A Winner’s Tale

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LAST year’s Inspire Awards ‘Woman of the Year’ Elizabeth Newman, the creative director of Bolton’s celebrated Octagon Theatre, is well placed to reflect on the importance of our event. Now on the judging panel for our 2018 ceremony, she tells us what the awards mean to her, who she hopes to recognise come May and why it’s important for Bolton to back our new-look awards.

IN the ten short years theatre director Elizabeth Newman has lived in Bolton, she’s achieved an extraordinary amount for one so young.

The 31-year-old has channelled her remarkable drive and determination to affect change in the town she now calls “one of the great loves of my life.” Since taking the helm of Bolton’s unique playhouse she has delivered acclaimed productions to sell-out crowds who revelled in her visions for To Kill a Mocking Bird and Singing in the Rain – both of which received Manchester Theatre Awards.
But she considers her work to engage the diverse community of Bolton in less conventional theatre work, ensuring her workplace is “there for every person in the town”, equal in success to those better known stage productions. It is that initiative for equality and accessibility that made her such a worthy winner of our most coveted honour last year.
Sitting in the round of ‘The Octagon’, she reflected on the importance she has come to place on the awards. “They are about women in the town being inspired to dedicate themselves to Bolton and its people,” she said.

“They encourage women to be as active as possible in their community, but also recognise the work done by women who try to make things better for their town and the people of that town. It is vital that we continue to celebrate these amazing women.”

Despite a busy calendar London-born Elizabeth didn’t hesitate in taking a role on the 2018 Inspire Awards judging panel, describing the task as “an absolute privilege.”

Asked how she’ll approach the responsibility, she explained: “I’m going to look for women who have used unorthodox mechanisms to support people, who haven’t necessarily followed the way others say it should be done but have found new and better ways to contribute. I also want to find women who have gone above and beyond the call of duty, especially those who have gone unnoticed.”

She added: “I feel lucky to be able to read first hand all the great work being done by these amazing women in supporting their communities.”

Ms. Newman arrived at last year’s event expecting to give an award, not receive one. Her colleagues kept her true fate secret from her. And recalling the moment she was announced as ‘Woman of the Year’, she said: “I was in such a state of shock, I couldn’t really believe it. I’ve been in Bolton for ten years now, sort of plugging away, trying to do my best for the town. It was such a privilege to be even considered in that way. It made me stop to pause and think about all that had been done. It was an incredibly humbling moment.”

And now with greater insight and understanding of what it means to receive an Inspire Awards, her support for next year’s event is palpable.

In a clarion call to sponsors, she said: “Sponsors play an important part in encouraging women to carry on doing their great work. I think it’s important for businesses in Bolton to celebrate the great things that happen and get done in Bolton, and we need moments when we say, ‘look guys, we’re doing a good job, everyone is trying really hard for the town and it is working.’ The Inspire Awards do just that.”

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