Announcing New Team Leadership & Structure

Red Room Poetry news
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As a new year starts, so does a new season in poetry.

After 10+ years with Red Room Poetry, Tamryn Bennett is moving on from her role as Red Room Poetry's Artistic Director. Tamryn's countless contributions to the organisation include the development of projects like Poetry Month and Poem Forest while supporting creative opportunities for many across the continent. What this tiny yet mighty organisation has achieved in its 20-year history is remarkable, and Tamryn's meaningful work will still impact our team in years to come.

With Tamryn's departure, we proudly introduce our new CEO, Jonty Claypole MBE. Jonty is a writer, documentary producer and arts administrator living and working on Gadigal land. He joins Red Room Poetry alongside restructured directors and management teams.

Rebecca Cuschieri, Red Room's Development Director since 2023, is joined by David Stavanger and Nicole Smede, formerly our Senior Project Managers and now joint Artistic Directors — with Nicole leading our work with First Nations poets and communities. Additionally, we welcome to the team Claire Albrecht as our new Operations Manager and Rani Ghazzaoui as our Marketing & Communications Manager — both are established poets also.

Completing the team are also the talented poet, writer and broadcaster Izzy Roberts-Orr, Red Room's Creative Producer and the emerging artist Natalie Bühler, our Digital & Administrative Coordinator who is, also, a writer and poet — both brilliantly frontline our poetry and education community.

Meet the Team

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    Jonty Claypole MBE

    CEO

    Jonty Claypole MBE is a writer, documentary producer and arts administrator living and working on Gadigal land. Born in Sydney, and raised in London, he worked for twenty years in media and the arts in the UK. He produced and directed dozens of arts documentaries, before becoming Director of Arts at the BBC (from 2014-21), where he commissioned landmark series like Civilisations, many films about and by poets, and started the Contains Strong Language poetry festival. He was Chair of HOME, Manchester, one of the UK’s best-loved arts centres and sat on the advisory committees of the Booker Prizeand Art UK.

    In 2021, Jonty was awarded an MBE for services to UK culture and published his first book – Words Fail Us: In Defence of Dysfluency (Wellcome Collection/Profile) – to critical acclaim. It is a cultural history of speech disorders, and their role in neurodiverse thinking, drawing on his long experience of stuttering.

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    Rebecca Cuschieri

    Development Director

    Rebecca’s fundraising career began in the early days of Bell Shakespeare, working with the small team to support the company’s first performances around Australia.

    Since then she has worked in senior development and marketing roles with many of Australia’s best-loved performing Arts organisations, including Sydney Theatre Company, Opera Australia and Sydney Opera House. She was also Chairman of Australian Theatre of the Deaf.

    She comes to Red Room with a reader’s passion for poetry, and a real excitement to be part of the work that Red Room does to make poetry in meaningful ways.

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    David Stavanger

    Artistic Director

    David Stavanger is poet, performer, cultural producer, editor and former psychologist living on Dharawal land. His first full-length poetry collection, The Special (UQP, 2014), was awarded several prizes. David is the co-editor of Solid Air: Collected Australian & New Zealand Spoken Word (UQP, 2019) and Admissions: Voices Within Mental Health (Upswell, 2022.) His latest collection, Case Notes (UWAP, 2020), won the 2021 Victorian Premier’s Literary Award for Poetry.

    David was previously the co-director of QLD Poetry Festival and part of the Programming Team at Woodford Folk Festival. He is also known for his work with several community writing projects that amplify marginalised voices and lived experience writers including Brotherhood of the Wordless (writers with autism precluded from speech) and as the producer of MAD Poetry (writers with lived mental health experience.)

