Co-artistic directors Gemma Paget and Sean McGrath began their journey together in 2004 at The Cambridge Shakespeare Festival. Since then they have been weaving their curiosity and creativity together, exploring what it means to be human as individuals, life partners, parents, creatives, and global citizens.
United by a passion for storytelling, in 2006 they founded AlterEgo Creative Solutions, an applied theatre-in-education company dedicated to using theatre and film to address complex social issues. Their work toured to hundreds-of-thousands of children, young people and professionals throughout the UK, as well as Europe, the US and Canada.
The in-depth research and exploration of a broad range of social issues, the richness of learning through working with incredibly knowledagable and talented professionals and creatives on the development of their projects, and the experience of witnessing first-hand the tremendous impact that stories can have, led to Sean and Gemma’s desire for a deeper exploration into the power of narrative and drama to inspire change.
In 2020 Gemma gained a Master’s degree in dramatherapy, and in 2023 Sean commenced studies for an MSt in Writing for Performance. Throughout the pandemic both Gemma and Sean spent time researching Narrative Theory, the Science of Story-telling, and the alchemical and mythical power of drama and stories to create both individual and societal transformation. This collective learning spurred them to reflect, re-evaluate and re-define their creative aspirations, giving birth to their next joint venture : Narrative Alchemy.
Whilst maintaining their commitment to awareness raising educational projects, Narrative Alchemy produces more passion-driven mainstream initiatives (theatre, short film, audiodrama, story-telling, myth, mystery, workshops, training and artist development), all of which make up the 5 alchemical elements of our work – Explore, Ignite, Empower, Embrace and Combust. Narrative Alchemy is a fusion of passion, creativity and purpose, with a simple goal that is close to both Gemma and Sean’s hearts : to harness the power of stories and use them as catalysts to create change in our world.
Gemma Paget, MA, BA(hons), FRSA, Co-Artistic Director and head of wellbeing
Gemma is a creative therapist who holds a Masters Degree in dramatherapy from Anglia Ruskin University, Cambridge. This, combined with her training as an actress at Manchester Metropolitan’s School of Theatre, and her vast experience as both an actress and a theatre-maker over the past 20 years, has given her a unique perspective on how to use clowning, story-telling, role method and internal family systems to inform the development and the application of the various elements of Narrative Alchemy’s work. She is an actress, a director, and a fellow of The Royal Society of Arts (RSA).
As well as her role as co-artistic director, Gemma is the head of wellbeing within the company. Whether a full-time member of staff or a project specific freelance professional on a short or long-term contract, Gemma is commited to supporting all of our teams’ wellbeing and mental health.
Sean McGrath, WGGB, FRSA, Co-Artistic Director, resident writer and head of project development
Sean is a writer and director. He trained originally as an actor at The Oxford School of Drama, but soon found that his passion lay in writing and directing, rather than performing.
He is a member of the Writer’s Guild of Great Britain, a fellow of the Royal Society of Arts (RSA), an associate director for The Cambridge Shakespeare Festival, a trained facilitator for US based Narrative 4, and is currently continuing his personal and professional development with an MSt in Writing for Performance at The University of Cambridge (Selwyn College). His interests lie in the interplay between modern breakthroughs in the science of narrative theory, and the ancient magic and myth of simple story-telling.
As well as his role as co-artistic director, Sean is our resident writer and head of project development. This sees him take the lead on all project research, development and writing – whether for TIE projects, theatre, film, audio drama, or workshops and training programs.
Marian Allen Finance Administrator
Marian has decades of experience working in accountancy and is the go to person for all things finance and book-keeping related.
Friends, Allies, Collaborators, and Advisors
We have the privilege of being supported by the fantastic group of individuals and organisations listed below. They are not merely friends; they are also allies, collaborators, and trusted advisors who have committed to helping us navigate our path forward. With their collective wisdom and steadfast support, they will provide the guidance and counsel we need as we progress on our journey.
Heidi Gjertsen PGCE, BA(hons)
Heidi has an extensive background in education, safeguarding, equality, and theatre. After training as an actress at London’s Mountview Theatre School and a successful decade-long acting career, Heidi’s academic pursuits led her to earn a B.A. Honours in Philosophy from Birkbeck, University of London, and a Postgraduate Certificate in Education (Further and Higher Education) from the University of Wales, Cardiff. With over two decades in post-16 education, she has taught a variety of A-levels, specialising in Drama and Theatre Studies, Philosophy, Religious Studies, and the Extended Project Qualification, and has held roles as a Course-Team Leader and A-level Examiner.
Heidi is dedicated to Equal Opportunities and has 15-years‘ experience as a Diversity, Equality, and Inclusivity Lead. Her expertise extends to coaching techniques, where she has led projects and provided targeted support for students, including those with diverse needs.
With her experience as Head of Year in an ‘Outstanding’ Sixth Form College, Heidi has an extensive understanding of student wellbeing and pastoral care. Her role as a Designated Safeguarding Lead further underscores her commitment to ensuring the safety and welfare of young people. Her recent work as a Senior Leader in Education, coupled with freelance engagements, including supporting PQA Principals, attests to her comprehensive impact across the educational landscape. Heidi’s diverse background, knowledge and experience will undoubtedly inform and enrich all aspects of Narrative Alchemy’s work, as she journeys with us as a friend, ally, collaborator and advisor.
Dr Gareth Somers PhD, MA, BA(hons)
Gareth is an actor, director, writer and a specialist in Daoist energy work and release therapy. He has a PhD in performance and is a senior lecturer on the acting course at the Royal Birmingham Conservatoire. He has taught and directed throughout the UK, as well as in The Netherlands, Italy, Poland and The Czech Republic. He is the co-director of Transatlantyk2 theatre company, and we are delighted to have him as a friend, ally, collaborator and advisor.
Colm Holland Writer and Alchemist
Colm writes and teaches about the Alchemical power of Unconditional Love to transform lives.
During his career in Secondary Education in the 1970s, Colm piloted what became today’s RSHE Curriculum before entering the world of publishing and emigrating to Australia. At HarperCollins publishers he championed the unknown author Paulo Coelho, resulting in the global bestseller, The Alchemist.
He then founded one of the first independent dotcom companies that was soon acquired by AOL.
Colm is the author of The Secret of The Alchemist – #1 in Amazon in the USA and is published by Hachette in France. He also writes fiction for fun and will soon be releasing a trilogy of crime novellas. Colm is a great friend, ally, collaborator and advisor to Narrative Alchemy.
Narrative 4 offers educators creative tools to teach compassion and develop strong student leaders in the classroom and community. Through their Story Exchange, Artists Network, Learning Resources, and Civic Engagement projects, Narrative 4 is creating a global network of changemakers.
Theatre for Schools
Established in 1996 as a specialist marketing company, Theatre for Schools are experts at linking the UK’s most outstanding and innovative educational theatre providers, to the needs and requirements of schools, colleges and educational settings. Jo, Cathy, and their amazing team at Theatre for Schools, act as the main point of contact, the marketing team, and the booking agent for all of Narrative Alchemy’s Ignite projects.