About Encounters

Encounters is a company of artists, producers, facilitators and change agents.

We are creating the conditions for a creative, caring, connected world in which all can learn to flourish, living together within the Earth’s ecological limits.

“Encounters do something remarkable, something precious, they create invitational spaces in which people feel comfortable to relate to each other and to ideas in a very different way. I don’t know anyone else who brings the care, love, attention to detail and passion to what they do”

Rob Hopkins Transition Network

Encounters first shop in Sharrow, Sheffield.

Encounters began in 2003 with artists and neighbours Ruth Ben-Tovim and Trish O’shea taking over a disused shop in Sharrow Sheffield for £50 week and opening it for local people of all ages to drop in and exchange memories, stories, ideas, experiences about everyday life.

11 shops and over 50 projects later Encounters are now based in Totnes South Devon with local, regional, national and international reach and are still passionate about inviting people to join in…

We catalyse…

We catalyse the coming together of people across difference to deliver inspirational artworks and our programmes develop thriving cross sector collaborations as we design and deliver transformative creative experiences with participants and audiences. We place people at the heart of our work creating opportunities for creative expression of lived experiences and future visions. Diversity of voice and dialogue across difference is central to our mission. We use performance, celebration, making, installation, writing, walking and personal storytelling, as mediums through which dialogue and expression occurs and, as a result the artworks and visions created speak of this diversity of voice and experience.

We enable...

We enable our stakeholders, partners, audiences and participants to innovate, evolve and take risks and we respond to need and build relationships and connections of lasting value. Our approach to generating ambitious and relevant art follows a co-design process with partners and participants to develop distinct programmes of work that build ownership, pride and a deeper understanding of the power of the arts to deliver multiple outcome.

We embrace…

We embrace diversity to transform our sense of self in the world and to create meaningful, transformative art. We respect our interdependence with the natural world and strive to minimise our ecological footprint and we operate with a culture of care within both our organisation and the people we work with.  

We seek…

We tenaciously seek out people across age, background and geography, reawakening people’s creative abilities, reviving the skills needed for people to make work that has inherent meaning to them, the communities they live in, and beyond. We design creative engagement projects to specifically support and guide participants, to draw out and tell their stories and experiences and we support people to feel that they are part of something in co-authoring a set of creative responses and ideas. The way we work allows people to see that their contribution is given attention and valued.  

We build…

We build reflection and rigorous shared learning into our practice and our repertoire of innovative projects and methodologies, products and services have won awards, secured high profile national and international commissions and catalysed funding for partner organisations. Cross-sector partnerships bring alternative viewpoints and research, alerting us to a variety of needs and helping us co-design projects that engage with diverse individuals within equally diverse communities. We are rigorous in our recruitment stages, passionate about supporting people to maintain their involvement, and understand the depth of support needed for people to overcome barriers to participation.

“The work of Encounters is extraordinary on many levels, and is a perfect example of the power of the arts to change the world. At a time when the country is divided and social and ecological connections so strained, the work Encounters undertakes is vital — for those living in cities, for those in the country, and most importantly of all, for the future of our planet.”

Judith Knight, Director of Arts Admin

Our Creative Leaders are highly experienced Creative practitioners who work across disciplines and art-forms.

Ruth Ben-Tovim

Founder and Creative Associate

Shelley Castle

Creative Associate

Anne-Marie Culhane

Creative Associate

Lucy Neal

Creative Associate

Emilio Mula

Documentary Film Maker

Jo Salter

Graphic Designer

Jonny Sleeman

Online Manager

Catherine West

Senior General Manager

Sophie Banks

Board of Directors / Trustee

Francis Northrop

Board of Directors

Fiona Fraser-Smith

Board of Directors

Clare Parker

Board of Directors

We’re also currently working with some inspiring artists, designers, facilitators and producers. 

Kate Bowman

Creative Associate

Jenny Gellatly

Creative Associate

Emma McFarland

Innovation Producer - Chrysalis

Since 2003 we’ve worked with some fantastic partners and commissioners including…