A water droplet exploding on contact with the ground

Photo by spettacolopuro

If I died tomorrow, this is what I would like as my epitaph:

She made a difference, she inspired others to think differently and do things differently. That she reframed diversity, helping people experience the richness, dynamism and creativity that comes from placing it centre stage.


I recently received an email saying ‘I heard you speak recently at a conference and came away enthusing about the way you challenged people and made them think’.

Love it. I know that I can provoke people to rethink how they respond to the concept of diversity, moving it from a place of ‘problem’ to one of creative opportunity.

What am I talking about? What have I done then? What impact have I had? Here’s an example or two of what I mean…

The journey with Scottish Dance Theatre… A long time back, I spoke at a conference on Access to the Arts and asked what people were doing to engage disabled people in dance stating that this was not just a disability issue, it was for everyone. Eight years later Janet Smith, then Artistic Director of Scottish Dance Theatre (SDT), employed four disabled dancers within the main company for a season for a piece called Angels of Incidence – marking the first time a ‘mainstream’ contemporary dance company had done so. This was the start of an incredible journey of discovery that I was able to work alongside in a variety of roles.


To find out more: You can read an article on Arts Council England’s Creative Case site exploring the journey in more detail or read the impact report I wrote for SDT on the Agent for Change role they created as part of this journey. I really recommend you watch the short duet The Long and the Short of It (3 mins 46 seconds) with SDT’s Caroline Bowditch and Tom Pritchard as its a great example of the work. In Jan 2012, SDT hosted a symposium called Pathways to the Professions – you can read my review at Disability Arts Online.

A photo of the artist Susan Austin underwater in her wheelchair.

Photo: Portal 2008 by Susan Austin

Co-founding Sync – a leadership development programme for the cultural sector… 

Sync focuses on the interplay between leadership and disability. Sync provides fresh perspectives and challenges deep-seated thinking about what we all can achieve and was originally commissioned by the Cultural Leadership Programme, and is now directly funded by Arts Council England. Through Sync, we have offered placements, run courses (one day introductions and 6 month ‘intensives’), offered coaching, and curated a growing body of content that illustrates the creative potential of different approaches, attitudes and perspectives.

The picture here is by artist Susan Austin who describes her brand as being like “a spark of light” igniting others:

“This metaphor for a leadership style has developed in response to Sync helping me to realise that having limited mental and physical energy to act in the world needn’t exclude one from meaningful leadership roles; and that, in fact, the experience gained through ‘difference’ can be a very positive asset.” 

To find out more: Read more about how Susan does this on the Sync site itself, or find out more about Sync on the Cultural Leadership Programme site – Leadership Works: Excellence in Leadership. We are also featured in Sue Kay’s essay on Cultural Leadership: Grand Narratives and Small Stories. Anyone can join Sync – you can sign up direct from the Sync site and at the moment you can also get a course of short emails (one a day over 21 days) exploring Sync and linking you to key content – an initiative that’s getting a great response:

“ …just a quick note to let you know that I am really enjoying the Sync 21 days!   I think it is a beautiful and efficient idea.   I am enjoying the fact that I am slowly understanding Sync as an organisation – in a manageable and useful way (and I am sure this being embedded in my long term memory!)!  I love the fact that the idea of 21 days totally fits my way of receiving email – I click, I receive a manageable amount of information with a useful, interesting and appropriate link – that can deliver exactly what I want for a short engagement or lead me into a journey through the whole site. Congratulation on this concept.  I get mountains of newsletter and introductions (as does everyone else).   I often save many to digest later – and, regretfully, never go back!   Your 21 days really delivered for me – and I hope for Sync!”

Richard Sobey, Executive Producer, IOU, Halifax