Producer Sarah Jane Leigh talks about her walk with Lucy Davies

A couple of weeks ago I was given the chance by Simon Harris to go on a walk with Lucy Davies. The route of the walk had to be chosen by Lucy and be a walk that has provided her with inspiration.


Since meeting Lucy a couple of years ago, whilst being part of National Theatre Wales TEAM and by carrying out work on small projects for the company, she has become a very big inspiration to me and my career, but before the walk I hadn’t realised quite how much.


I’d never really chatted to Lucy because the occasion hadn’t really arisen, as Lucy was always incredibly busy doing the work that Executive Producers of National companies do and I hadn’t wanted to waste her time, or get in the way, or say something stupid. Basically, I hadn’t had the confidence.


When Simon ask me whether I’d like to go on a walk where I’d receive informal mentoring and advice from the Producer running my favourite theatre ever, I was over the moon. I couldn’t believe that  I was the best suited person for the experience.


Whilst arranging the date and time of the walk via email with Lucy and Simon I couldn’t quite believe that it would actually happen, and after months of arranging around busy work schedules, bad weather and family lives, the day arrived.


I sat on the train to London trying to think up appropriate and interesting questions to ask Lucy, and in my head they all sounded clichéd or like nonsense. By the time I’d got the tube and was standing there early looking up at the big red neon signs of The Royal Court Theatre I was a little petrified. Why would Lucy Davies want to speak to me and pass on her wisdom?


I went to the box office and then they directed me to the stage door. So I sat there and waited for Lucy’s PA to come and collect me. So many times I had sat in that café or in that auditorium but I was now deep behind the stage in a lift ascending to Lucy’s office.


After all that build up I was finally met by a massive smile and gigantic hug – all those feelings of inadequacy and fear vanished. I was talking to a real woman in her real office at the real Royal Court. I’ve been in many offices before but here I could feel the history of the building and see all of the old show posters on the walls.


I’d run out of power on my computer and needed to do some work on the journey home and so timidly asked if I could charge my computer. I placed my laptop where Lucy’s had been and we had a joke along the lines that I was taking over which ended in a selfie showing me sitting in Lucy’s chair. We were laughing and having fun!


Sarah and Lucy 1

 Lucy gave me a tour of the building and we even ventured out onto the stage. The stage where so many unheard, exciting, genre creating voices had been heard and had done their bit to change the world we live in.


We left the Royal Court and walked through London until we reached the Donmar Warehouse, which is where Lucy’s producing career had begun. Lucy told me all about her career progression, the tough decisions she’d had to make, the opportunities she’d grasped and she also reminded me that as well as being a producer I was a woman. I’d never thought about what would happen if I decided to have a family. I’d never really thought of the realities of being both a Wife and a Mother whilst still working. But Lucy is proof that none of those roles are mutually exclusive.


Lucy questioned me not only about the work that I help to make but also about me, and since meeting her I have a list of very practical things I want to do to develop and strengthen the business elements of what I do and am starting to think strategically for the future.


We talked a lot about endings and pondered about what made an ending good. We never came to a conclusion but I think that this is something we will both continue to think and hypothesise about.


I have found that being a producer can be quite isolating, especially as I work freelance, but when I was talking with Lucy I no longer felt alone. It became apparent that she had either had, or was having, similar worries to me and was coming across similar issues and problems. Knowing this has left me feeling more positive about the work that I am doing and feeling less isolated.


Lucy is such a generous person. She made me feel completely at ease and like I was having a gossip with one of my best friends. The advice and insights she gave me have motivated me and made me feel more confident in my own process as a producer. I feel completely inspired by Lucy and her career to date, and am looking forward to our next meeting.

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