Inaugural women leaders set to inspire
The first group of trailblazing women have been selected for a pioneering arts leadership programme.
Women Leaders South West (WLSW), which aims to address the gender imbalance in the arts and cultural sector, has chosen 16 incredible Associates from over 350 applications for a training opportunity at eight arts organisations in South West England: The Point, Hampshire, Diverse City, Dorset; Pavilion Dance South West, Bournemouth; Strike a Light, Gloucestershire; Activate Performing Arts, Dorset; Kaleider, Devon; The Arts Development Company, Dorset; Art Asia Trust Ltd, Southampton, Hampshire and Southampton Business School at The University of Southampton
The organisations will host two Associates each over the next eighteen months, supported by social entrepreneurship and business training from Southampton Business School and mentoring from Jude Kelly and The WOW (Women of the World) Foundation. The programme is funded by Arts Council England’s Transforming Leadership scheme.
The successful candidates come from a variety of backgrounds and live across the South West. Selected for their ambition to make change, to innovate and to inspire, they will start working with the eight arts organisations in the coming weeks, with a residential of intensive learning in April.
The 16 selected women Associates are: Adrienne Dove Armstrong; Shenice Ellis; Fee Hudson Francis; Vrushali Harihar; Daisy Higman; Zahra Hoccom; Halima Malek; Anjali Mavi; Vandna Mehta; Natasha Nixon; Ruth Pitter; Rosanne Robertson; Lorna Rose; Romana Syed; Abby Young and Amber Weyman.
The cohort includes solo dance artist, creative activist, and advocate Amber Weyman. Based in Southampton, they make work and cultivate conversations around their experiences with being queer, neurodiverse, and managing chronic mental illnesses, and are passionate about authentic representation.
Bristol-based Ruth Pitter, co-founder of Black Women Let Loose Theatre Company, Breathing Fire Black Women's Playback Theatre Company and ‘Our Stories Make Waves’ collective for artists of African Diaspora heritage, is a performer, writer, producer and director.
Halima Malek is a Gloucester-based artist, make-up artist and poet. Her work has been showcased by the Wilson Gallery and she works closely with different communities in Gloucester, including the Indian and Muslim communities, to bring positive change to people’s lives, this work includes co-creating the Shespoke Poetry and Art project with women in Gloucestershire.
“This is an impressive, ambitious and ethically driven project that understands the need for home grown talent to develop commitment and loyalty to place. The South West region dreams big and The WOW Foundation is excited to be bringing the international dimension to the table.”
The programme has been supported by four external consultants to support better representation and decision-making including Maricka Oglesby, Director of the Women’s Leadership Institute of Baltimore at Notre Dame of Maryland University, an Advisor for the programme.
"We are proud to have invested in Women Leaders South West, a consortium of eight successful female-led cultural organisations from all corners of the South West, through our National Lottery funded Transforming Leadership programme.
“This fund was set up to ensure leaders in the sector are appropriately skilled and represent a range of backgrounds, and Women Leaders South West helps to create fairness and career development opportunities. We send our congratulations to the associates and wish them well in this opportunity."
We look forward to watching the next generation of female leaders in the South West develop.