Leadership Programme

The Coventry City of Culture Trust selected 15 up-and-coming leaders to take part in a two-year leadership programme. Read more about these future leaders below:

Alexandra Johnson
Writer & Creator

I’m a writer and creator. Chair of the Spon Spun Festival Management Team. Commissioned by BBC Radio as well as theatres locally and nationally.

I run writing workshops. I have an MA in Writing from The University of Warwick & am a full member of the Writers’ Guild of Great Britain

I want to create theatre projects in new and unexpected places, bringing audiences together to entertain and leave them uplifted and provoked, to build a legacy from 2021 and carry the momentum of the Year of Culture forward. Currently I’m working with  Good Chance Theatre (Change the Word Collective), I’m a member of ,and workshop facilitator for, City Voices, I wrote the script for short film “Leave this Place” for Halloween in line festival was commissioned to write a piece of Drama for Shoot Festival 2020.

I’m particularly looking forward to creating theatrical, large outside site specific events, and to learn about programming and the logistics of creating great, engaging spectacles.

I also have a particular interest in working with the older community and vulnerable people within the city.

I want to collaborate on large & small scale projects, to make audiences think and come away from an event moved, enthused and stimulated and be glad they engaged and didn’t just stay at home. 

To me a leader is someone who makes their team feel confident enough to grow and flourish. Being supportive, not pushy. Learning as much as I can from everyone around me and celebrating that learning. Always acknowledging a job well done, and every success even in failure. Making informed decisions and not being afraid to change course if it is the right thing to do. Admitting when they’re wrong and accepting the blame where it’s due. Making people want to be part of the team and leave them feeling more empowered after every project.

See some of Alexandra's work here

Twitter: @TwinkleMoore

Facebook: Alex Johnson


Alfie Daes
Graphic Designer & Clothing Company

I am a self taught graphic designer with a direct passion and involvement in Coventry’s creative community. I have designed various artworks for local musicians and logos for independent businesses. My clothing brand “Only Girl Worth Chasing” has been running for 4 years and is a constantly growing creative outlet for me. I take inspiration from Coventry in my curation/design aspect of the brand, with some direct links in certain designs to the city itself.

Going forward I would like to expand my business and eventually be able to open up a physical shop in Coventry, hopefully making it the flagship shop of my business. I’d also like to be able to host pop up shop events around Coventry in some of the great available spaces we have. 

In terms of change around the city, I would like to see Coventry retain their creative talent instead of losing them to “bigger” cities such as London & Manchester. I would eventually like to see a more defined creative scene in Coventry that is known not only amongst creatives but across the whole City.

I believe that to be a leader you must not only be confident in your own ideas but also confident in others. Being a leader doesn’t necessarily mean being in charge and bossing people around but knowing how to approach certain members of your team in a way that can help them produce the most effective work. A leader shouldn’t be afraid to make mistakes and be assertive with their decisions.





Ashley Jordan
Dancer, Performer & Director

Born, raised and now living in Coventry, Ashley Jordan (known widely as AJ) is a professional dancer and performer who is now using his skills to inspire the next generation of Coventry based young people by giving them the opportunity to experience dance and movement-based activities.

Over the years, he has been part of a number of performances created by Coventry based companies and showcased in Coventry such as HOME (Highly Sprung & Upswing Aerial, 2019) and Read All About It (Mercurial Dance, 2018).

Ashley is the director of Ascension Dance Company, the company that co-created “Sent to Coventry”. “Sent to Coventry” was a dance film made in 2017 in support Coventry’s successful bid to be City of Culture 2021. To date, “Sent to Coventry” has over 150,000 views on social media. This film can still be viewed on the Coventry City of Culture 2021 Facebook page. 

Ashley notes: "Being part of Coventry’s Leadership programme is an extraordinary opportunity for me and the other 14 incredible creative minds based in Coventry. These people are the creative heart of Coventry. They are passionate about the city and are looking to create exciting projects that invoke lasting memories for both the residents and visitors to Coventry throughout 2021 and beyond.”



Becky Taylor

Writer, Poet & Creative

Becky Taylor doesn’t work in the way people traditionally think of working, but she is always busy trying to make people’s lives better through painting and poetry.

Becky is close to completing her first book which she is hoping to get published later in the year.

She is also working on a couple of other big projects which are in the early stages of development.

Becky is very creative, lively and full of ideas. She has autism and ADHD and life has been difficult at times.

One of her aims to is to help create a world where everyone gets the best out of life and to break down barriers that make achieving this difficult.

