Meet the team

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The Culture Forward team

Academic Director: Professor Ewan Fernie

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Ewan Fernie is Academic Director of Culture Forward.   He is Chair, Professor and Fellow of the Shakespeare Institute and Director of the lottery-funded ‘Everything to Everybody’ Project: a ground-breaking collaboration with Birmingham City Council, which is reviving Birmingham’s pioneering public Shakespeare collection – the first great Shakespeare library in the world – with the people and communities who actually own it. 

Fernie advised on the Opening Ceremony of the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games, and he believes in the City’s tersely optimistic motto: ‘Forward’.  He hopes that Culture Forward will contribute to Birmingham’s momentum and the sense of palpable excitement in the City.

Interim Academic Director: Professor Sara Jones

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Sara Jones is Interim Academic Director of Culture Forward. She is Professor of Languages, Cultures and Societies and Deputy Director of Research for the College of Arts and Law. She has significant experience of engaged research in the fields of art and culture, NGOs and education.


Abigail Rokison-Woodall

Abigail Rokison-Woodall

Abigail is Deputy Director (Education) of the Shakespeare Institute. For the past few years she has been working with the RSC on ‘Signing Shakespeare’, a project which has produced a series of resources and films for teaching Shakespeare’s Macbeth to deaf children. 

Abigail is leading the ‘Signing Shakespeare’ work for Culture Forward, working with Braidwood Trust School for the Deaf in Birmingham and the Birmingham Rep. She is also leading on the work on Culture Forward internships and embedding Culture Forward into Education.

Project Officer: Zarah Alam

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Zarah Alam is the Culture Forward Project Officer and a strong advocate for the arts and cultural sector. She has enjoyed collaborating with many organisations in previous years, including the National Literacy Trust, the Barber Institute of Fine Arts, Sampad Arts and, most recently, the Birmingham Repertory Theatre where she was Chair of the Youth Board (Nov 2021-Feb 2023).

Zarah studied English and Creative Writing at the University of Birmingham, after which she worked as a Graduate Management Trainee at the same institution, leading numerous projects across Professional Services’ departments. She is also a poet and aspiring novelist.