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Mary Swan, International Women’s Day 2019

08 March 2019

As part of International Women's Day and to kick start our Basing Folk campaign, we spoke to influential women from around Basingstoke Town Centre. One of these was Mary Swan, Artistic Director and Cheif Executive at Proteus Theatre Company.

What is your current role?

Artistic Director and Chief Executive at Proteus.


What is the most interesting part of your role?

There is little that isn’t interesting about the role! Meeting artists and making the performance work, but also providing people with a first encounter to the arts with our “Under 5 Intro To The Arts”.


What is the most vivid memory of working at Proteus?

No one moment sticks out- that is what’s great about this job. I feel like I’ve only been doing it for a few years, not 13! I can recall moving into the new building we’re in now, and getting to host artists in a real community space. We’ve taken shows to New York and the West End but you always remember the reaction of 20 people in a village hall. We took a piece called “Missing in Action” that focused on PTSD, to Salisbury, which has a strong military community. At the end of the show, we had a gentleman stand up and start to share his experience of PTSD with the group. This continued for the next 2 hours, with the audience members sharing their own experiences. This was a moment that really meant something, and you felt you were making a real difference in someone’s life.


What are the challenges for women in your role?

It’s always challenging to not be taken with a weighted consideration. The arts are still a very male dominated field, which I think surprises some people. My own journey, especially being working class, was not as straightforward as people would expect; as a woman you have to bring 25% more into the room. In addition, it can be a challenge being an older woman in this field, even being a woman over 40 is difficult. That’s why Olivia Coleman winning an Oscar is so important! It makes people realise there are roles for the older actresses. The “Me Too” movement has started to confront some of these challenges, as women feel free to speak truth to power.


What advice would you give to young women starting their career?

Don’t allow yourself to be undervalued. Women are taught to be “pleasers” but don’t be afraid to disrupt. I think it’s also important to find a female mentor. I worked with a female Art Director when I was younger, to see her command and take up that space in the room, gave me the confidence to go on and do it myself.


Read more of the interviews with influential women from Basingstoke Town Centre here. 

This series is the start of a wider new promotion for 2019 called “Basing Folk”. This will showcase people from across the town centre that help make Basingstoke a great place to work, visit, shop and be a part of. Future features will include members of the community, young people in Basingstoke, long-standing residents, workers and business owners along with various other topics.