Starling's Brilliant Women: IWD 2019

If there’s one thing we’re surrounded by at Starling Arts, it’s brilliant women. 

So this International Women’s Day, we thought we’d ask our own community to shine a light on some of the phenomenal women that make up the Starling Arts family. Their suggestions highlight the brilliant and remarkable things they do to make the world a better place, inspire us, and prove that there’s nothing women can’t do.

Here are just a few of the awesome women in the Starling community.

Ash Lillis - Consultant in Acute Medicine


Ash is one inspiring woman! Having recently finished training and become a consultant in acute medicine, just 18 short years after starting medical school(!), she now works at the Whittington Hospital in Archway in an all female department of consultants (which, she says, makes them sound like Charlie’s Angels) running their acute medical admissions ward. 

As a junior doctor she was an activist for the NHS and during the last 3 years helped found, and has remained involved with, the National Health Singers. This is a choir of NHS workers and activists who have recorded songs, performed at political rallies, and made music videos with Michael Sheen in them! 

On the side, Ash is kept busy with her other job at Macmillan Cancer Support working on national policy and services for people affected by cancer. As someone who talks about women in leadership a lot, Ash still finds it a shock she’s actually doing it! She claims that singing every week helps her to keep a balance.

Catherine Grieves - Music Supervisor and Composer Agent


Catherine inspires us all with her love for music. Nowhere is this more evident than in her work as an award winning Music Supervisor and Composer Agent. Working as Head of Film & TV at Faber Music, she represents their long list of film and television composers, and independently supervises British film and television projects. She also jointly fronts Faber Alt., Faber’s newly launched pop publishing division. She rubs shoulders with some big names! But always remains wonderfully humble in the process.

As a music supervisor, we’ve admired her work collaborating with directors, composers and producers to select songs and music for film and TV soundtracks. If you’re a fan of the big BBC America drama Killing Eve, critically acclaimed dramas Brexit: The Uncivil War for HBO and Channel 4, and Collateral for BBC/Netflix, then you’ll have heard Catherine’s work. 

Last year she won the Music Week Sync Award for Best Overall Film Soundtrack for Lynne Ramsay’s feature You Were Never Really Here, and previously worked on the Oscar winning film of Les Misérables, an experience she talked about on this blog! To say we’re proud would be a massive understatement. 

Emily Yau and Kate Roche - Redesigning their careers

It’s a bold and inspiring thing to change careers as an adult, especially when moving away from a field in which you excel. Two of our singers are doing just that!


Emily has made the move from a successful career in publishing to retrain in UX.

Having previously worked as an editor at places like Penguin and Quercus books, she worked on books including John Marrs’ The One, Riley Sager’s Final Girls and The Flat Share, the upcoming debut novel from Beth O’Leary.

Emily’s move from commercial fiction to UX design is an exciting one and she hopes to find work at a company that aligns with her values and goals and change the world in the process. Who knows, perhaps she could even combine it with her love of musical theatre!


When Kate moved to London from Australia she was inspired by all the women she met who were pushing in the direction of their dreams. She got a job as a lawyer, working with people she really loves, but knew she had more to do and a career in the arts was calling. 

So Kate embarked on an MA at the Central School of Speech and Drama while still working full time as a lawyer! While most of her free time was accounted for, the experiences and friends made continue to push her towards her goals.

She’s still practising law, but also works at both Shakespeare’s Globe and Theatre503.
Kate reads plays for literary teams, provides support to a children’s theatre company, and has written plays that have been performed in London and abroad. 

We’re in awe of the way both Emily and Kate have taken their careers by the reins and steered them in a new direction.

Lydia Omodara - Teacher and volunteer


Lydia blows us and her Starling peers away with her selfless nature and motivation to make a positive difference to others. 

Every day she inspires young children through her job as a primary school teacher. Then, during her summer holiday whilst most teachers are having a well earned rest, Lydia volunteers at a charity called Campus which provides breaks for children who desperately need time away from their home lives. However, her dedication doesn’t stop there!

Two years ago she ran the London Marathon for Campus and raised over £2,500 to help fund the charity and continue to give the children a summer to remember. She recently became a mother and is one of the many awesome Starling mums we’re proud to have in our flock.

Nat Whalley - CEO and founder of Organise


As previously blogged about, Nat quit her job and founded Organise after an inspiring tour to Paris with our choirs. She now runs the organisation with 50,000 members campaigning to improve life at work.

On International Women’s Day it seems right to look at their campaigns that are helping women in particular. The ones she’s most proud of are their campaign to introduce 10 days paid leave for domestic violence victims, a law they are hoping to bring into parliament this year; the campaign to stop NDAs being used to silence victims of harassment and discrimination at work, which made headlines this week; and their staff led campaigns to end alleged harassment at their workplaces, including the campaign they won led by Ted Baker staff. This campaign triggered a nationwide debate about workplace harassment and resulted in an independent, external investigation into the allegations of harassment at the company and the resignation of the Ted Baker founder and CEO. It's a powerful show of what a strong community can do. 

Joey Clark - Living with CFS


Three and half years ago Joey, a successful Business Analyst working in security and defence, was struck down by CFS (Chronic Fatigue Syndrome). A debilitating disability that presides over every facet of her life, the Starling community have long admired Joey’s determination to live with, and try to overcome, the disorder.  Joey’s disciplined routine of exercise and nutrition has seen her progress from not being able to walk to the kitchen (something she’s spoken about previously on this blog) to working 4 days a week and returning to choir. 

Living in ‘success’ centric London, we can all feel the pressure to hit targets. Joey acknowledges that while her ambitions have changed and adapted because of CFS, it has allowed her to genuinely appreciate everyday things and knowing that they are enough is very liberating. Her outlook is an inspiration to us all. 

Jess Leigh - Campaigner


Not only is Jess very successful in her own career as a campaigner (she has just got a new post as Policy and Campaigns Manager at Scope), but she has also set up a network to bring together other campaigners and charity sector professionals, and hosts sessions where they problem-solve together.

On top of all this, Jess is a very talented photographer. We’re wondering if we should curate an evening to showcase her creative skills, along with those of many other Starlings?!

She is not afraid to travel alone to explore new countries/cities and always captures the most stunning photos whilst she is there. If she wants something she doesn’t just talk about it, she does it, and her dedication and discipline never fails to inspire us all.

Feeling inspired?

These are just some of the brilliant women we have in our choir family. There are many more exceptional women in this community living life as teachers, doctors, artists, tech whizzes, nurses, academics, mothers, policy makers, publishers, campaigners, charity masterminds, lawyers, marketers, TV producers, fundraisers, designers, PR gurus, consultants, writers, directors, entrepreneurs, and much, much more! We have marathon runners and endurance cyclists, viral bloggers, intrepid explorers and inspiring volunteers in our nest, and we are continuously blown away by the amazing things all the women in the Starling Arts family do in addition to their talent on stage! So this International Women’s Day we raise a glass (ceiling) to them, and here’s to a Balance for Better and a world in which we can carry out these roles equally, fairly and together.