles and chapters, mostly on contemporary theatre and performance across media. He is series editor of 4×45, published by Digital Theatre (online videos) and Routledge (print volumes). As a theatre director (including as artistic director of Lightwork) he has devised multimedia shows with actors, designers, movement directors and writers. Andy joined the BE Festival board in 2018.

Frances Anderson

Frances is a commercial lawyer specialising in intellectual property, technology and the creative industries, with many years of experience of advising arts and cultural organisations on legal matters, as well as serving as a non-executive director of various arts and media organisations. She has worked with a range of arts festivals, including London International Festival of Theatre, Manchester International Festival and more recently, Coventry City of Culture 2021. A consultant with VWV solicitors, she is now a trustee of the Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music, a co-opted member of the board of the Lunar Society and a Guardian of the Birmingham Assay Office.

Sophia Tarr

Originally from London, a corporate background, travelling and studying Drama and Education at The Central School of Speech & Drama, I arrived in Birmingham in 2005 as the Festivals & Initiatives Manager to lead on Birmingham City Council’s £2.1M programme called Urban Fusion where I was responsible for organising funding, producing and delivering various projects across niche music, digital, theatre and jewellery festivals along with dance, public art, contemporary art and film projects.

BE Festival was originally part of the Urban Fusion programme when this unique festival first started and later on, I subsequently became a Board Member. I am very pleased to say, I have not looked back since and still remain very excited by what BE Festival continues to bring to the UK and Europe.

After spending 5+ years at Birmingham City Council, I decided to become a Freelance Artistic Consultant, Events and Project Manager delivering projects such as Birmingham Made Me, Festival of Imagination, Jamaica in the Square, Longbridge Light Festival and many more including most recently working for BCU’s STEAMhouse programme, Google Digital Garage and Birmingham Conservatoire.

Stuart Rogers

Stuart was born and educated in Birmingham and has worked in theatre management since 1973 when he became Theatre Programmer for the Birmingham Arts Lab. He then moved on to manage the Gulbenkian Studio Theatre and Newcastle Playhouse in Newcastle upon Tyne, followed by periods as Executive Director for Chester Gateway Theatre and Nottingham Playhouse. Before returning to Birmingham in 2002 to take a post at The Rep, Stuart was based in the southern Italian city of Bari where he worked with the international touring theatre company Teatro Kismet. Since leaving The Rep in 2020 Stuart works as a feelance producer and provides consultancy to the cultural sector

In addition to managing theatres, Stuart has also undertaken a range of consultancy and training work including work for Arts Council England, The British Council, The Soros Foundation, Amsterdam Summer University, L’Université de Dijon, L’Institut Francais, NOROC, The Arab Arts Association Hackney Empire, M6 Theatre Company, Action Transport Theatre Company, Dance 4, Nuffield Theatre Southampton and The Welsh College of Dance & Drama.

James A. Cook

James joined the board in 2016 after helping with the promotional trailer film for the festival. He is a graduate of Aston University and has worked in Birmingham as a qualified accountant for many years in the public and private sectors. Currently, James is a Regional Productivity Director with the NHS.

In his spare time, James is involved in amateur dramatics, performing in musical comedies twice a year. He is passionate about giving young people the opportunity to perform on stage and develop life skills through the theatre.



Isla Aguilar

Isla’s background is in curating and for more than 10 years she worked for exhibitions in Spain. She has also worked in publishing, as a project editor and coordinator of art books for Ediciones El Viso in Madrid.

She co-founded BE FESTIVAL with Miguel and Mike in 2010. In 2009 she co-founded Madrid based touring company Mirage Teatro, and has produced all of their productions, including LÁZARO (National tour, Teatro Español, Corral de Comedias de Alcalá); Quijotadas (Teatro Español, Corral de Comedias de Alcalá, Institut Française Madrid); and Quieto todo el mundo (Matadero Madrid / Escena Contemporánea Festival). From 2010-2011, she also worked as companies coordinator with CASA Latin American Theatre Festival in London.

Isla received an MFA in Curating from Goldsmiths University of London in 2011. Previously, she graduated in History of Art at the Universidad Complutense de Madrid. Isla also completed research fellowships at the Academia de España in Rome and at Museo del Prado in Madrid, amongst others.

Miguel Oyarzun
+44 (0)780 670 4413
Miguel trained as an actor in Madrid. He then came to London where he studied physical theatre at LISPA. Stage credits in Spain include Miss Julie, The Shop Around the Corner and As You Like It. In England, he has performed for the CASA Latin-American Theatre Festival. Other stage credits include Up Side-Down, No Way Out, Pillow Talk and Babakas. He has also acted for film and TV in Spain, including Noviembre by Achero Mañas.

Miguel co-founded BE FESTIVAL in 2010 with Isla and Mike. he is artistic director of Mirage Teatro, founded in 2009 in Madrid. He co-wrote and performs in LÁZARO (National tour, Teatro Español, Corral de Comedias de Alcalá) and Quieto todo el mundo (Matadero Madrid / Escena Contemporánea Festival). In their last production Quijotadas, he wrote for and directed a group of African immigrants, drawing a parallel between their journeys to Europe and Don Quixote’s quest. Miguel combines his directing, playwright and acting career with leading theatre workshops internationally.

