Inaugral women leaders set to inspire 

The first group of trailblazing women have been selected for this 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 an 18-month training opportunity at eight arts organisations in South West England:

The Point, Activate Performing Arts, Art Asia, Diverse City, Kaleider, Pavilion Dance South West, Strike a Light and The Arts Development Company.  

PDSW is delighted to be hosting Adie Dove from Bodmin and Vrushali Harihar from Bournemouth over the next eighteen months, where they will be 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 for all the associates is led by The Point and funded by Arts Council England’s Transforming Leadership scheme.  

Adie Dove

Hi, I’m Adie Dove I’m 24 years old and the best way to describe my work is that I’m on a mission for change and equality.

At fifteen I set up a project, KBSK, with my mums’ full support to share my knowledge of dance and to provide opportunities for young people living on the council estates where I grew up. 

Today KBSK is thriving – reaching young people from all walks of life that wouldn’t ordinarily be able to access the arts. Whether coming from financial deprivation, struggles with mental health or learning difficulties my project provides them with opportunities to redirect, re-engage and inspire others.

My aim is to reach any young person that feels they don’t belong in society and to create a bridge that connects them with a wider community. The young people I work with deserve the best and that’s what I strive to give them, through dance.

I couldn’t be more grateful for this next chapter of my journey. I’m excited learn, and grow through this programme with PDSW. I want to connect with other strong women, to share what I’ve learned and learn from them – as I believe no woman is an island! 

Vrushali Harihar

Hello, I’m Vrushali and I’m a passionate advocate of the arts and dance. I want to bring people together through creativity – people from all communities.

I’m a busy housewife with two young children who bring such happiness and positivity to my life.

As a science graduate with a diploma in computer science, I have worked in various regions and companies in India and UK. I have also been supporting members of my community with the development of small businesses both here in UK and in India.

I enjoy hosting, organising and participating in creative events. I teach Bollywood Dancing and it gives me joy to see people moving together and connecting through dance.

I work with a variety of charities in the BCP area and in the South West which has offered me the wonderful opportunity to meet and work with different people.

I love food and cooking and I’m always exploring new ways to make a dish and with spices. I’m keen to bring people together through the creative process of preparing and cooking food; hear the stories behind the recipes passed down from generation to generation and encourage connections through the social nature of eating together and enjoying new tastes.

More about the programme….

All 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 partner organisations in the coming weeks, with a residential of intensive learning in April. 

The cohort also includes solo dance artist, creative activist, and advocate Amber Weyman one of PDSW’s Young Tustees. 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. 

Jude Kelly CBE, Founder and Director of The WOW Foundation, said: “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. 

She said: “Women Leaders South West is doing very intentional work to bring thoughtful leaders to the arts. It is a great privilege to interact with the applicants and the organisations who will undoubtedly have an incredible impact going forward.”

Phil Gibby, Area Director, South West, Arts Council England, said: “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.”

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