Becky has achieved a lot so far in her life, but it has been a long battle and that is something that she wants to change for others.

Becky wants to make a lasting impact on people’s lives – specifically for vulnerable people. “Its not as much, “something for me”, its part of creating an ongoing change and this programme will kickstart this.”


Bengy Speer

Creative, DJ & Photographer

Some of my work includes: Toastmasters Secretary (Public Speaking Group), member of several different groups creating events in the city near and far, DJ and photographer the list is endless. I’m very passionate about myself and others and their health and wellbeing, that’s why I’m also very passionate on making people feel at home in life.

I’m also a global bunny and love traveling so like the song goes anywhere I lay my hat that’s my home. So Coventry is not just my home the world is.

The best thing about life is the good changes you can make in it.

I love helping people and finding answers to issues that can help people gain insight, nothing is impossible; mum taught me that.

‘So Be The Natural You and Don’t Let Anyone Say You Can’t’

Now over years I’ve grown to be a stronger person and I’m not ashamed to admit I suffer from high level anxiety but also the truth is it can’t be something that dictates your life. So if like me you care and love the human spirit, connect with me.

Instagram: @bengyspeer

Twitter: @BengyJake

LinkedIn: linkedin.com/in/ben-speer-03269051 


Cory Barrett

Director & Creative

A Coventry born boy who grew up in the high rise flats of Willenhall. I’ve seen lots of change in the city some good, some bad but all of those decisions have got us to this point where people are looking at Coventry instead of the dread of being sent to Coventry.

Coventry has helped shaped the man I am today creative, aspirational, grounded and determined, with a background in graphic design and a love for fashion. Excellent communication, organisation and computer skills, with a very passionate and motivated attitude to life.

Currently working as Curious Director for my own brand, CBGC Creative Industries Ltd a creative community . Creative concepts, branding, artworking and advisory roles. I have worked across multiple retail/fashion sectors from high street, luxury and department store. This has given me great insight into all aspects of retail and business, giving me a vast amount of knowledge which will benefit my development as a leader across any sector.

My passion is creativity and growth, having worked across the world and the UK its time for the midlands to shine, it’s time for Coventry to be in the spotlight for the right reasons for creative and cultural reasons. We have seen so many highs and lows in Coventry from two tone, d’n’b, dance and rave scene Coventry has always been seen as a destination for music, but fashion and youth culture always follows suit and that’s where I am interested I am a passionate conduit for change and aligning creativity.

I believe in multi discipline and breaking down the silo’s that exist in the creative worlds and especially in Coventry. Why can’t they cross over? Why can’t we learn from other disciplines. And with Coventry having so many creative avenues I believe it’s time for Coventry to have a creative and cultural industry, that the post grads can believe in that local kids can believe in and that Coventry can once again have a thriving industry. And for me that is creativity there is no better time. The one thing I believe stopping us is the lack of space for us to inspire, engage, and inform new conversations and tell new stories.

I wish to work with key stakeholders to create spaces and build a thriving industry in the region.

Instagram: @CBGC_Curious & @CBGC_Industries

Website: cbgc.ltd


Ellie House

Film Producer & Project Manager

Ellie House is a freelance Project Manager and Producer from North-East Coventry. She has worked and volunteered extensively delivering services with adults with complex needs including homelessness, addiction and exploitation. Ellie strives to bring creativity into all she does in a way that supports positive mental wellbeing for everyone involved. She loves storytelling, performance and is passionate about film.

She is currently working with Feeding Coventry, acting as Project Manager for Coventry's first Social Supermarket based at Foleshill Community Centre and has just produced a short film about what Home means to people in Coventry who are speakers of other languages.

Ellie says: “I'm absolutely thrilled to be part of the Leadership Programme. It will be such a luxury to have time and support to be able to explore my creative ambitions for Coventry - the charity sector is in such high demand all the time and I am looking forward to being able to spend time developing new ways of working that help spread joy and include people and communities that may not always have had the opportunity previously to get creative."


Josh Leach

Animator & Designer

I am a graduate freelance animator and designer. I’ve recently been working on animation for corporate, documentaries and music videos. I recently took part in CoC’s Visual Album Project where I collaborated with Coventry band CANDID for their single ‘April’. Creatively, I dabble as an Artist, Performer, Film-maker, Composer and workshop facilitator. 

