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Theatre by the Lake collaborates on ‘inspiring and transformative’ Changing Culture Programme

Participants practicing their communication skills whilst completing a blindfold task

The Changing Culture Programme (CCP) is a collaborative partnership between the Brathay Trust, University of Cumbria and Theatre by the Lake, and is one of 18 projects funded by Arts Council England as part of their Transforming Leadership strategy which aims to develop leaders who will change the culture of the arts sector in Cumbria and North Lancashire, and beyond. Participants are seven months into the course and describe it as providing the “time and tools to develop a career in the arts”.

CCP is for aspiring leaders in the arts, culture and heritage sector in Cumbria and North Lancashire, and aims to increase the diversity of arts leadership in the area, and prevent talent draining from rural to metropolitan centres. There are currently 19 participants working on the two-year programme which blends academic modules, personal development through residential experiences, workplace learning in host organisations and mentoring opportunities. On completing the course, participants will achieve a DipHE in Social Enterprise Leadership.

The participants embarked on the programme in January 2020. Despite the challenges created by the current pandemic, the course is still on track, and they continue to study for their academic modules remotely, supported by Brathay and university staff, using the resources available through University of Cumbria’s library. They are conversing regularly with the mentors matched with them by Theatre by the Lake and are continuing to engage with each other collaboratively.

The participants recruited to the course were identified as individuals already engaged in the arts who had a potential for leadership, but faced barriers to developing their leadership skills. Their backgrounds include the theatre, music production, event management and historic costuming, and the group come from all over Cumbria and North Lancashire, from Workington to Blackpool, Carlisle to Barrow.

One student recruited to the course is Greg Webzell, a local entrepreneur who runs an ice cream business, and who has thrown mini festivals in the area for the last two years, providing a platform for emerging performers of live music, comedy and also screening films and digital work. He originally applied to the course because “it sounded interesting and I hoped it would give me some relevant training to deliver events, which is something I’ve done a bit of myself but not ever read into much theory around. Also the networking opportunity of meeting fellow peers in the Cumbria and north Lancashire area was appealing and has proven really useful for contacts that can help me deliver and collaborate with to produce events.”

He went on to say: “Through the course I’ve met a whole new community of people and I think everyone you meet changes your life a bit; engaging with this community has given me a new perspective to look at life more broadly, and it’s been a welcome relief in these uncertain times to see how people are adapting to continue. There are really great examples of creative problem solving to overcome the awful position many people and organisations in the arts have been hit with.”

“Richard Elder from Rose hill Theatre has been mentoring me and has been a huge help in making me think about what I can do and how to reach aspirations and make them a reality I can deliver. He’s also made me aware of support that’s out there and available that I can make use of. I think a major unexpected benefit is the lights turning on to see the network that already exists; a lot of people are very generous with their time and happy to help.”

Theatre by the Lake’s Executive Director James Cobbold said: “We are delighted to be working with the Brathay Trust and University of Cumbria on the Changing Culture Programme, and are incredibly proud of the participants who have already achieved so much, despite the circumstances. The current pandemic has shown us even more how valuable and vital the arts are to people’s lives, and to their health, wellbeing and happiness. Through CCP we aim to equip the leaders of tomorrow with the skills, knowledge and experience needed to develop the local arts provision and offer for our community into the future.”

To find out more about the course visit: https://bit.ly/2Yjyjar

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