Empowering Women of all Backgrounds to be Leaders in the Arts

Addressing the gender imbalance in the south west arts and cultural sector

WLSW celebratory film

We are celebrating the success of a year-long project supporting 16 associates working in partnership with seven other female-led South West arts organisations. We’re really proud of our two associates Ruth Pitter and Natasha Nixon, the work they’ve done as part of their projects over the past year, and we’re excited that we will continue to work with them. Here is a short film about the programme.

The Programme

Women Leaders South West (WLSW) chose 16 incredible Associates from over 350 applications for a training opportunity at eight arts organisations in South West England:

  • The Point, Hampshire, Diverse City, Dorset
  • Pavilion Dance South West, Bournemouth
  • Strike a Light, Gloucestershire
  • Activate Performing Arts, Dorset
  • Kaleider, Devon
  • The Arts Development Company, Dorset
  • Art Asia Trust Ltd, Southampton
  • Southampton Business School at The University of Southampton

The organisations hosted two Associates each over the course of eighteen months, supported by social entrepreneurship and business training from Southampton Business School and mentoring from Jude Kelly and The WOW (Women of the World) Foundation. The programme was funded by Arts Council England’s Transforming Leadership scheme.

Following the Women Leaders South West programme, Activate’s Associates, Ruth and Natasha, have created Grace the Space. The project aims to encourage diverse groups of women to grace outdoor spaces, and explore their creativity through walking and workshops.


The successful candidates came from a variety of backgrounds and live across the South West. Selected for their ambition to make change, to innovate and to inspire, they started working with the eight arts organisations, with a residential of intensive learning in April 2022.

The 16 selected women Associates were:

Adrienne Dove Armstrong, Shenice Ellis, Fee Hudson Francis, Vrushali Harihar, Daisy Higman, Zahra Hoccom, Halima Malek, Anjali Mavi, Vandna Mehta, Natasha Nixon, Ruth Pitter, Rosanne Robertson, Lorna Rose, Romana Syed, Abby Young and Amber Weyman.

The two Associates who worked and trained with Activate are Natasha Nixon and Ruth Pitter.

Meet Natasha

Natasha is an international Theatre Director and Practitioner based in Bridport. Her work is cross-disciplinary with previous projects including an experimental dance theatre show exploring trauma, a queer adaptation of Macbeth, circus, new writing and mask projects, as well as a broad range of outreach work including an immersive clown dance show for children with special educational needs and disabilities. Her experience in the theatre industry includes work as a Staff Director at the National Theatre and as an Associate for the National Youth Theatre.

Meet Ruth

Ruth is based in Bristol and co-founder of Black Women Let Loose Theatre Company, Breathing Fire Black Women’s Playback Theatre Company, and ‘Our Stories Make Waves’ collective for artists of African Diaspora heritage. She has performed, written, produced, taught and directed productions locally, nationally and internationally. Ruth has also worked in the voluntary sector for many years in the field of equality, diversity and inclusion.

The Women Leaders South West project was run by a group of eight arts organisations and one business school. The project also involved the WOW Foundation, which is a global movement to celebrate women and girls and which takes a frank look at the obstacles they face. An Arts Council England Transforming Leadership grant funded the project.

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