Cultural Leadership Programme

In partnership with De Montfort University and with support from Arts Council England, Curve conceived the Cultural Leaders Programme to strengthen future cultural leadership in Leicester and Leicestershire and consequently the range, quality and ambition of the work originating from the region.

Seven Black, Asian and Minority Ethnicity cultural managers, artists and early career leaders receive sessions on leadership from prestigious figures in the arts, are provided with funding to undertake independent projects and receive a bespoke professional development plan to enable them to develop the necessary skills and competencies required to the 21 Century cultural leader.


During the programme’s second year, classroom based study is replaced by secondments at arts organisations across the UK and each participant is provided with a mentor most suited to supporting their ambitions.

Participant feedback plays a key role in shaping the programme, ensuring Curve provides a course that is of the most possible benefit to them. After participants expressed a desire to experience and understand the operation of cultural events outside of the region, the course was adapted to include educational trips across the UK and in Europe.

Emerging Leaders Biographies

Jiten Anand

Jiten Anand is co-founder and Director of an exponentially growing Social Enterprise, Inspirate. As a young entrepreneur, he is passionate about using arts, creativity and business as a tool for education, cultural fluency and positively impacting people’s lives.

Jiten started his journey whilst on an extended university placement at touchRainbow Productions in Leicester. Shortly after becoming a Company Director of the one year old media business, an opportunity sprouted for him and his business partner; in June 2011 An Indian Summer festival was born.

In 2013, Jiten became Project Manager of An Indian Summer. Working with a festival team and volunteers has helped Jiten to build fundamental management, leadership and directorship attributes. He has played an active role in the business development of the festival and nurtured An Indian Summer to its current breadth. Over the course of six years, Jiten played a key part in building relationships with corporate and education sponsors such as State Bank of India, Kingfisher World, Lebara Mobile, University of Leicester, De Montfort University and Leicester City Council.
During his time at the Social Enterprise, Jiten has helped to pioneer projects that will advance Inspirate in the near future. These include Leicester’s largest outdoor cinema in partnership with Derby Quad; leadership experiences with students and a street art festival that is on the verge of shifting the Cultual Quarter’s landscape.
Most recently, Jiten become a Director of Creative Manifesto, a technology arts organisation that specialises in producing interactive digital work and delivering large scale festivals such as Light The Night. He has also joined Leicester’s Diwali Advisory Panel in an aim to transform the event into a nationally attended celebration.

Charis Betts

Charis Betts graduated from Birmingham City University with a degree in Public Sociology (BA hons), which has given her the platform her to take up international work experience combating social issues through carnival arts across the continents.

She has been involved within the Leicester Caribbean Carnival from a very young age and has been recognised by the Leicester Mercury, BBC as well as receiving multiple community awards for contributions to the Leicester Caribbean Carnival.

At the age of 16 she was entitled the Leicester’s youngest troupe owner managing a youth led project, costume workshops and dance sessions and a budget for other young people in Leicester. Her touring troupe Inspire has been going for 10 years evolved in to a partnership with a Group True Masquerade, which claiming ‘band of the year’ on 5 occasions. In 2012 Charis Betts was titled the Leicester Caribbean Carnival Queen and the EMCCAN Carnival Queen in 2013/14. Her 2015 Arts council funded, Grants for the Arts the NACA project (Native American Carnival Arts) which she went on to win the titles of 2015/16 EMCCAN, Leeds and Manchester Carnival Queen. Of which she built the costume with Trinidadian costume builder Lincoln Rahamut and Athan Martin. This title gave her the opportunity to headline in many local and national events such as the Rugby world cup and the Lincolnshire School games.

Charis is a workshop practitioner and has run workshops across England, Isle of Wight, Europe and Bahamas, and has used Carnival Arts as a tool for breaking the barriers. Charis Betts is an ambassador for carnival arts within the Midlands and strives for artistic excellence within all elements of heritage products.

