MBE for inspirational youth theatre director at Chichester Festival Theatre

Dale Rooks at Chichester Festival Theatre (contributed pic)Dale Rooks at Chichester Festival Theatre (contributed pic)
Dale Rooks at Chichester Festival Theatre (contributed pic)
One of the most inspirational figures at Chichester Festival Theatre has been celebrated in the King’s Birthday Honours.

Dale Rooks, the CFT’s director of learning education and participation and the director of numerous Chichester Festival Youth Theatre shows over the years, has been made a Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE) for services to theatre and to young people.

“To be honest I can't quite take it in. It's definitely the biggest surprise in my life but I am absolutely thrilled. But the point is that it is not just for me. It's recognition of the importance of the work that we do. I have to thank the whole team here and everybody at the theatre and the board and all the freelancers and all the brilliant young people. The theatre has always given such importance and such investment to the work that we do. It is so valued, and it's really really important to the theatre which is lovely. For me the arts have always been somewhere in my life. It has been an ongoing journey from way back when I used to dance in the local panto and then when I was teaching and then into my career here.

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“Officially I have been at the Festival Theatre since 2002 but I was a freelancer before that in the mid-90s working with Andy Brereton who was a great champion for me. I directed my first piece in 1999 with the youth theatre at St Cuthman’s School. And then when the school closed I was offered a position here. I was assistant youth theatre director for a few years before I became youth theatre director.”

As for why Dale does what she does: “I think everybody benefits in some ways in their own way from the arts in their lives and it is such a joy to see young people growing and the journeys that they go on particularly when young people perhaps at the start are lacking in confidence or self-esteem. You see them flourish and you see them grow and you see them gain so much through taking part. I do think that the arts, and you could say the same for sport, can do so much in terms of skills, learning things like collaboration and empathy and self-discipline and confidence and self-esteem.

“I always like to keep up with our young people. I'm going to a youth theatre wedding in a couple of weeks and I meet them everywhere I go. All of them have been successful in their own ways whether they've gone into the arts or not. It has just been such a joy to see that development.”

Justin Audibert, artistic director and Kathy Bourne, executive director of Chichester Festival Theatre, said: ‘We could not be more thrilled that our brilliant and inspirational colleague Dale Rooks has been recognised in the Honours list. In her role as director of learning, education and participation, she has built our industry-leading youth theatre and a large-scale programme of work to support young people and the community. She is beloved and revered by the thousands of youth theatre members who have experienced the life-enhancing – and in many cases, life-changing – work she has led; by the vast audiences who have cherished her wonderful theatre productions; and by the countless individuals of all ages, from young carers and refugees to isolated older people, whose lives have been enriched by the projects she has established and championed.