Unexpected Leaders – building a new, fairer world

Community | Opportunities | Spotlight

What is the Unexpected Leaders programme?

In the world of arts accessibility, there are often rafts of passionate, well intentioned, white, straight, middle-class, non-disabled people working hard to try and make a difference without actually listening to the people they’re attempting to help. What is needed to make long lasting, systemic change are a greater variety of people in charge.

We need to be listening to the leadership of people who have greater insight into the obstacles faced by people who are perceived to differ from the straight, white, non-disabled ‘norm’.  We set out to develop a national network of Unexpected Leaders – people who might not usually be recognised for their leadership potential.

Unexpected Leaders timeline:

Between 2015 and 2016, 10 Unexpected Leaders were selected from Southwark, Stoke-on-Trent, Blackpool & Wyre, Stratford London and Bristol. Each leader gained experience working with the local community and Extraordinary Bodies circus company. They also received professional coaching to develop their leadership skills and a bursary to continue their personal development.

In 2017-2018 We ran a programme with Clore Leadership to develop disabled coaches to work across the arts.

In 2020 we were supported by a National Lottery Community Fund grant which enabled us worked with three communities across the UK in our Connecting Communities project, which combatted isolation in lockdown. It also gave us an opportunity to coach new leaders in Devon, Plymouth and Salford and begin helping them towards their potential.


We think by transforming leadership and shifting power, we can change the arts.

In 2020-2022 we are working with four different organisations as part of the ACE funded Transforming Leadership programme. Clore Leadership, The School for Social Entrepreneurs, Women Leaders South West and Rising Arts Agency will all be working with us to try new approaches to diversifying leadership. This is the way forward – sign up to our newsletter to hear more as we progress.

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Diverse City

Diverse City is an award winning organisation committed to diversity and equality in the arts. We are an engine of artistic and social change.
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