Shruti Chauhan

Shruti Chauhan is a poet and performer based in Leicester. She has won slams internationally in Chicago and Mumbai, and has performed at Royal Albert Hall, the US Embassy’s American Centre in New Delhi, the Green Mill in Chicago, and at poetry festivals and events across the UK.

In 2015 she toured Three the Hard Way – Part 2 nationally with Jean Binta Breeze MBE and Lydia Towsey. She is a trustee of Writing East Midlands – the region’s writer development agency, a Breakthrough Artist at Curve Theatre and an MGCfutures bursary recipient. Shruti is currently writing her debut solo show, The Sky Diaries.

Samuel Javid

Samuel Javid is a Project Manager for Big Difference Company, the charity behind the annual Leicester Comedy Festival.

Prior to this Samuel was a Producer for cultural development agency ArtReach, where he programmed and directed Journeys Festival; a multi art form celebration of refugees and their extraordinary journeys. He has just finished a 3 year term as a Young Trustee at Curve, and now sits on the Board of Leicester City of Sanctuary, a charity that supports and encourages a greater ‘Cultural of Welcome’ across the city.

Samuel, originally from Bristol, is an alumni of De Montfort University where he received a First-Class Honours in Arts & Festival Management.

Seetal Kaur

Seetal Kaur is passionate about creative cultural practices and their power to provoke change, Seetal extends her skills into dance, programming and coordinating arts projects.

She graduated with a First Class degree in Linguistics from University College London and Certificate in Sanskrit from the School of Oriental and African Studies in 2013 and has since toured nationally and internationally with Amina Khayyam Dance Company as a Kathak and Contemporary Dancer. Having been involved with South Asian Arts UK from a young age, Seetal has also worked in both Leeds and London with Darbar Festival, Yorkshire Dance, Leeds City Museum and freelanced as an editorial and copy writer. She moved to Leicester in 2016 and is now working part-time at Attenborough Arts Centre while pursuing an artistic career in Kathak dance and managing live events with Sitar Music Society.

Seetal also co runs a popular blog on diaspora and culture at She hopes to grow this platform into a social initiative that empowers young women through heritage and identity.

Kesha Raithatha

Kesha Raithatha started her training in Kathak with the well-known pioneering Kathak exponent and Guru, Nilima Devi (MBE) at CICD at the age of 8. She has accompanied Nilima Devi and CICD in various productions such as Vyom, Christmas Gala, Uttsava Festival, Nartam, South Asian Arts Festival and various showcase performances. While training with Nilima Devi, Kesha also achieved her foundation level of ISTD grades in Kathak Dance.

Kesha has since had the opportunity to study with several legendary teachers, including Smt. Daksha Sheth of the Daksha Sheth Dance company in Kerala; Dr. Maya Rao of the Natya Institute of Kathak and Choreography in Bangalore; Mayuri Upadhya of the Nritarutya contemporary dance comapny and is currently under the tutelage of renowned dance exponent Smt. Nirupama Rajendra of Abhinava Dance Company in Bangalore. Kesha has also trained in Kalaripayattu with Ranjan Mullarat and Daksha Sheth.

As an artist, Kesha has performed at several prestigious venues such as the Royal Festival Hall, the House of Commons and at events such as Her Majesty’s Royal Diamond Jubilee Pageant and China Arts Festival. In addition, Kesha has significant teaching and choreographic experience gained in the UK. She has also been the recipient of numerous awards for her contribution to the community through cultural dance performance and activity.

Farhana Shaikh

Farhana Shaikh is a writer and publisher born in Leicester. She is the founding editor of The Asian Writer, an online magazine championing Asian literature. She established Dahlia Publishing to publish regional and diverse writing and Leicester Writes Festival to celebrate local writing talent. She has facilitated creative writing workshops and judged competitions in the UK and India.

In 2010, Farhana received an arts bursary from the Royal Shakespeare Company. She writes feature articles, reviews, poetry and fiction.

