Lucy Kerbel

Lucy Kerbel


Lucy (she/her) founded Tonic in 2011 with the ambition of creating a sea change in how theatre and the performing arts thought about and acted in regards to equality, diversity and inclusion. Over the subsequent years she created Tonic’s ground-breaking range of programmes, methodologies and tools which have enabled individuals and organisations to achieve deep and sustained change. Today Lucy heads Tonic’s work, overseeing strategy, managing key relationships and delivering projects, sessions and events alongside Tonic’s team of facilitators.

Lucy is the author of two books: 100 Great Plays for Women and All Change Please – A Practical Guide to Achieving Gender Equality in Theatre, both published by Nick Hern Books. She is a regular speaker on diversity in the arts and her specialist subject: gender equality in theatre. She is a Director of the Susan Smith Blackburn Prize for women playwrights.

Lucy has 20 years’ experience working in theatre and, prior to creating Tonic, was an award-winning director.

Read Lucy’s blog about what Tonic has done in response to #MeToo.

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What does your role at Tonic involve?

Trying to understand what people working in the arts need in order to make change and then working out how Tonic can provide that! This involves a balancing act: I spend a lot of time looking at the big picture of what’s going on in society in order to understand how this is impacting levels of access and opportunity within the arts. But I’m also on the ground within the sector, doing lots of listening so I can understand on a granular level what challenges people are facing. Then it’s down to me and the team to design a range of solutions that respond to this.

In addition to setting the direction for the organisation and leading the team, I still get to spend lots of time working directly on a one-to-one basis with organisations. This is great as it means I’m still ‘on the shop floor’.

What’s your favourite thing about working at Tonic?

It’s a privilege to be in a job that is about making a difference. I can see the positive impact that Tonic has had over the last decade and this is hugely motivating. 

Beyond this, I love the variety of my job and the space it gives me to be creative. Innovation is a huge part of what we do here at Tonic and it inevitably that means things stay interesting. Even when there is a lot on, or it feels difficult, it’s never boring! Also, the team here is amazing and I get so much from working alongside such clever, committed and interesting people.

What book/podcast/documentary/etc inspires you the most?

I read really widely in an effort to understand what’s going on in our world and how different people experience it. I actively look for stuff that will not only expand my knowledge but help me see new perspectives and also challenge my existing perceptions. In recent years a few books that have stood out include Identity: The Demand for Dignity and the Politics of Resentment by Francis Fukuyama, Black and British by David Olusoga and Talking to my Daughter: a Brief History of Capitalism by Yanis Varoufakis. In terms of podcasts, the RSA’s Bridges to the Future series has sparked so many interesting ideas for me.

What 3 words would you use to describe Tonic?

Integrity. Thoughtfulness. Positivity.

Tonic – For greater equality, diversity and inclusion in the arts