A new generation of cultural and artistic leaders have been chosen to take part in a major leadership programme as part of Coventry’s year as UK City of Culture.

The Coventry City of Culture Trust has selected 15 up-and-coming leaders from nearly 100 applications for the City of Culture Leadership Programme that will run across the next two years.

The aim of the programme is to strengthen and diversify the next generation of leadership for Coventry’s creative sector, to reflect the diversity and cultural strengths of the city.

The programme is being supported by, and delivered in collaboration with, Beatfreeks, Coventry University, Coventry University Social Enterprise CIC, people make it work, TRG Arts and Warwick Arts Centre.

The successful applicants include filmmakers, entrepreneurs, artists, DJs and writers, as well as dancers, event organisers, community group leaders and clothing company creators, who will all receive support and funding to continue their work within Coventry’s creative community.

The Trust and its partners are co-creating the leadership programme with the successful applicants, creating a two-year leadership programme wrapped around the cohort, enabling them to realise their ambitions for the city. As well as receiving mentoring and access to training, the programme will provide the leaders with a digital space which will facilitate them to continue networking and sharing ideas and updates.

The applicants who did not make it onto the programme, have also received support from the Trust with microgrants funding their cultural and artistic business ideas, to support their professional and personal development.

One of the successful applicants, Alfie Deas, runs a contemporary clothing brand “Only Girl Worth Chasing”, with designs inspired by his hometown.

He said: “I am excited and very grateful to be a part of the City of Culture Leadership Programme. I feel it will give us a platform to showcase the creative talent within Coventry. I believe that Coventry should be the destination and not the departure point for current and future creatives.”

Coventry resident and artist Laura Nyahuye designs unique handcrafted wearable body adornments.

She added: “My prayer is, we will all look back 10 years down the line and say I see legacy from the City of Culture, real diversity in our art sector and more leadership roles for people of colour!”

Melissa Smith, who is helping to produce the Creative Health community-powered festival in the city said: “I am a huge advocate for the arts and creativity so being chosen to be part of the leadership programme is truly an honour. I’m looking forward to learning and connecting in different ways so we can amplify the benefits and our voices to get more people involved with the creative scene here in Coventry throughout 2021 and beyond.”

Tyler Campbell is a 19-year-old Coventry entrepreneur who last year responded to the spate of knife crime in the city by founding Fridays - a young person’s youth club and entertainment space. He said: “I am really excited to be part of this project. I am a thinker and doer - always pushing myself to follow my dreams. It’s something I am keen to help others achieve.  I am eager to learn as many leadership skills as I can so I can encourage and help other young people to fulfil their potential in the future so a huge thank you for this golden opportunity!” 

Coventry based writer and creator, Alexandra Johnson said: “What an amazing opportunity this is, I’m thrilled to have been selected as one of the 15 and looking forward to making a difference to our fantastic city for 2021 and beyond.”

Martin Sutherland, Chief Executive of the Coventry City of Culture Trust said: “Confident leadership across our city is essential for us to realise our vision to reimagine the role of culture in a diverse, modern Britain. More than ever before the city and region need its ambitious, socially engaged leaders and we are delighted to be supporting this cohort of Coventrians through the leadership programme.”

Peter Knott, Area Director, Arts Council England said: “We’re pleased to be supporting the City of Culture Leadership Programme and providing opportunities for a diverse range of people from Coventry to grow their future careers in arts and culture.

“Investment is key to nurturing the next generation of creative talent, and thanks to funding from the National Lottery through Arts Council England, this programme will offer 15 creative leaders the opportunity to hone their skills and expertise in time for Coventry City of Culture 2021 and long into the future.”

Richard Watts, from people make it work, which is helping to co-create the programme, said: “We are so delighted that these wonderful people have all accepted their offers onto the Coventry City of Culture Leadership Programme. Each of them is extraordinary, they bring such a breadth of experience and perspectives and they share a deep set of values and passion for the city. We are so excited that we will be working with them.”