    Reflection

    "Sometimes the poet is not there when you are there" – Youth Unlocked – David Stavanger 

    "I was not friends with Duchamp on entering. We are not friends on leaving" – Punch Lines: Poets Play Duchamp – David Stavanger

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    Nicole Smede

    Artistic Director - First Nations

    Nicole Smede is a multidisciplinary artist of Worimi and European descent, living and creating on Dharawal Country. A classically trained Mezzo Soprano, she ran away from classical music early on to pursue wider artistic interests. Her voice can be heard on award winning films and soundtracks, and her poetry can be found in exhibitions, visual and sound pieces, anthologies and journals including Australian Poetry Journal, Mascara Literary Review, Never Heard of Them (2019, Baby Teeth Journal), Guwayu: for all times (2020, Magabala Books), What we Carry (2021, Recent Work Press), 20x20x12 Sensing Place (2021, Manta Publishing), Mantle (2022, SCWC), The Anabranch (2022, HWC), and Shoot the Breeze (2022, Girls on Key).

    In 2020, Nicole was the co-recipient of the 2020 Shoalhaven Arts Board Grant for poetry and painting collaboration 20x20x12 Sensing Place (2021, Manta Publishing), a finalist in the Meroogal Women's Art Prize and shortlisted for the 2020 Red Room Poetry Fellowship. In 2022, Nicole was a recipient of the inaugural Space to Create residency through Australia Council, Yil Lull Studio and ANU, a finalist in the Newcastle Poetry Prize and soundtrack composer for play Mt Hopeless (Merrigong Theatre).

    Nicole has extensive experience as a cultural producer across multiple artforms including film, music, performance and visual art and is a passionate advocate for arts education and the revitalisation of First Languages. Nicole is a judge for the Reconciliation NSW Schools Reconciliation Challenge (since 2019) and she has worked with and facilitated workshops for The NSW Department of Education, The Song Company, Red Room, Bundanon Trust, Wollongong City Council, South Coast Writers Centre, Reiby Juvenile Justice Centre and schools across the NSW East Coast.

    Working closely with Elders and community, Nicole is currently the vocal coach for South Coast Yuin women’s choir Mudjingaal Yangumba, who weave language into original songs and storytelling.

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    Claire Albrecht

    Operations Manager

    Claire Albrecht is an award-winning poet and editor based on Wiradjuri Country, Australia. She was the 2019 Emerging Writers Festival fellow at the State Library of Victoria, a 2020 Varuna ‘Writing Fire, Writing Drought’ fellow, and a resident at the Helene Wurlitzer Foundation, New Mexico in 2022. Her work investigates anxiety and the connections between poetry and photography. Claire’s manuscript sediment was shortlisted for the 2018 Subbed In chapbook prize, and her debut chapbook pinky swear launched in 2018. Her most recent book handshake was shortlisted for the Puncher & Wattmann First Poetry Book Prize. Claire is Editor-in-Chief of The Suburban Review and Manager of Australian Literary Studies.

  • Rani Ghazzaoui

    Rani Ghazzaoui

    Marketing & Communications Manager

    Rani Ghazzaoui is a writer, communicator, actor, and poet who lives and works on Gadigal land. Born in Brazil and a naturalised Australian, Rani moved to Sydney in 2007.

    Ghazzaoui received notoriety online when, in 1999, at the age of 13, she began sharing her essays and poems on her now-extinct blog, "Rani Ghazzaoui Said". She gained visibility again in 2020 when she started writing poetry daily on her Instagram, @ranighazzaoui. She writes poetry, prose, fiction and auto-fiction in Portuguese and English about a variety of themes that examine human vulnerability — and the understanding of the complexity of her own humanity. Frequent subjects are love, feminism, relationships, society, politics, and self-analysis. She has published works in the Brazilian anthology Posfácios (Hecatombe Publishing House) and numerous literary digital publications, such as “Ruído Manifesto” and “Diversos Afins”. Selected poems also integrate the literature high school curriculum of several Brazilian schools. Her debut book, an anthology of essays and poems entitled Aorta, was published in Brazil by Lyra das Artes in 2022 and in English, as an e-book, in 2023.

