Theatre in Wales

Theatre, dance and performance reviews

An Inspirational and Charismatic Leader

In Memory

Sybil Crouch Remembered , The Arts of Wales , January-28-20
In Memory by Sybil Crouch Remembered The loss of Sybil Crouch so early in the new year brought a flood of condolence onto social media. The expressions were universally of deep affection and admiration.

Jenny White wrote a full account of the life and career for the Western Mail. The paper also invited tributes from across an extensive span of contributors. The contributors crossed the twin domains of arts and politics. From those from the arts who paid tribute these are a selection.

From fellow producers. Geoff Cripps:

“Sybil was an inspirational and charismatic leader for the Taliesin Arts Centre but she was always concerned with the theatres and arts centres across Wales and how they all might best achieve their potential.

“She was our chair of the Dance Consortium- which led to exciting and innovative programming across the country- and more recently she was my predecessor as chair. [Creu Cymru].

“In that role she brought all of her considerable skills and consummate professionalism but always with the occasional sense of humour. It was an honour to know her and work with her.”

Deborah Keyser:

“Her energy, tenacity and creativity were all outstanding, and I learned a great deal from her unflinching determination to enable and support artists. Later on I worked for Creu Cymru. Throughout my 11 years at the organisation she was a constant supporter and champion, both of the sector (particularly the smaller and less well-funded venues) and, personally, of me.”

From a colleague Nia Mills:

“I feel incredibly lucky to have worked for and with her for more than fifteen years Sybil led her team with boldness and conviction but also with a big heart.”

On outreach and support for young people. Julia Hobday:

“Sybil has been a huge supporter, over a number of years, of the West Glamorgan Youth Theatre and its sister youth company, County Youth Dance Company. The work of both companies has benefited considerably as a result of the relationship developed with her and her team at the Taliesin Arts Centre. As a result many young people of Swansea and surrounding areas to work with many exciting professional companies.”

On the skill. Keith Turnbull:

“Sybil deceived us all by making it all look incredibly obvious and easy. By so doing she “got away with” making a priceless contribution to life in Swansea and all of Wales and in the process helped sustain and expand Wales' cultural reputation abroad.”

As with many in the arts of Wales the paths of Sybil and myself crossed at times. It was not with any frequency but I always enjoyed the fresh and frank company. The last occasion I can pinpoint in time quite precisely. A holiday at any time of the year means that something will be missed. I was at Taliesin in the autumn of 2017 and told Sybil that I was sorry to have missed “Nawr yr Arwr”. It was manifestly a work of boldness and ambition.

Sybil, taking a coffee break from a busy work schedule, did not do blandness. As a venue director she was sharp that day on the dearth of strong touring work for audiences in Swansea and further afield. She had small time for the performance policies and priorities of the time. Before she returned to her office she showed me Taliesin's erstwhile gallery space. It was an empty, a couple of cardboard boxes apart.

Sybil features over my own writings in the last dozen years. I edited for this site a summary of reactions to the Marc Rees-Eddie Ladd collaboration in 2017. (The Guardian's opera critic: “This immense piece of immersive, promenade-style theatre.”) My most recent mention appeared last year, 12th April, in an article headed “Some Nuggets in Critic Archaeology”.

It reads: “Sybil Crouch's tenure at Taliesin, and Swansea as a whole, has been broadly under-reported and under-appreciated.”

Prior to that I reported on her appearance in Cardiff Bay for the CWLCC enquiry into arts funding. From the report October 18th 2017:

“Sybil Crouch speaks of the motivation for working in the arts and the basic nature of new work...Public subsidy is there for a legacy of lasting achievement citing “Pink Mist” with Andy Eagle adding “Sugar Baby”...Sybil Crouch on the achievement of Mid Glamorgan Youth Theatre, the greatest incubator of actors in the world, financed by local authority. While the enquiry is about organisations Crouch refers to the very low incomes that go to artists with composer John Metcalfe cited.”

In May 2012 my coverage of the magnificent Frantic Assembly & National Theatre of Wales collaboration included: “Sybil Crouch contributes a crisp background note for the programme. It contains a line of self-deprecation.” I spoke later with her about it and repeated that the self-deprecation was not warranted. Wales has no shortage of acting, singing, dancing talent. Great women and men offstage who make it happen are just as crucial in making a culture vital.

For last words, to the artists themselves. John Metcalf:

“Sybil was a delight to work with, utterly focussed and determined, at once astute and warm-hearted. What was remarkable about her was not only her commitment to innovative work of the highest standard, but the connecting of all parts of the communities she served.”

Marc Rees was also a contributor for the Western Mail. He covered “Iddo Ef”, “Adain Avion” and “Now the Hero” and remembered the time in Cardiff.

“She originated and established the Creative Wales Award which is still running 15 years on. This enabled more than 200 Welsh and Wales-based artists from all disciplines to reflect, experiment and develop their work.”

On social media Rees wrote:

“For over 25 years she has helped shaped who I am as an artist , without her I would be nothing. Diolch o galon am pob peth Queen Sybs. Am byth.”

Selections, with thanks, from the print edition of the paper. No online access.

Reviewed by: Adam Somerset

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