Farhana lives in Leicester with her husband and their two children. She can be found on Twitter talking about books and publishing @farhanashaikh


In Term One, the participants received sessions on Partnerships and Emotional Resilience, Strategic Planning, Arts as Business and The Entrepreneurial Leader



Mon 28 Nov

Liz Blyth is an independent consultant and arts practitioner.  Her company, Watson Blyth Limited, provides management consultancy for arts and culture and the wider public sector. Recent clients include De Montfort University, the Local Government Association and Great Central Railway plc.

For 5 years up until March 2016, Liz was Leicester City Council’s Director of Culture and Neighbourhood Services and her responsibilities included arts, museums, library, sports and community services, as well as partnership development and cultural strategy.  During this time she collaborated with partners to successfully raise the national and international profile of the city, including leading Leicester’s bid for UK City of Culture in 2013. She developed the City Council’s response to the discovery of King Richard III, including the award-winning visitor centre and the reinterment of his remains. She also led various museum redevelopment programmes, Leicester’s Olympic and Rugby World Cup programmes, and the Council’s partnership to build a community sports arena.

From 2002 to 2010, Liz was Leicester City Council’s Cultural Strategy Manager and from 1997 she was seconded part time as the Leicester, Leicestershire and Rutland champion for the Cultural Improvement Partnership East Midlands (CIPEM). In 2009 Liz became CIPEM’s Director on a part-time basis, leading the regional local government improvement programme until it was completed in 2011.


Liz also has experience in health and social care, international development and neighbourhood renewal. She is a qualified youth and community worker, has an MA in Management, Organisation and Change, and an ILM Executive Diploma in Management.  She has authored chapters for two Open University books on inter-professional working in health and social care.

Liz has held Board positions at Curve theatre, the National Space Centre and Leicester City Football Club Community Trust. She is a trustee of the King Richard III Visitor Centre Trust.

Liz enjoys living in Leicester and is a passionate advocate for arts and culture, both locally and beyond. In her free time she enjoys travel, theatre, music, literature and cooking for friends.

Barbara Matthews MBE

Mon 5 Dec

Barbara Matthews was Pro Vice-Chancellor and Dean of Arts, Design and Humanities at De Montfort  University from 2013 until December 2016.  She will be taking up the post of Pro Vice-Chancellor Culture at Nottingham Trent University in January 2017.

She studied Chemistry at Durham University and, after a Damascene conversion from the sciences to the arts, studied Arts Administration at City University, London.

Barbara was Director, Theatre for Arts Council England for six years, where she had the responsibility for developing policy and maintaining an overview of the English theatre industry. For six months she became Interim Executive Director, Arts, with responsibility for policy and strategy development across all art forms.

Honoured with an MBE for services to the arts, Barbara has wide, practical experience of the artistic and business aspects of the performing arts and has worked in opera, musical theatre, live literature, orchestral music and dance. Before joining Arts Council England she spent time in consultancy with clients across the arts and voluntary sectors. She ran training courses for the Theatrical Management Association, Arts & Business and Arts Council England, and has also worked with several organisations for NESTA (National Endowment for Science, Technology and the Arts).

She was Executive Director of Royal Court Theatre immediately after its lottery funded refurbishment, leading its return to financial health. Earlier in her career, she produced the work of Cheek by Jowl on tour worldwide and in the West End. She also has experience of commercial theatre producing in the West End and festival programming. She has been an advisor for the Leverhulme Trust and the British Council, President of the Theatrical Management Association, a Director of the Society of London Theatre, Chair of the National Student Drama Festival and a Director of Hampstead Theatre, the Brighton Festival, Ardingly College and All Ways Learning.


Mon 12 Dec

Born in Pakistan, Farooq Chaudhry enjoyed an international professional dance career in the eighties and nineties, and was awarded an Asian Achievement Award for his work as a dancer in 1988.

After retiring from dancing in 1999, he completed an MA in Arts Management from City University. A year later he teamed up with Akram Khan and co-founded Akram Khan Company. As the Company Producer, Chaudhry puts creativity at the heart of his leadership style, forming innovative business models to support Khan’s artistic ambitions. Their partnership has made the company one of the world’s most foremost and successful dance companies.