    With a Bachelor of Arts in Communications from Casper Libero University, a Diploma in Business and Management from Australian Pacific College, and a Certificate in Acting Techniques from NIDA, Rani has a twenty-year-long career in the Communications field — she has worked in Advertising as a Copywriter, in Broadcast as a Promo Writer, in Digital Media as a Producer and as an Account Manager, in AI-based Ad-Tech as Head of Client Solutions, and in Design and Innovation as Head of Content & Communications.

    Rani joins Red Room Poetry delighted to combine her passion for poems with her desire to promote social inclusion through the art of words.

    (Image: Kathy Luu)

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    Izzy Roberts-Orr

    Creative Producer

    Izzy Roberts-Orr is a poet, writer, broadcaster and arts worker based on Wurundjeri Woi Wurrung Country. Izzy is Creative Producer for Red Room Poetry and a 2020-2022 recipient of the Australia Council Marten Bequest Scholarship for Poetry.

    Her debut poetry collection Raw Salt (2024) is published by Vagabond Press, and was the recipient of a Wheeler Centre Hot Desk Fellowship, and longlisted for the Colorado Prize for Poetry.

    Formerly Artistic Director and Co-CEO of the Emerging and Digital Writers’ Festivals, and a Co-Director of the National Young Writers’ Festival, Izzy has also worked with local artists in the Western suburbs of Narrm Melbourne advocated for artists on the Collingwood Yard Board and Moreland Arts Advisory Committee and as a Co-Director of Broadwave podcasting network. She regularly consults on advisory and funding panels as an industry expert.

    (Headshot credit: Leah Jing)

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    Natalie Bühler

    Digital & Administrative Coordinator

    Natalie is an emerging arts administrator and writer with a background in communications, events management and project support in arts, culture and education, living and working on Gadigal Land. Her passion for language(s) and communication has led her to write both professionally as a copywriter and creatively in prose, non-fiction and poetry.

A message from the CEO:

Dear poetry friends,

2023 was a momentous year for Red Room Poetry. Not only was it the biggest year so far for our three flagship projects — Poetry Month, Poem Forest and Poetry in First Languages — we also celebrated our 20th anniversary with the publication and launch of A Line in the Sand.

With a typically poetic sense of timing, our long-standing Director Tamryn Bennett chose the end of the year as her moment to step down from over a decade of leadership, somehow even synchronising the arrival of a new baby to arrive just before the office closed for the summer holidays. 

Along with founder Johanna Featherstone, Tamryn shaped and grew the organisation into what it is today: Australia’s largest commissioner and publisher of new poetry. It is a towering achievement. Although no longer Director of Red Room, she continues to be closely involved both as a member of the board and as a freelance producer, to help deliver projects and provide critical institutional memory.

Bearing in mind what Red Room has become, we begin the year with a new structure to reflect our role in Australia’s poetic landscape. 

I was thrilled to join the organisation as CEO towards the end of 2023. Although one of the only members of the team not to be a published poet — and not for want of trying — I have a long history of commissioning poets and staging poetry events and festivals during my years heading up the BBC’s arts department over in the UK. The ability to fill a page or a stage with words stills seems to me the purest and most compelling form of creative alchemy. I watch poets work the way I watch magicians: how did they… where is the… what the…?

David Stavanger and Nicole Smede, formerly our Senior Project Managers, are now joint Artistic Directors with Nicole leading our work with First Nations poets and communities. These titles which reflect more accurately what they do and provide the remit to think big and expand our program over the coming years. They, of course, are brilliant poets as well as producers, committed to the art form as a whole as well as our program. 

We also begin the year with Claire Albrecht as our new Operations Manager and Rani Ghazzaoui taking up the role of Marketing & Comms Manager. Both also are established poets in Australia and Brazil respectively. 

These changes to our structure enable us to deliver a program for 2024 that is as ambitious and exciting as ever, while protecting the integrity of Red Room as an organisation of poets, living and breathing the art-form we represent. 

Yours truly,

Jonty