Conference 2023: Spotlight on our speakers - Museums Association

Conference 2023: Spotlight on our speakers

Hear from these speakers and many more in November

We’re delighted to spotlight some of our excellent speakers for Conference 2023. Join us on 7-9 November in Newcastle-Gateshead or online to explore the power of museums and how we create a new vision for the sector.

1010-1030, Wednesday 8 November: Plenary | Jess Thom
Jess Thom
Co-founder, Touretteshero

Wednesday morning at conference will include plenary session with Jess Thom. Writer, artist and part-time superhero, Jess co-founded Touretteshero in 2010 as a creative response to her experience of living with Tourette’s Syndrome. 

She campaigns for disability rights and social justice and is on a mission to change the world “one tic at a time”. 

Jess has written in the mainstream and disability press including The Guardian, The Observer and Disability Now. In 2012 she published Welcome to Biscuit Land – A Year In the Life of Touretteshero. 

Jess has spoken widely in the media about her life with Tourette’s, including on Woman’s Hour, This Morning, and Russell Howard’s Good News. She has given a TEDx talk at the Royal Albert Hall and features in the Annalisa is Awkward documentary on BBC Radio 4. 

In 2016 Jess took her award-winning stage show Backstage in Biscuit Land on a national and international tour. In the same year she received a Wellcome Engagement Fellowship, became an Arts Council England Change Maker and received an honorary degree from the University of Wolverhampton. 

In 2017 Touretteshero hosted Adventures in Biscuit Land at Tate Modern as part of Tate Exchange, and curated Brewing in the Basement at the Barbican Centre. She also debuted her critically acclaimed performance of Samuel Beckett’s short play Not I. 

In 2018 Jess took her stand-up show Stand Up, Sit Down, Roll Over to the US and Europe, hosted Heroes of the Imagination at the Southbank’s Imagine Festival, and Brewing in Battersea at Battersea Arts Centre. Her one-hour film Me, My Mouth and I was broadcast on BBC Two and went on to be screened in the US, Russia, Chile, Switzerland and Canada. 

In 2019, Touretteshero received Elevate funding from Arts Council England, a programme which aims to strengthen the resilience of diverse arts organisations. Jess deepened her advocacy work, hosting numerous facilitated conversations around access for senior managers or organisations such as the Barbican and Shakespeare’s Globe. 

In 2022 Jess filmed a short pilot of her Channel 4 sitcom Biscuitland which went on to be shortlisted for a Bafta. In 2023, with support from the Collaborative Touring Network, Jess took Burnt Out In Biscuit Land on an eight venue UK tour.

0900-0930, Tuesday 7 November: Opening plenary
Vici Wreford-Sinnott
Theatre and television writer and director
Chi Onwurah
Member of Parliament for Newcastle upon Tyne Central

Opening Conference 2023 will be our host, Vici-Wreford Sinnott, and first plenary speaker, member of parliament for Newcastle upon Tyne Central Chi Onwurah.

Vici Wreford-Sinnott is a writer and director for theatre and television. She is the artistic director of Little Cog, a disabled-led production company that works across a range of artforms and is based in north-east England. Her award-winning theatre work has toured nationally and internationally.

She has been a leading campaigner for disability equity in the arts for more than 30 years. She is an advocate of an anti-ableist, disabled-led approach to disability equity.

She has championed many new platforms for disabled artists and has supported venues and organisations to develop their knowledge and confidence around disability equality practice, promoting strategic artistic practice as a route to equity and visibility for disabled people.

Vici is about to publish an anthology of comedy writings from the Funny HaHa disabled women’s comedy writers’ room she founded and is completing her practice driven PhD in Radical Acts: Disabled Women Performing.

Chi Onwurah is Newcastle upon Tyne Central’s MP and also the shadow minister for science, research and innovation.

Chi, who was born in Wallsend in North Tyneside and attended Kenton Comprehensive School in Newcastle, has always campaigned for the causes that she believes in and was very active in the anti-apartheid movement as a student.

Before being selected as Labour’s candidate for Newcastle, she was on the Advisory Board of the Open University Business School, reflecting her belief in the importance of providing educational opportunities at every stage in life and for every level of ability. Chi is also a former shadow minister for culture and the digital economy.

Chi is a chartered engineer with a BEng in electrical engineering from Imperial College London and an MBA from Manchester Business School. She was inspired by Newcastle’s industrial past to become an engineer and has enjoyed a fulfilling career in the sector.

Chi is a presidency member of the Party of European Socialists, and a fellow of both the Institution of Engineering & Technology and the City & Guilds of London Institute. She is also an honorary fellow of the British Science Association.