Sadie Newman

As the BE Festival General Manager Sadie is responsible for the development, implementation and management of the financial and operational structures and systems for BE FESTIVAL which support the directors, artistic programme and education work.

Sadie has over 15 years’ experience of working in administration and operations in the arts and cultural sector in the West Midlands, She has worked with BE since 2012, and recently, produced and toured Between The Two, her first studio work with Director Daniel Tyler. Sadie has worked at Warwick Arts Centre, Fierce! Festival Bright Space, and Creative Partnerships and The Public in West Bromwich. Sadie is a Trustee of Multistory in West Bromwich.

Sadie is a born organiser and has a history of enabling the smooth running of cultural organisational offices across the region.

Atxarte López de Munain

Atxarte graduated in Fine Arts at the Euskal Herriko Unibertsitatea and following her dance training she moved to London where she received an MA in Choreography by the LCDS after completing her Postgraduate Studies.

She has choreographed several dance pieces including K-T 83 2016, Higikaria 2009, Mobile behaviour 2007, Invisible Cities 2005. She joined the ACT FESTIVAL team in 2009 where she was the coordinator of the festival until 2015.

In 2013 she became a member of the board of ADDE (Association of Dance Professionals of the Basque Country) where she also coordinates the Online dance Works Catalogue and the Internationalization strand of the association. She collaborates with Arropaineko Arragua as member of the group developing the Project ESPAZIOA ETA GAUZAK / AZKUE IKASTOLA, where she also teaches movement.

She joined the BE FESTIVAL team in 2015 where she works as a Senior Festival Producer.

Porl Cooper

Porl brings extensive experience to the team covering some 24 years in commercial theatre, subsidised repertory venues and large scale event work (primarily in stage & event management, producing and programming) and has worked on many technically complex and very demanding productions alongside highly respected creatives, professional and community companies. Having in-depth knowledge of current practice and contemporary companies, (new & emerging /mid- career) he lead the “Developed with The Lowry” initiative and co-founded the Routes North initiative with Annabel Turpin (ARC Stockton) and Iain Bloomfield (Theatre in the Mill Bradford) – which give emerging artists support, access to networks and facilitate new partnerships while demonstrating how smaller venues can work creatively and collaboratively.

Porl is also Associate Producer with Harrogate Theatre and Programmer for EnableUS at University of Sheffield.

Jack Ratcliffe

Jacktionman (Jack Ratcliffe) is a London-based artist who specialises in mixed-reality installations that playfully explore humanity’s relationship with technology.

Notable past exhibitions and performances include the Barbican (Europe’s largest multi-arts and conference venue), the British Library and the Rich Mix.
His most notable works include Teletortoise, in which anonymous internet users were able to remotely feed, water, and illuminate turtles, and Teasmate, where participants were challenged to make cups of tea by controlling an unfriendly robotic arm.

His portfolio website is available at

Jennie Gentles

Jennie is BE Festival’s Marketing Producer and is responsible for developing the marketing and social media strategy. She has over twenty years experience of working in the arts. She values the arts and strongly believes they enhance and can make a real difference to communities and peoples lives. She’s passionate about audience development and supporting organisations to grow and diversify their audience base. She has a strong commitment to enhancing digital communications to support brand development and social engagement.

Career highlights include working in the commercial and voluntary sectors with leading organisations such as MGM, Sony, United Artists, Virgin and more recently The Drum, Watermans Arts Centre and Hoxton Hall. Added to this, she has been privileged to support a number of freelance artists to devise strategic marketing and communications plans as well as hands-on delivery of campaigns for events and festivals.   

She’s mentored a number of early career arts marketing professionals and has been a board member of the Arts Marketing Association, Bristol Old Vic and is currently Vice Chair of ACE Dance & Music.

David Martin de Juan

Professional Art Director, Branding / Digital Designer and former Creative Lead at Unruly, an award-winning London headquartered global platform for social video advertising.

A highly skilled designer and manager who never settles for anything less than the best, David’s ethical and human approach of nurturing and reassuring team members, while always managing deadlines in the best possible way, fuels the confidence that both teams and clients entrust in his work.

In addition to his qualifications in Advertising and PR BA Degree, Illustration Design and courses in other related fields, David was selected by D&AD to take part in an unique Design workshop, answering briefs for some of London’s top branding agencies, such as The Partners, AIG (Applied designs) and Iris, with a final review with Wolff Olins.

In the last 15 years he has lived in 6 countries and worked in design, art direction and advertising. Specially for tech start-up, Unruly, and fashion brands, such as Tommy Hilfiger and Bimba y Lola.

Pursuing his life-long learning goal, he has gained a Master’s Degree in Creativity and Effectiveness in Branded Content and recently joined the ADCE Art Directors Club Europe – Creative Incubator about Collective Creative Culture.