Welcome to our Cultural Leadership Page

This is a space for us to share current discussions and debates around themes and topics concerning arts and cultural leaders today.

Each year we hold an annual leadership seminar or convention where arts and cultural professionals address sector challenges and topics collectively whilst challenging and reflecting upon their own leadership styles and organisation ecosystems.

Cultural Democracy as Creative Practice: A Leadership Convention, held in October 2019

Alumni from Arts Connect’s leadership development course and professionals from across the region gathered to explore how, and to what extent, professional and participatory engagement practices are leading cultural democracy in the sector.


A series of provocations were presented to the conference by key members of the arts and culture sector, including:

Johnny Autin, Director Autin Dance

Orit Azaz, Freelance Artistic Director

Susan Clarke, Executive Director of B-Arts

Deborah Kermode CEO and Artistic Director MAC

Rachel Sharpe Creative Partnerships Manager, South Worcestershire National Trust

Justine Themen, Deputy Artistic Director at The Belgrade, and Co-Artistic Director of the theatre’s 2021 programme as part of Coventry City of Culture

Munira Thobani, Leadership Consultant provided academic perspectives on leadership

Cultural Democracy and Leadership: Democratisation of Leadership or Democratic Leadership?

Leadership Consultant Munira Thobani shared her provocation paper

She argued that:

” Cultural democracy as practice invites us to think about leadership theories and associated behaviours that will best nourish, sustain and support this enterprise. To practitioners and students of leadership alike, it raises the question of whether there is a conversation to be had on the relationship between the practice of cultural democracy and the essence and substance of leadership.

How leadership is conceived and the manner in which it is exercised has an impact on the contours of the practice of cultural democracy. A similar question is relevant to creative practitioners who conceive and create art and culture by involving others, especially where a democratic approach is central to the endeavour.” 

Read her full paper.

Is there a special sensibility about Cultural Democracy work in the West Midlands? If so what is it? ‘

This was a question posed by Orit Azaz in her provocation that proposed for the West Midlands.

She argued that:

There are the conditions for an enhanced understanding of, and ambition for, the role that artists and the arts can play in communities and the contribution they can make to a wide range of social, cultural and education themes. That means that the regional arts ecology is brimming with people – creators, producers, partners, funders – who ‘get it’ – who don’t need to be persuaded of what this work is and why it is important to individuals and society, who are rigorous and ambitious in driving quality and creativity, and generous in supporting others to do the same.”

Participants Describe what Cultural Democracy Means to Them.

How did our leadership community in the West Midlands respond?

88% of our post event respondents felt more inspired by the possibilities of leading their organisations democratically.

“This event was truly inspiring. I came out with a renewed sense of pride for the West Midlands and the excellent cultural practice which takes place in this area. The talks and presentations were exciting and thought provoking but also have emphasised to me the importance of sharing and celebrating the work my organisation does. Following on from this conference, I am keen to think further about how I can share the work I am doing with others and work with partners to share skills to achieve the best possible outcome.”

Going Forward

The value placed upon this event and the themes that were explored has catalysed a series of ongoing events. These will be delivered in partnership with regional hosts, such as Belgrade Theatre and the Midlands Arts Centre to ensure organic learning and progression.

Find out more and get involved

Please email Susan Goodwin.