The Leadership Programme has given me the confidence and backing to pursue my long-term interest in Personality Types i.e Psychological Profiling professionally. For the past 6 months I’ve been studying ‘Profiler Training 101’ learning to discover other’s type in the myers-briggs system via face to face interview. The course will conclude after a 5-day Live event in Pennsylvania (rescheduled to May 2021). From there will be other opportunities to develop my practice further.

For City of Culture, I want to use profiling sessions to meet new people in Coventry. Building a network of the 16 types and then introduce people to others of their type and others with psychological compatibility, across different cultures and generations. Facilitating opportunities for friendship and self-learning to emerge, through group storytelling, discussion and sharing. Each type holds a psychological ‘puzzle piece’ to a healthy flourishing society, which needs to be honoured. But each type also has certain struggles and experiences of feeling on the fringe of society. By teaching people about type, I hope to guide them towards greater understanding of themselves and others, with many ‘aha!’ and ‘someone finally understands me!’ moments. And opportunities to connect with others over shared experiences.

I’m currently digitally volunteering for an upcoming Coventry based (soon international) research collective called Queer Disrupt. In the past, I have hosted ‘drink and animate’ nights at University. I have performed Audio/visual collaborations with musicians, where I live-animated my ‘Synesthetic’ (sound to colour) experience of their music. Performing at the Tin, and UK Young Artists Festival 2019. As a Filmmaker, my short psychological-horror-film ‘before i was 5’ won Best Experimental at the National Student Film festival. More recently, I facilitated writing workshops for ‘City Voices’ with Theatre Absolute. And I’m currently helping animate for a documentary on the 90s rave scene in Coventry.

I’m looking to develop my profiling-practice further through study and interviewing people in Coventry. In the hope that creative collaborations will emerge as secondary aspect of that process. I am also looking to do a funded project teaching Coventry Music Artists how to support each other on YouTube to create a digital web that retains viewers.

To me, one aspect of leadership is the ability to listen to multiple perspectives, sensing the direction the group is consciously and subconsciously moving toward and making sure everyone has been heard and included in the path forward. Cultivating a space where people can express their natural strengths and be themselves. I want to see a friendlier, interconnected, creative city.

Website: JoshLeach.co.uk



Laura Nyahuye

Artist & Founder

Laura Nyahuye, was born and raised in Zimbabwe and migrated to Coventry. She is an artist, a creative visionary, a generational thinker and founder of MAOKWO, an arts organisation.  Laura designs and makes unique handcrafted wearable body adornments.  Her work addresses social issues such as lack of inclusion in the arts sector for artists of colour.

Tokenism and tick box exercises are real life issues, affecting marginalised communities daily, you will find these topics woven into Laura’s poetic writing and her handmade body adornments.   Women’s issues and migration are subjects that Laura is very passionate about. Her work challenges perceptions and provokes human beings’ habitual thought patterns concerning other people.

For centuries, body adornments have been used to define cultural, social, or religious status in various communities. As a practicing artist as well as a CEO at Maokwo, Laura has worked with various organisations in and outside Coventry including Counterpointarts, Belgrade Theatre, CRMC, Theatre Absolute, Talking Birds, Coventry City of Culture Trust.

As Laura hand weaves her body adornments, she is weaving a message about Hope, Love and Freedom. Laura’s work is driven by the conviction that art and creativity are tools that help us to see past race, class, age and create a better NOW, a better FUTURE.

Laura: “It’s a joy to be part of the leadership programme, I’m full of expectations, looking forward to tangible and sustainable results, ready to roll! My prayer is, we will all look back 10 years down the line and say ‘Yes! I see, legacy, real diversity in our art sector and more leadership roles for people of colour #hopeinthearts!”

Instagram: @maokwo & @Laura_Nyahuye  

Twitter: @maokwo & @lauranyahuye

LinkedIn:  Laura Nyahuye

Website: wearemaokwo.com & lauranyahuye.com/


Marius Mates

Dancer & Choreographer

I am a positive, passionate, and determined dancer & choreographer with over 15 years of experience. My background is in breaking – I fuse this with hip hop and contemporary & experimental dance, delivering captivating indoor & outdoor dance performances and theatre productions, which are at once psychological and celebratory.

These often involve other artforms: I have collaborated with visual artists, musicians, film makers, writers and poets.

