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RE:Present : Transforming the Diversity of Cultural Leadership

Posted by: on Mar 1, 2016 | No Comments

More than 50 new and established leaders in arts and culture will be supported by an innovative new programme to support the next generation of cultural leaders in Birmingham. The programme aims to support those from diverse backgrounds in Birmingham, and has been developed in a unique partnership with Birmingham City Council, Arts Council, the University of Birmingham, Birmingham City University and Aston University.

RE:Present arose out of a series of informal scoping discussions instigated by Assistant Director, Culture and Visitor Economy at Birmingham City Council Val Birchall with Helga Henry and Lara Ratnaraja. Following some feedback from cultural leaders in the city, RE:Present was born.

Cllr Penny Holbrook, cabinet member for skills, learning and culture at Birmingham City Council said “A city with such wonderful cultural diversity should see that diversity reflected in the leadership of its cultural sector; how else can we continue to thrive and inspire young people from across our communities? It is great to see that this programme will provide aspirational cultural leaders from a range of backgrounds, including women who are also under-represented, with the chance to develop the skills and experience to challenge the status quo.”

The cultural sector is led by cultural leaders who do not on the whole represent the communities who wish to engage with culture. A lack of visible diverse leadership has a direct correlation with a lack of cultural participation by diverse communities. As the 2013 Consilium Report for ACE states “It is also vital that the arts and cultural workforce becomes more representative of the society it serves. In particular, we need to do more to ensure that entry routes into employment, and opportunities for people to further their careers, are fairer and more accessible to all. This is as true for the leadership and governance of the sector as it is for those entering the workforce”.

Peter Knott, Area Director, Midlands, Arts Council England, said: “Supporting a strong and diverse leadership across England’s arts and culture sector is one of the Arts Council’s ambitions. To quote our Chief Executive’s inaugural speech: ‘Creative talent is everywhere but opportunity is not,’ which is why we’re investing in RE:Present. This ambitious and dynamic programme is designed to create new opportunities for people from a mix of backgrounds, supporting emerging and established leaders who are passionate about seeing art and culture in Birmingham thrive to meet the needs of the city’s population.”

In 2013 The Guardian published a survey into the top 30 leading arts jobs in the UK. Of the 30 (including British Museum, the National Gallery and National Portrait Gallery, the Royal Academy of Arts, The Royal Shakespeare Company, Tate, The National Theatre, The Barbican and the Baltic) only 4 were led by women. At the time Baroness Bakewell said, “”Asked to apply for a leading role, a woman will tend to wonder if she can do it, no matter how distinguished she is. Perhaps we have got to wait for women to feel entitled and go out there and seize the day.” 1

Birmingham is particularly under served in terms of support for next stage leadership development in an area where 42% of the population self-identifies as non-white, the leadership of cultural organisations doesn’t reflect its audiences and there is a demand to provide opportunities for an “employment escalator”. 

Re:Present is delivered by Creative Shift and  Lara Ratnaraja, funded by Birmingham City Council and Arts Council England.  This cultural leadership development programme will encompass the wide range of skills needed to be a 21st century leader and will give will give emergent and established cultural leaders from diverse backgrounds a wide range of opportunities to develop skills and network.

RE:Present seeks to address the wider ecology of cultural leadership in Birmingham by developing a cohesive programme including: Skills development including digital leadership, Brokered Mentoring/ Orientation in the marketplace, Networks – how to make, use and leverage off them, Presentation, communication and meeting skills, Confidence and Peer learning opportunities.

Selected participants will receive tailored training in a range of business and entrepreneurial skills including Marketing and Audience Development, Finance, Communication Skills and Networking as well as mentoring with a professional of the participant’s choice.

For further information please contact: 0121 689 1051 or visit for details or how to obtain and application pack.

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