Activate are part of a group of eight female-led South West cultural organisations, led by The Point, Eastleigh who will receive Transforming Leadership, Arts Council England funding over the next 2 years for SWarm; a two year pilot project that will begin in October 2019, creating legacy-driven work placements for talented women and explore will new leadership pathways in the arts.

Only 31% of Artistic Directors of large Arts Council England National Portfolio Organisations are women. Men are still paid 10.6% more than women in the arts” 

Arts Professional 2018

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The SWarm project partners are: Activate Performing Arts (Dorset); Diverse City (Dorset); Pavilion Dance South West (Bournemouth); Strike a Light (Gloucestershire); Kaleider (Bristol); The Point (Hampshire); The Arts Development Company (Dorset); Art Asia (Hampshire).  The Southampton Business School at The University of Southampton are also involved as Academic Partner to the project.

The project will deliver its aims through the recruitment of 16 talented emergent female leaders from a diverse range of backgrounds, with a focus on removing barriers for those who may otherwise struggle to find a way in. The partnership will also offer a twelve month long development programme incorporating peer, formal and ‘on the job’ opportunities. High profile Arts Executive, Jude Kelly, founder of the WOW (Women of the World) Foundation will further provide aspirational international mentoring for the participants, from grassroots to global connections.

The project will launch with an intensive residential programme that will include entrepreneurial training from Southampton Business School at the University of Southampton. Integral to the output is a legacy project comprising an analysis and an impact study and the creation of future sector-specific models and approaches to support a sustainable pathway for female leaders and the development of an authentic value system that brings business and arts closer together.

The conception and planning of this programme has already been a success in bringing together an inspiring group of female-led organisations in the South West where the group can collectively tackle gender imbalance but also have a platform to consider how the next generation of leaders can be encouraged to be entrepreneurs and innovative pioneers.

This programme will seed an exciting network of women who live and want to work in the South West who will be able to lead into the future, safeguarding culture and the arts for future generations to come.


Funded by the National Lottery, Arts Council England's Transforming Leadership fund was launched to address specific issues around diversity across leadership; development of opportunities for emerging and early career leaders; the expansion of executive skills at senior levels. The 18 leadership development programmes that Arts Council England selected nationally focus on the diversity of the participants, with a number specifically addressing the underrepresentation of leaders from certain groups. Over the course of 2 years, Arts Council England will invest £7.1 million into the programmes with 70% of all the participants are based outside of London.