Performances (all funded by the Arts Council /National Lottery) include:

  • One%: a collaboration with O’Driscoll Collective, performed outdoors at Digbeth Festival, part of B’ham Weekender 2019, (will be at Sadlers Wells main stage at Breaking Convention, Dec 2020, after mentoring from JonziD).
  • Traum: collaboration with Theatre Absolute as part of ‘Are We Where We Are?’ Co-creation with writer Chris O’Connell
  • Ink, a theatre piece produced by hip hop dancer/choreographer/theatre maker Si Rawlinson (Breakthrough Artist at Curve Theatre; artistic director of Wayward Thread) (was scheduled for V&A & Edinburgh Festival 2020)
  • Irreversible with Andrei Roman as part of "Breaking Convention" in 2014. (International Dance Festival Birmingham, UK).

I have taught classes at Dance Exchange in Birmingham, and am one of the Six Young Creatives involved in the creative development of the City of Culture 2021 Signature Event. 

I am a world renowned break dancer, ranking 19 in the world at the ‘Breaking for Gold’ Olympic event in China 2019. I won the Romanian national title at Red Bull BC One, (the world’s most prestigious one-on-one breaking competition), three years in a row (2014-16).

My aim is to inspire and create exceptional art which stays true to our core human beliefs.

Instagram: @imarius91 & brkdts

Facebook: Marius Mates

Twitter: @imarius91

Website: breakdots.co.uk


Mel Smith

Community Organiser & Creative

I am passionate about creativity and community. I believe these two things combined can have positive benefits for your mind, body and soul. They helped me to reinvent my life after having to give up my career when I became poorly in 2014. They have led me to become a Community Organiser, Movement Builder - Feel Good Com, Visual artist, Producer of community powered festivals, a person who loves to doodle and one of the 15 City Of Culture Leaders!

I was born and raised in Coventry. I love my City. It’s where my family roots lie and is a place I have made a home for my family

I have produced three community powered festivals, this year was the first virtual creative health festival - People Like Us. It combined community groups, organisations, local, national and international artists for a week of creative activities.

I am looking into ways to turn the Feel Good Community into a social enterprise so that we can become self-sustaining including partnerships with NHS, Public Health and hopefully a range of Feel Good merch. I want to develop my production and leadership skills to bring more Feel Good events to life. I want to expand my skills as a visual artist - hopefully to create larger scale pieces in unexpected places

The change I want to see is that more people have opportunities to experience getting creative as a tool to help improve their health & wellbeing. I want to take art into communities to use as a way to bring people together to lift up their stories and experiences

Website: Feelgoodcom.org

Facebook: @feelgoodcommunity

Instagram: @feelgoodinsta

Twitter: @feelgoodmel


Nomusa Okorie (Chrissie)

Poet & Communications Specialist

Nomusa Okorie was born in London in 1998. Her mother is from Zimbabwe and her father is from Nigeria. Throughout her life, Nomusa has always been interested in creative writing. It was not until she turned 16 that she found a love for poetry.  When she was in college, she came third place in a poetry competition. This sense of achievement allowed her to continue writing poetry.

Nomusa is at university studying BA Journalism.  She has recently published a poetry collection called ‘Insight’. Insight is a collection of poems which fights for social justice and touches on sensitive topics such as race and gender equality. Since being at university, Nomusa has performed at numerous events around Coventry. She has been commissioned by the Coventry City of Culture Trust and Maowko.

Nomusa is currently also setting up her own marketing and communications agency.

Nomusa: “I am excited to be on the programme. I enjoy working in the community and helping out where I can.  I love working in the arts and culture sector. This programme will help me with my leadership skills and also meet new people to collaborate with.”


Nyasha Pitt

Consultant, Creative & Producer

Hi there! I’m Nyasha (Ni-ya-sha), which means Grace of God and has its origins in Zimbabwe. My middle name is Carmen, which is of Latin derivation and means ‘beautiful song’. I grew up in the Home Counties, am of Vincentian heritage, and my paternal bloodlines are from Burkino Faso. I am definitely Black, definitely British and definitely a proud Coventrian.

I am a creative communicator, connector and collaborator – I’ve spent more than twenty years as a marketing specialist, as well as most of my life as a creative – singing-songwriting, spoken word and poetry. I am a multi-passionate entrepreneur driven to learn and to teach at the same time, spreading positivity through the world like wildfire, one connection at a time.

I have a very fixed focus on how I can lead sustained, positive, proactive change, especially for those who identify as Black. Not politically Black. And not Rachel Dolezal or Jessica Krug Black. BLACK. I’m also a women’s and LGBT rights activist; I was former Comms Director for the UK’s only professional network for women in the jewellery industry, WJN, and I am a Coventry Pride Trustee.

