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News > Life After Hymers > She Productions

She Productions

Jessica Duffield (OH 1995-05) and Annie Kirkman (1999-07) are founding members of the theatre company
Jess and Annie in a rehearsal shot for Beverley Does Broadway, July 2022
Jess and Annie in a rehearsal shot for Beverley Does Broadway, July 2022

Two of the founding members and Co-Artistic Directors of She Productions (a collective of female-identifying theatre-makers rooted in the East Riding of Yorkshire) are Old Hymerians, Jessica Duffield and Annie Kirkman.  We spoke to them to find out more about their time at Hymers College and about setting up She Productions.

What years were you at Hymers College?

Jess: 1995-2005

Annie: 1999-2007

What did you do after leaving Hymers?

Jess: After leaving Hymers in Year 13, I went to Durham University to study French and Spanish, before making the decision to leave and go to Hull University the following year, as I was desperate to do Drama and it not only had a top course but was unique in offering the opportunity to study both French and Spanish alongside Drama. The course included a year abroad, which I spent teaching English in a French school just outside Paris. I graduated with a First Class BA Hons Degree in French and Drama, and then taught French and English for a local languages company alongside working as a part-time sales assistant for a year whilst auditioning for Drama School. I then went down to London to train as an actor at Drama Studio London.

Annie: I left Hymers after my GCSEs and went to Hurtwood House School for Sixth Form to study Theatre Studies, English and Spanish. In 2009 I had a gap year where I worked as an Entertainment Rep for Thomas Cook in Ibiza. In 2010 I was offered a place at Mountview Academy of Theatre Arts in London to study Musical Theatre where I received a First Class BA Hons in 2013.

What career path have you followed?

Jess: I am a professional actor and I also write and direct increasingly.

Alongside acting I am also a qualified Modern Languages teacher, having completed my PGCE in 2016, and I have taught Languages and Drama in secondary schools and Performing Arts companies. I have also worked as a TA in Special Schools and as a Facilitator and Director for Shakespeare Schools Foundation to deliver their Festivals.

In 2015, I was lucky enough to come back to Beverley to work on a show with a group of talented local actors, including fellow Old Hymerian, Annie Kirkman, and we decided to set up a theatre company. I have since been creating and directing shows, outreach programmes and working on the day-to-day running of the company, alongside my freelance acting work.

Annie: I have worked as a professional actor since 2013. Due to the spontaneous nature of the acting industry I have also worked as a nanny, children’s party entertainer, waitress, teacher, singer, shop assistant and a simulated patient at various medical schools. I currently work as an Engagement Officer at HEY Smile Foundation for an Arts Fund, alongside She Productions and freelance acting work.

In 2015, I was lucky to connect with a group of like-minded local creatives, including Jess, and we set up She Productions. Since then we have created new musicals, workshop programmes and even a festival!

Are you still in touch with anyone from Hymers?

Jess: Yes! I work with the amazing Annie Kirkman, and am still close with several school friends, who I see often. A couple of us have just had our first babies within months of each other too! I keep in touch with others in my year group via social media, and it’s lovely to see how everyone is doing. I am also in touch with some of the teachers who taught me during my time at Hymers.

Annie: Yes, I’m lucky enough to work closely with Jess Duffield in She Productions. I’m also part of a Dungeons and Dragons Podcast, 'Social Justice Wizards', with Kofi Smiles.  A lot of my closest friends are also Old Hymerians.

Who was your favourite teacher and why?

Jess: This is too hard to answer! I was taught by so many brilliant teachers and would like to name them all, but I will just name a few so I don’t write an essay (!)…. Starting with Mrs Duffield - for her charisma, kindness and wonderful French lessons (not to mention giving birth to me!). She has inspired and supported so many, and nothing is ever too much.

Mr King, Mr Grayson and Mrs (English) Powell, for recognising and nurturing my love of theatre, and Mrs (Spanish) Powell for her passion, support and impeccable knowledge of all things Spanish - I absolutely loved her lessons!

Annie: I couldn’t choose one! I have a few: Mr Bryan introduced me to Theatre in our year 6 play. Mrs Bushby was the first person to recognise my love of music and encouraged me to pursue it as a career from age 8. Mrs Riley taught me to sing and I will be forever grateful for her support.

What is your fondest/funniest memory of Hymers?

Jess: Many of my fondest memories were the school plays - particularly the three throughout my sixth form years - ‘The Roses of Eyam’, ‘Lady Audsley’s Secret’ and ‘As You Like It’. Getting to play Rosalind was a dream role, and she remains one of my favourite characters in a play! The front cover of The Hymerian 2004-05 has a photo from ‘As You Like It: The Musical’, directed by Neil King, with myself as Rosalind (right) and Celia (left), played by Jaqueline Fawn - we’re still in touch too!

Some of my funniest memories are from playing the flute in the orchestra - we always had a real giggle in the wind section!

Annie: My fondest memory is performing Oliver! In Year 7 when my big sister was in Year 13. Sharing the stage with her was really special and I’ll always remember it. My funniest memories are probably on the 923 bus to and from school where everything and anything could happen.

Where you in any clubs/societies/sporting teams?

Jess: I really enjoyed school sport and played first team hockey, netball, tennis and swimming - being part of a team meant a lot to me. I was also a Senior Prefect, played the flute and clarinet in the school Orchestra and Wind Band, sang in the choir and loved being in the school plays. 

Annie: I always did the school plays and I was in Chamber Choir and Wind Band. I was in the B team for hockey (occasionally) and dabbled in athletics. I think I also had a short stint in the Junior School Chess Club!

Can you tell us more about She Productions?

She Productions was founded in 2015 and is a collective of female-identifying theatre-makers rooted in Hull and the East Riding. Our mission is to engage, inspire and empower intergenerational audiences via 3 strands of work:

1. She Engages: the development and delivery of bespoke outreach programmes that use the arts to explore self-awareness, wellbeing and confidence. Each programme applies a holistic approach to engage participants through drama-based learning, and encourage the discovery of personal creative expression.

2. She Empowers: new work for adult audiences that celebrates female voices. These projects provide a unique cultural platform for Northern female artists to empower and educate local residents via comedy, music and drama. 

3. She Inspires: the creation of high-quality, low cost musicals that introduce young people and their families to theatre in a relaxed environment. Through original script, music and ‘edutainment’ (using entertainment as a vehicle for social change) we inspire younger audiences to enjoy and learn from theatre.

Thank you Jess and Annie for taking the time to tell us more about your life at Hymers and career after leaving the school.

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