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Meet the Faculty

Theatre and Teaching with Passion and Soul

Dr. Yvonne Weekes from the Errol Barrow Centre for Creative Imagination is that unique combination of highly trained teacher and master craftswoman. 

Possessing a PhD in Education, alongside an undergraduate degree in Drama and a post graduate diploma in Arts and Cultural Enterprise Management (with distinction) Dr. Weekes is an acclaimed actress, writer, director, producer intent on creating learning environments that make for life changing experiences.
 
Dr. Weekes brings to her students the passion of an artist and the soul of a teacher.  She notes that she gets the greatest pleasure from seeing her students transition from from fledglings to polished performers; caterpillars into butterflies.  It is a process of which she never tires. Indeed, one of her greatest compliments is that of a colleague who observed, that she makes her students “seem so amazing in a couple of years.” 

The excellence of her protégés continues to be recognised by the trade.  One of the premier theatrical productions in the Caribbean region is the long-standing Barbadian show known as Laff it Off, and in 2017,  a whopping five of Dr. Weekes’ students were part of the cast for this show. Moreover, the show’s Executive Director took the opportunity to publicly commend her contribution to the development of regional talent.

The Journey to Barbados
Dr. Weekes’ journey to Barbados is itself the stuff that theatre is made of – adventure, struggle, tenacity, a living out of ideals and a myriad of achievements.

Born to Montserratian parents in England, she qualified in Drama and English at Middlesex University before embarking on her career as an actress.  The opportunity to tour London for around six months in a play called Amazulu arose, followed by a stint with a group known as the Black Audio Film Collective where she served as narrator for the critically acclaimed documentary entitled ‘Handsworth Songs’.  Written by John Akomfrah, ‘Handsworth Songs’ was commissioned by British television, Channel 4 to capture the 1985 riots that occurred in London and Handsworth.  Its gritty reflections on the racism faced by British minorities brought several international awards including the John Grierson Award for Best Documentary.

Perhaps the most courageous step taken by Dr. Weekes during these early years in her acting career was the writing, production and staging of a one woman play which explored the issues associated with being British, black and female.

Having partially completed part of her secondary education in Montserrat, Dr. Weekes always knew that she would one day return and so she did.   On taking up permanent residence in Montserrat, this pioneering spirit founded Rainbow Theatre Company, and produced plays which were staged as far as St. Thomas USVI, Trinidad and Nevis. 

Just when Dr. Weekes had settled into making a contribution to the regional development of theatre arts from her island base, the Soufriere Volcano erupted in 1995. It spewed lava and hot ash into the air and changed Montserrat’s history and young playwright’s life forever.  
Instead of returning to the land of her birth, Dr. Weekes once again ventured into parts unknown by moving to Barbados. 

She describes herself in this period as ‘someone who had lost everything to a natural disaster and had to find a way to make her talents work’. The move precipitated an exploration of all aspects of her creative calling through writing, directing documentaries and incorporating humour, music and dance into education pieces for organisations such as the AIDS Foundation of Barbados, the Ministry of Labour and the Public Affairs Section of the United States Embassy.  

Volcano                 
The Monserrat experience was also the source of an outstanding and powerful creative piece called “Volcano” which began as a poem and ended as a published memoir. “It’s amazing to me that I wrote that first for therapy and not for publication, yet I have done a lot of readings in Trinidad, Antigua, London, the US, Barbados and it always amazes me that someone would meet me and say, I read your book “Volcano” and it really helped me to get over a crisis, it really helped me to deal with my own trauma.” The book, which won the Frank Collymore Literary Award in 2005 is the number one selling text for the publisher Peepal Tree Press.   
                   

Book cover of Volcano: A memoir by Yvonne Weekes
However, perhaps the greatest validation of this literary expression has been its adoption as a text for disaster writing courses in several universities across the globe. Apart from “Volcano” Dr. Weekes has also written a full-length play entitled ‘Blue Soap’ and this is published in an anthology of Caribbean female playwrights called Emancipation Moments.


Research Infused Theatre Production 
Since becoming a lecturer at the Errol Barrow Centre at Cave Hill, Dr. Weekes has made a point of ensuring that her creative work and that of her students is infused with ethnographic research into the social issues being explored. 

This commitment to research ensures that the final product captures lived reality and has the best chance of being a conduit for social change. She speaks of the recent production entitled ‘Unzipped’, which emerged out of themes derived from ad verbatim transcriptions of multiple interviews with ‘real people’ who had experienced violence at the hand of a significant other.  
Given this attention to detail, it is no surprise that her student productions have been well received by local audiences.  She recalls going on-line the morning after the wrap up of ‘Unzipped’ to view comments asking for an extension of the drama.  ‘Unzipped’ also proved to be an emotional and life changing journey for the students who worked alongside Dr. Weekes on the project, since she settled for no less than 110% on their part.

With her higher degrees in education, Dr. Weekes also pursues a stream of academic educational research, in particular the role of student voice, leadership and engagement in the achievement of educational change.
 
The Joyful Grandmother
Dr. Weekes commitment to the advancement of the arts is undeniable.  But who is she apart from her work at the Errol Barrow Centre ? Her response is simple: “What I will say is that I am interested in all of the arts. Though theatre is my work; it is also my play and I delight in having the opportunity to attend plays and performances when I travel.  I am always redefining myself, and right now, to be honest, my greatest joy is being a grandmother of two.”   It is no surprise that she has already began a collection of poems portraying the life of a Caribbean grandmother as part of a new creative manuscript. After all, Dr. Weekes is firmly committed to displaying who she is through what she does.
 


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