Access All Areas in partnership with Disability Arts Online have won an award of £283,512 from the Arts Council’s Transforming Leadership Fund


Arts Council England has announced the award-winners for the latest round of its Transforming Leadership fund.

Graeae Theatre Company, Shape and Access All Areas have been awarded a total of £768,512 invested in three new nationwide leadership development programmes, which will support D/deaf and disabled cultural leaders at all stages of their careers.

LeaD by Access All Areas, partnering with Disability Arts Online and Manchester Met University, will develop a bespoke career development program and coaching culture for potential learning disabled leaders, radically challenge ideas about who can lead across the Arts and demonstrating the significant impact learning disabled leaders could have in driving greater accessibility in the sector.

Nick Llewellyn, Artistic Director, Access All Areas, said:
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“Access All Areas are excited to develop our new leadership programme enabling 7 aspiring learning disabled leaders to become theatre directors, to be the voice of our social media platforms and to become co-chairs of trustee boards. Through this radical programme, we will work in partnership with leading theatre venues where the 7 aspiring leaders will undertake placements, challenging inaccessible practice and bringing vital new perspectives. This will also give a voice to a community that has not had a seat at the table before. Thank you to Arts Council England for this vital support to help us make this important step in creating dynamic arts leaders of the future.”

Trish Wheatley, CEO of Disability Arts Online, said:

“Everyone at Disability Arts Online is so excited about this project. It will help us to fulfill our long-term ambition of supporting learning disabled people in the arts and cultural sector to have a voice, tell their story and be part of the conversation about arts and culture and the role it has in shaping society. We’re really looking forward to working with our partners Access All Areas, Lucy Burke (University of Manchester) and experienced leadership coach Sarah Pickthall.

Arts Council England has awarded £7.1million National Lottery funding into 18 projects, to address specific issues around diversity across leadership, opportunities for emerging and early career leaders, and the development of executive skills at senior levels.

The Shape Leadership Development Programme (£185,000) will equip up to 50 future disabled leaders with the skills they need to succeed and drive change across the sector. Working with a range of partners, Shape will deliver a two-year nationwide programme, creating bespoke Action Learning for enhancing hard skills and mentoring participants to support development of soft skills.

David Hevey, Shape CEO and Artistic Director, said:

“As Shape CEO, I am delighted that we will be developing new approaches to disabled-led creative leadership and pioneering new models of leadership success for those who have historically faced too many barriers and had too few opportunities.”

Graeae Theatre Company’s National Leadership programme (£300,000) will work to open up the cultural landscape for D/deaf and disabled artists. Through four strands, the programme will focus on connecting early and mid-career artists with mentors, bridging relationships, and creating leadership and work pathways between artists and regional venues, as well as develop a toolkit on diversifying career pathways.

Jodi-Alissa Bickerton, Creative Learning Director, Graeae, said:

“We cannot wait to launch this dynamic new era for Graeae in what will be our 40th anniversary. With drive and passion from all our partners in the artistic community we are fuelled to making every aspect of this programme flourish and speed up change.  This funding is a game-changer to support more Deaf and disabled artists at all stages of their career. We are so thrilled about what this will lead to, for existing and new generation of voices”

Joyce Wilson, London Area Director, Arts Council England, said:

“We believe leadership development is important at all stages of someone’s career, and across all parts of the sector. Arts Council England is supporting three impressive leadership programmes led by disability and access groups to ensure effective representation of disabled leaders in organisations and venues across the country. LeaD, by Access All Areas, The Shape Leadership Development Programme and Graeae Theatre Company’s National Leadership programme will work to open up the cultural landscape for D/deaf and disabled artists and drive much needed change across the sector.”

Arts Council England is commissioning an external evaluation of the Transforming Leadership programme – the learnings from which will be fed back to the wider sector – to assess the effectiveness of different approaches to leadership development and the impact they have on the career progression of participants, and to identify lessons for how best the Arts Council can support leadership development in the future.

Please click on this link to find out more about Arts Council England’s Transforming Leadership Fund