I’m an expert, just like everyone else, on being human (the most amazing experience anyone can have!) and passionate about engaging with the myriad individuals, wrapped up in identities (and carefully packaged in protected characteristics) around me. I’m a Neuro-Linguistic Programming Practitioner and am fascinated by the concept and idea of identity; especially how identity intersects human behaviours, programmed biases and beliefs and how these changes when the nuances of human connection impact the interaction.

My work includes marketing consultancy, training and development, community-building and developing the Arts. Pretty much everything I do, whether creating compelling creative comms campaigns or delivering global talks on my lived experiences as an activist or as a C-Suite Black woman in corporate, is about challenging perceptions, engaging the audience and creating safe spaces for true, respectful dialogue (and therefore relevant and effective change).

Outside of consultancy, I lead a professional network of more than 50 Black senior leaders, broadcast journalists and influencers called iDNetwork, launched in February 2019; the network is an empowering space where we discuss societal challenges through the Black lens. We have a very active WhatsApp group, which will develop into an online platform in 2020, with its own podcast.

And I also produced an annual arts festival, supported by the City of Culture Trust, called IDENT in 2019, at the Warwick Arts Centre. The festival is a beautiful, unapologetic platform for Black performers and this year’s IDENT festival will stream online on 21 December and is once again supported by the City of Culture (which is incredible!). Change has definitely been the theme for 2020; positive change is my vision for 2021.

Instagram & Twitter @livingcontent on @identfest
YouTube & Twitter Instagram @identfestival 


Thanh Sinden

Consultant, Collaborator & Facilitator

I work as a collaborator, facilitator and enabler for positive change and involved in various projects with individuals, arts and cultural organisations to make change happen. I work with teams that have vision and purpose in a strategic way to turn plans into actions for a more inclusive sector.

My work focus on social purpose, projects and initiatives that advance equity between groups, celebrate and respect our diversity for a kinder, happier and prosperous world for all. 

Coventry is a place I am proud to call home. I came to Coventry as a bewildered, scared child. I grew up in Coventry as a young person who dreamt of a better tomorrow for myself, my family, for Coventry and for the world. I wrote a story for myself at 17 called ‘Hope is the Essence of Living’ and hope is what creativity gave me. I believe in the transformative power of arts, culture and creativity. I believe it is an injustice that not everyone gets to benefit from this power. I am a dreamer and I believe dreaming of what’s possible is the magic that accessing, engaging and making arts and cultural activity brings to the world. 

Kindness, valuing difference and diversity, social equity, creativity, authenticity and adventure are the values that drives me. These values underpin the world I want to live in and the future I want to create. I want to explore how arts, culture and creativity create the social interaction that facilitates civic engagement and safe civic spaces where our assumptions can be safely challenged that transforms our relationship with people, place and planet. 

I want to learn more about inclusive leadership, my strengths and how I build on these. I’d like to build lasting relationships with people striving to transform their communities through thinking and doing things differently. I bring a positive future focus mindset to making an impact in society. I want to lead with compassion, integrity and accountability, enabling and facilitating the growth and agency of people around me to devise effective solutions in achieving positive outcomes for the benefit of everyone.

Twitter: @thanhsinden


Tyler Campbell

Producer & Founder

I am a determined professional entrepreneur that is wanting to bring out the best in young people who I see just need someone to believe in them. I wanted to do something when I saw a rise in knife crime attacks and murders in Coventry. It was a need in me that just thought that young people had to help young people to try and solve the problem.

I want to provide opportunities and openings for young people in all aspects of society – whether that is changing the law in Stop and Search so young people have more of an opportunity to know their rights, right through to helping other young people who are facing homelessness. I also want to help with mental health training for young people suffering in the lockdown to providing leadership opportunities for future young entrepreneurs

I help produce two online productions - Fridays 4 and 1 , a weekly advice show around the 4 areas - food, fitness, free time (hobbies) and future advice on careers and skills

I want to network and connect with other people in the city that might be able to help my projects and I can help theirs. I am looking to develop my leadership and management skills as well as team skills which will help me in the future.

I want to be an approachable leader and a team player – no higher than anyone else but able to direct and advice where they need my help. Leadership means to help others that are a bit lost and need some direction on how to get where they need to go.

I want to see young people given more opportunities to unlock their potential in whatever they want to be and become. I want to see more young entrepreneurs that can be encouraged to chase their dreams

Instagram: @fridayscoventry

Website: fridays.org.uk