"Extraordinary things happen when we see the art, not the disability"
Welcome to formidAbility, the world's first opera company putting accessibility at the foundation of the creative process. Here you will find details of our work, the people supporting our mission, and resources for individuals and arts organisations.
"opera that places accessibility at the foundation
of the creative process"
formidAbility is breaking new ground in accessibility and inclusion in opera for those with disabilities, both onstage and off. We produce and support opera that places accessibility at the foundation of the creative process, rather than adding it as an afterthought.
We believe accessibility and inclusion are tremendously powerful and under-utilised creative tools that can inspire all performers, and that more diverse creative teams benefit the creation and performance processes.
We collaborate with the world’s foremost artists working for or with disability, because we believe that audiences miss out on a world of great art when artists, creators and performers with disabilities are missing from professional performance spaces.
Our CEO & Creative Director:
Co-founder Joanne Roughton-Arnold is a singer and educator, already known to London audiences from her work with Opera Holland Park, and her one-woman performances at Grimeborn in 2016 and 2019.
Originally from NZ and with a background as a professional violinist, to label Roughton-Arnold as exciting is an understatement. She single-handedly commissions, produces, fundraises and sings projects of astonishing emotion and vision. With a mass of wild copper curls and an arresting belly laugh, her energy is positively atomic.
Her own visual impairment has never curbed her own ambitions and vision as an opera singer and producer, and formidAbility formalises her work into an incorporated non-profit company.
CEO & Creative Director
PATRICIA ST HILAIRE
Patricia was one of the co-founders of the radical Theatre of Black Women with writer, Bernardine Evaristo and director, Paulette Randell. Theatre of Black Women undertook writing, commissioning, performing, and touring in the UK and Europe. Patricia’s play, Just Another Day, was produced at the Royal Court Theatre as part of the Talking Black season. She worked with the ENO Baylis writing libretti for and directing two children’s opera in London schools. Following this, Patricia qualified as an arts administrator at City University when there were few black qualified arts managers. She went on to be a tutor on the Women into Arts Management programme at Birkbeck College, University of London. Later she went on to work in local government as trainer and partnership working in the field of children and families and provided leadership courses for London Boroughs of Croydon, Tower Hamlets, Hackney, Haringey and Islington. Patricia was asked to be Human Resources and Operations Director for Youth at Risk where she was responsible for the procurement of funds and the development of partnerships between the multi agencies. Then Patricia moved into the retail sector as an HR manager where she has developed her skills at both a local and regional level. She has worked as a senior HR partner to senior managers, implementing organisational restructuring and dealing with disciplinary issues, grievances, and performance management issues.
HOLLY MATHIESON (Co-Chair)
New Zealand-born Holly Mathieson is an award-winning conductor, regularly working with opera houses, ballet companies and orchestras in Europe, Australasia and North America. She is the Music Director of Symphony Nova Scotia, in Canada, a partnership that is attracting acclaim for its bold programming, strategic acumen and championing of local artists from diverse musical backgrounds. Her work has seen her travel to nearly every continent on the planet, and perform for audiences spanning from the British Royal Family and Europe’s political elites, to Scotland’s homeless and refugee communities. In addition to her conducting work, Holly is on the board of Directors for London-based opera company formidAbility, and Artist-in-Association at English Touring Opera. She is a frequent contributor and guest speaker for various industry podcasts and blogs, has been invited as a guest teacher and examiner at most of the UK’s top conservatoires, and in summer 2019 launched a blog, Scordatura, which explores ideas around digital developments, musical culture, advocacy and arts governance. She is an alumna of the Sasakawa Youth Leadership Fellowship, was a Taki Alsop Conducting Fellowship Prizewinner in 2013, and has a PhD in Music Iconography. In 2016, Zonta New Zealand named her one of New Zealand's Top 50 Women of Achievement.
ROSIE LOKER (Co-Chair)
Rosie Loker (Hon ARAM) is an arts professional and business owner based in Hertfordshire. Rosie studied music at the University of Birmingham, specialising in the oboe and composition. During her studies, she discovered that her skills and passion lay in planning, organising and managing performances rather than being onstage! She went on to forge a career in performance management, with roles at the Association of British Orchestras, BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra and Royal Academy of Music. In 2019 Rosie launched Tailor Made Music Agency, a specialist classical and jazz agency providing high-quality professional musicians for weddings and events. She also co-founded a Disabled women's campaign group in 2020 to fight for disability justice during challenging times for the Disabled community. Rosie's personal experiences as a Disabled woman working in the arts led her to become involved with FormidAbility. She is passionate about widening access for audiences and performers, but also for Disabled people working behind the scenes, where career options are often limited due to a lack of access and imagination. She is a strong advocate for the Social Model of Disability which looks beyond the medical and recognises the societal barriers that disable people.
A lyric coloratura soprano with a flair for contemporary music, a range of over three octaves and a taste for a challenge, Joanne Roughton-Arnold began her vocal studies while a postgraduate violinist at Trinity College of Music, London, before going on to become a prize-winning vocal student at Royal Birmingham Conservatoire. In 2015 Joanne commissioned “Iris Dreaming” from Dame Gillian Whitehead and Fleur Adcock CNZM OBE. She produced and performed the world premiere at London’s Arcola Theatre, followed by the New Zealand premiere at the 2017 Adam Chamber Music Festival. She is the soprano soloist on the soundtrack for “Rising Phoenix”, the award-winning Netflix documentary on the Paralympics. She sings regularly with Paraorchestra under Charles Hazlewood, appearing at an eclectic mix of sold-out venues across the UK and abroad. Inspired by Paraorchestra, she and Holly Mathieson founded formidAbility in 2019, seeking to break down barriers and challenge perceptions of disability in the opera industry. Other operatic work includes principal roles with Opera Holland Park, Chelsea Opera Group and in research & development at the Royal Opera House. Her growing reputation as an advocate for inclusion has led to public speaking engagements with the League of American Orchestras, ROH Engender Network and the UK Nystagmus Network.