A group of seated adults talk as a woman draws onto flipchart paper
“When everything seems to be going against you, remember that the airplane takes off against the wind, not with it.” Henry Ford
This is the fourth in a series of blogs exploring the creation and development of our Leadership programme for learning and engagement professionals in the Arts and Cultural Sector. 

Leadership Steering Group

One of the key to the success of this initiative has been establishing a Leadership Steering Group right from the start. Individuals were invited on the basis that they had significant influence in the region and would provide strategic guidance, they included the Directors of: The Midlands Arts Centre; The Birmingham REP; Birmingham Museums Trust; Punch Records and the Associate Dean of the Faculty of Arts at the University of Wolverhampton. The Leadership Steering Group encourage potential participants to enroll and contribute to their learning and it has developed into a creative thinking space exploring the possibilities and potential of a dynamic leadership community across the region.

Provoking Debate

As part of our mission to raise the ambitions and to stretch the thinking of learning and engagement professionals, we have introduced a series of leadership seminars, which are open to course attendees and the wider public. These seminars have included keynote speakers such as John Holden and Robert Hewison who bring a new perspective to provoke discussion and debate on the latest thinking. We have seen early signs of the seminars influencing both a shift in the language used and the behaviours of the sector and thereby the quality of leadership thinking and leadership practice. An example of this is in a direct response to John Holden’s seminar on the Ecology of Culture in 2016, on the day of the seminar, the Hat and Chicken Network was set up by the leadership cohorts present. The network provides an opportunity for the sharing of information and offers support and advice, members of the Hat and Chicken Network also regularly attend the Birmingham based Radar Networking events for those working in the Arts and Cultural sector. The second seminar with Robert Hewison in November 2017 has attracted a large audience and brings together all four cohorts who will then on the day as a group update on their current activity and seek ways to work collectively. This collective action feeds into the ambition of Arts Connect to create a leadership community focusing on learning and engagement.


We were mindful from the start to incorporate diversity concerns in the design of the programme and to actively recruit participants who reflect the communities in the West Midlands region. Our learning journey to be inclusive of black and minority ethnic and disabled arts and culture professionals has been challenging, yet many times more inspiring. The participants are learning about and engaging with leadership figures and successful artists from these groups and experiencing the strategies and diverse leadership styles that are authentic and impactful. We know there is still a long way to go before the pool of both learning and engagement professionals and leaders in the sector are reflective of the community, but we can say that through this modest programme we are creating ambition and appetite for embracing diversity and a respect for difference.



Blogs by:  Susan Goodwin:  Associate Director of Culture at Arts Connect, West Midlands ( in partnership with Munira Thobani: Leadership Development & Organisational Change Consultant and Executive Coach.)

Find out more
If you are interested in joining our 2018 cohort you will find more details of this programme here.