It was with great sadness that we received the news of the tragic death of our Deputy Chair Kate Vokes and her son Archie. Our thoughts and love remain with all the family during this incredibly difficult time.  

Kate was our wonderful friend and our most passionate champion, and we were so very lucky to have had the gift of her wisdom, her generosity and her aspiration for the Royal Exchange Theatre. She recognised, wholeheartedly, the impact that arts and culture, in all its forms, can have on a city and the people who live there. She cared deeply about the people making theatre and the audiences watching. Her desire to shape incredible places for people to live, work and come together was embodied in her steadfast belief that the arts had the power to do just that, make a place uniquely special.  

As a trustee she was exceptional. Kate was ambitious and encouraging for our creative journey ahead, believing that storytelling and sharing in live theatre can make significant change to the lives of the people who get involved – be that by simply watching a show or taking part. We shall miss the ways in which she challenged and supported us to be brave and bold. Her confidence and excitement for the future of the Theatre was infectious, making board meetings a space in which we could be daring.  

Alongside her work as a trustee Kate, like her father Mike Oglesby, recognised how important new plays are, how they can unlock complex subject matters and create a space for people to debate, share their stories and be heard. Kate became key to the growth and development of the Bruntwood Prize for Playwriting, a competition that has unquestionably helped to shape new writing in the UK theatre ecology for almost 20 years. She was a passionate advocate for how the Prize enabled new voices to be discovered and she proudly carried on the legacy of the Prize that her dad had started in 2005.  

Her passion for our creativity stretched beyond the theatre walls, and after taking on the role of Chair of the Oglesby Charitable Trust, she championed our pioneering work in communities. The OCTs continued support of our Local Exchange programme and our mobile theatre ‘the Den’ has helped us to develop deep-rooted relationships in communities across Greater Manchester, proving that access to creativity is life changing and city shaping.  

The Royal Exchange’s relationship with the Oglesby family has been long-standing, inspiring and has helped to shape both our past and our future in the most extraordinary ways.  Kate was part of our DNA, she was clever, curious, funny, insightful and encouraging. She challenged us to imagine the best theatre in the world and then asked how she could help us make it a reality. Quite simply Kate was wonderful and will be deeply missed by us all.