In addition to his work for Akram Khan Company, Chaudhry became the Producer for English National Ballet in October 2013. He is also International Executive Director for China’s national dance icon Yang Liping since January 2016.

Chaudhry is a witness of the School for Social Entrepreneurs and the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs acknowledged him in a list of the world’s top 100 cultural actors and entrepreneurs. Chaudhry is also a regular guest speaker in cultural entrepreneurship for the Advanced Cultural Leadership Programme at Hong Kong University and the London Business School. He was awarded an honorary doctorate from De Montfort University for his services to dance in 2014.


Wed 14 Dec

Sarah is a senior arts and cultural leader and entrepreneur with extensive experience in both strategy, management, planning and delivery in a variety of different organisations. Her career has included hairdressing, selling orange juice to tourists in Florida and teaching Scottish dancing. After a period of working as a Nanny, Sarah began working in the City at a Lloyds Insurance broking firm – after 15 years, she became their first female MD.

Sarah applied to Birkbeck University and studied Art History, after which her career in the arts began. Among other positions, Sarah has been deputy CEO of Arts and Business, Fundraising Director at The Royal Academy, Executive Director for Arts Council England and Executive Director at Almeida Theatre.


Sarah was heavily involved in the organisation, delivery and legacy of the 2012 Olympic Games, taking roles at LOCOG (London Organising Committee of the Olympic Games), the ODA (Olympic Delivery Authority) and the London Legacy Development Corporation, before becoming CEO of Legacy List in 2011.

Sarah is currently interim Executive Producer at the Roundhouse, overseeing a period of change. She is a trustee of The Alzheimer’s Society, has been a trustee of Stonewall, is a fellow of Birkbeck College and was awarded an OBE for services to the Arts in the December 2011 New Year Honours list.


In Term Two, the participants worked with Curve’s CEO Chris Stafford to choose their mentors and secondments, and received sessions on Fundraising, Inspirational Leadership, Media Training, Governance and Accountability, Getting the Best Out of Your Team, the Artist as Leader, Leeds: a City of Culture Case Study, and Financial Planning.

Samir Savant

Mon 23 Jan

Samir is currently Director of the London Handel Festival, and over his career, Samir has been a part of some of the most prestigious organisations across the arts and sciences, including Booktrust, The Royal College of Music, Shakespeare’s Globe, The Royal Institution of Great Britain, The Royal Academy of Arts and English National Opera.

Samir is a trustee of Shobana Jeyasingh Dance, a committee member of IoF Cultural Sector Network and a member of the National Convention Board.

Yolanda Vazquez

Mon 30 Jan

Yolanda started teaching on the ‘acting Shakespeare’ course at Central in 2006. She has been a freelance Education Practitioner at Shakespeare’s Globe since 2003 and works with all age ranges including teachers, MA, undergraduate and drama school students as well as representing Globe Education on international outreach.

She is a successful film, television and theatre actress, appearing in The Air Up There and Children of Men, alongside appearing in various RSC productions.

Yolanda is a practitioner for Olivier Mythodrama, an organisation founded to develop authentic leaders capable of managing the unprecedented challenges of 21st century leadership.

Yolanda is a practitioner for Olivier Mythodrama, an organisation founded to develop authentic leaders capable of managing the unprecedented challenges of 21st century leadership.

Martin Popplewell

Sat 4 Feb

Martin Popplewell joined the BBC as a graduate trainee. He has presented the news on the BBC News Channel, Sky News, BBC World News and Five News. He’s also worked as a reporter for BBC One’s flagship political programme On The Record and the religious show Heaven and Earth.

He’s reported for Radio 4’s PM, You & Yours and Radio Four News. Martin has also written for The Times and The Guardian newspapers. Before joining the BBC, Martin was a researcher for Sir Alan Duncan MP at the House of Commons.

He also worked for Congressman Richard Gephardt in Washington D.C. and as a volunteer on President Bill Clinton’s election campaign.

Martin’s work has led him to interview key political leaders and statesmen including the British Prime Ministers David Cameron, Gordon Brown and Tony Blair, and US Vice President Al Gore.

