My Development As An Artistic Leader


Ben Wilson, a white man, with short blonde hair and a beard. He wears a floral shirt and talks mid-sentence.


Amazingly, I am at the halfway point of my time as Trainee Artistic Director with Extant, but I am not sure how this has happened. The past seven and half months have flown by, but in other ways it feels like I have been at Extant forever.

An undoubted highlight of my time has been widening my network of VI artists. Collaborating with fellow VIPs is my favourite thing to do and Extant has brought me into contact with many brilliant, like-minded creatives. My heart is full because of that.

Prior to joining Extant, I’d spent most of my career working in mainstream non-disabled lead organisations, where I felt like the exception, the odd one out. There has been a weight lifted off my shoulders working for Extant – an organisation that is completely inclusive of and celebrates the brilliance of visually impaired people.

However, there have also been plenty of challenges along the way and moving to a smaller and less well-resourced organisation (but whose ambition is equally big) has taught me a lot.

There is a joyousness at the nimble, fleet footedness of smaller organisations that is very liberating. I was gobsmacked in my first week at Extant when, at a team meeting, someone came up with an idea and by the end of the day it was done. At previous, bigger institutions this would’ve taken months. Having to check in with seven different departments and four different senior managers before even having a meeting about the possibility of discussing the project in the future.

However, this agility comes at the expense of resources and human capacity, with our small and committed team often being stretched. It is frustrating when Extant hits the limits of its resources because we all passionately care about the mission and aims. I am energised by fighting for change on behalf of VI people in the theatre industry and wish we could achieve all the things we want to achieve.

I can’t tell you how useful it is for my development as an artistic leader to spend day in day out being a part of and observing the daily operations of a company like Extant. I’m definitely someone who learns by doing and you can have as many conversations as you like about how an organisation functions, but you’ll never really understand till you are on the ground writing funding applications, reporting back to partners, rewriting HR policies and creating marketing and communication strategies.

The recent Unseen audio drama and getting to be the artistic lead on that project has been a real treat. I am very proud of the finished product and all the hard work and many brilliant artists whose ideas have gone into that project. Unseen is exactly the sort of work I want to be making. It’s been fascinating to be a part of Extant Evolve with all the discussions about the future of the organisation and the team have gotten used to my big gob and many opinions on the subject matter. Hopefully, I haven’t annoyed them too much on this front.

Working with the team on a day-to-day basis has taught me so much, but in the second half of my time as TAD I feel the need to be a little bit more selfish. There’s so much external training that excites me and I have an artistic project to get cracking with. I hope to bring together the contacts and relationships I have built in my previous work in mainstream, regional venues and the skills and experience of Extant to create an exciting piece of theatre and collaborate with more brilliant VI artists in the process.

Ben Wilson, Trainee Artistic Director

March 2024

Extant will begin the recruitment process for our next Trainee Artistic Director in May 2024. We’ll be hosting a series of online meet the team sessions over the summer to hear more about the role and offer a chance for any potential applicants to ask questions.

Closing date for applications will be in August 2024, followed by interviews. The new Trainee Artistic Director will start on 2nd December 2024.

Stay up-to-date, join our mailing list

We only send occasional emails and you can easily unsubscribe. For more information, see our privacy policy