Prue Skene

Mon 6 Feb

Prue Skene is Chair of the Stephen Spender Trust and a Trustee of the Nureyev Foundation and Ambit. An experienced arts executive, she was responsible for Rambert’s administration for 11 years and then became Executive Producer of the English Shakespeare Company, producing that company’s successful The War of the Roses world tour.

She was Director of the Arts Foundation, a charity giving Fellowships to artists in all disciplines, and now works as a freelance consultant. Among her clients have been Arts Council England, the National Theatre, Dance UK and the Rayne Foundation.

Hilary Carty

Mon 20 Feb

Hilary works internationally as a consultant (NTL UK), facilitator, coach (CIPD) and speaker, embracing significant experience in leadership, strategic management and organisational development.

Hilary’s career demonstrates a successful record of influential, senior level roles including Director of the Cultural Leadership Programme, a £22m government investment in excellence in leadership within the UK cultural and creative industries; Director, London (Arts) at Arts Council England; Director, Culture & Education at London 2012, the successful Olympic bidding team; and Director of Dance for Arts Council England, reflecting the passion for dance that ignited her enthusiasm for a career in the arts.

Sharon Watson

Mon 27 Feb

Sharon has worked extensively as a dancer with choreographers such as Michael Clarke, Donald Byrd, Bebe Miller, Darshan Singh Bhuller and Philip Taylor and as a freelance choreographer creating work for Never Still and Shaded Limits for Phoenix Dance Theatre Northern School of Contemporary Dance, National Youth Dance Company and Union Dance.

Sharon was appointed as the 7th Artistic Director of Phoenix Dance Theatre in May 2009 and in 2010 was named as one of the Cultural Leadership Programme’s Women to Watch, a list of 50 influential women working in arts and culture in the UK.

First awarded in 2010, Sharon is one of the distinguished panel of judges for the New Adventures Choreographer Award. In 2013 Sharon was nominated for the prestigious h.Club100 search for the UK’s most influential people working in the creative industries.

Sharon is a trustee of Matthew Bourne’s New Adventures, The Place, West Yorkshire Playhouse, and an artistic advisor for Central School of Ballet and Leeds Inspired. She has most recently been appointed as independent chair of the steering committee, bidding for European Capital of Culture Leeds 2023

Indhu Rubasingham

Mon 6 Mar

Indhu Rubasingham is the Artistic Director of the Tricycle Theatre in London. Before working at the Tricycle worked as a freelance theatre director for 15 years, both nationally and internationally and was previously Associate Director of the Gate Theatre, Birmingham Rep and the Young Vic.

In 2001 Indhu was awarded the Carlton Multi Cultural Achievement Award for Performing Arts and in 2010 she received the Liberty Human Rights Award jointly with Nicolas Kent.

Baroness Lola Young

Mon 27 Feb

A member of the House of Lords since 2004, Baroness Young is an Independent Cross Bench peer. After an acting career in theatre and television, Lola Young became an arts administrator, later moving on to become professor of Cultural Studies at Middlesex University, a writer, cultural critic, public speaker and broadcaster.

After a period as project director leading a major initiative at the Black Cultural Archives, Lola subsequently became Head of Culture at the Greater London Authority.She advises arts and cultural agencies and organisations on policy, diversity, leadership and strategic planning and continues to write and produce creative events such as the highly acclaimed national programme of arts and cultural programme, Freedom and Culture.

Lola has sat on the Boards of several national cultural organisations including the South Bank Centre, the Royal National Theatre, the Royal Commission on Historical Manuscripts, and The National Archives and is currently a trustee of Somerset House. She has been involved in a number of judging panels, including the Art Fund Prize and The Observer Ethical Awards and Chairing the Orange Prize for Literature and the Caine Prize for African Literature.

She is a Commissioner at English Heritage and a Freeman of the Tallow Chandlers Livery Company. As an ambassador for the Ethical Fashion Forum and MADE-BY, Baroness Young established and chairs the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Ethics and Sustainability in Fashion.