Infinite Melody, Still, Edie Jo Murray.

Infinite Melody, Still, Edie Jo Murray.

The AD:Vantage Leadership Programme is a development programme with a focus on d/Deaf, disabled or neurodivergent people who work in arts, culture or heritage in Coventry. A pilot project funded by Coventry City Council, it has been running since September 2020. The programme has consisted of group learning sessions, workshops, ‘How I Did It’ insights with industry experts, 1-2-1 support and mentoring from a chosen industry specialist. It is based on the producers’ two previous programmes RE:Present and ASTONish which worked to support diversity in all its forms including race, disability, gender and sexuality. The programme has also featured a series of Masterclasses open to the public with speakers including, Andrew Miller MBE, Kris Halpin and Shawanda Corbett and which can be viewed here. 

We caught up with the cohort (artists Ayesha Jones, Jazz Moreton, Helen Kilby Nelson, Hayley Williams-Hindle and Edie Jo Murray) about the experience:

What made you want to apply to the AD:Vantage programme? 

Ayesha Jones: Because I had been struggling with the formal aspects of working within the arts e.g. writing applications, leading meetings at work, organising my workload, understanding what I needed to do and how to execute what needed to do.

Jazz Moreton: I felt a bit lost in a massive art world. Several people recommended that I apply, so I took their advice.

Helen Kilby Nelson: The programme was timely in relation to recent developments in my practice, and I recognised that the opportunity to learn and develop leadership skills would be invaluable to equip me with the tools to ensure I have a sustainable practice.

Hayley Williams-Hindle: It was a timely opportunity, and it came on the back of having had other leadership training in recent years that was aimed at a broader demographic. I felt that I could gain a lot from a training programme like AD:Vantage, that promised to be tailored and mindful of the particular challenges and cultural communication differences that ‘neurodiverse’ and disabled artists live with. There was some trepidation, but also excitement at being part of a pilot project, a new model of nuanced and culturally empathic working practice.

Edie Jo Murray: I was most excited to be connected with other creatives in Coventry. It really helps to have a good network of other artists around you, and sometimes it can be hard to make those connections, especially if you’re not able to attend events in person. I’ve been really grateful for the relationships I’ve made through AD:Vantage.

Motherland, Ayesha Jones.


What has been your biggest take away from the programme?

Ayesha Jones: I think the most useful thing about this process is being exposed to information which helps us understand the structure we are operating in (the arts) and then how we function within that to make it work for us and our goals. The analysing of my past, present and future has helped carve a clearer path and given more meaning to why I am doing what I am doing, rather than just going through the motions. That self awareness and understanding of surroundings naturally facilitates self confidence and clarity.

In order to reach higher positions you need to be exposed to the right information in order to understand how to get there or how to operate when opportunities come your way. As someone who processes information better visually, it was great to have visual tasks and presentations to help absorb the information that was being given.

Jazz Moreton: How important it is to have a good network!

Helen Kilby Nelson: It helped me learn new skills and recognise the skills I already had, and how to use them to their full advantage. My biggest takeaway is valuing myself, time and skills! 

Hayley Williams-Hindle: The reminder that growth and development is a process, and that that is ok!  The take-away for me, apart from all the specific industry nuggets, is a measure of renewed hope – That understanding and integration of ideas and concepts can happen organically when a person centred approach to development is used. I hardly think it’s just my experience, but very often when new material is presented in typical format and settings, there is little consideration given to how that information is absorbed and how it will be integrated and become practical knowledge for the learners, beyond the basics of offering instrumental tools like larger font size or dimmed room lights. For many people, it is the more thoughtful and nuanced work of contextualising and describing that makes information truly useful. I think of it as demonstrating the world building of the ‘insider’. Programmes like this serve to expand hope that true accessibility is possible where there is a will to work out what that means for each person.

Edie Jo Murray: That the biggest challenges for me are different to what I thought they were! This programme fully made me completely reassess who I am and what I want to achieve, and what things I need to work on – in a good way. It’s definitely helped me to (re)define the direction I want to take next.

Pilot I apostrophe. Still003, Helen Kilby Nelson.


How have you/have you collaborated with others on the programme outside the sessions?

Ayesha Jones: I have been speaking with Hayley about how I can support her and her work through my role at the Belgrade Theatre. I also emailed the group for their feedback on an idea I had for work.

Jazz Moreton: Not with my creative practitioner hat on, but we all keep in touch and share advice and support.

Helen Kilby Nelson: Collaboration has mainly been in the form of peer support at the moment. However, there are many crossovers with our practices, and I don’t doubt there are many potential future collaborative opportunities.

Hayley Williams-Hindle: Greater collaboration has been stymied somewhat in our group by being obliged to meet on Zoom rather than in person…We’ve spent a lot of hours in each others’ virtual company over the last few months, but most of us haven’t even met in the flesh yet! Having said that, it’s been wonderful to have consistent time with a small group of brilliant and thoughtful people, and learn about each others’ areas of interest and exploration… There are some collaboration ideas with the different members of the group that I hope will be realised over the next period of time.

Edie Jo Murray: We have talked a lot about what we might do together after the programme – it’s been great to find out the interests we have in common, and how we might be able to support each other’s practices. Keep a look out for an AD:vantage podcast or something similar coming soon I’m sure!

Fascial exploration 4, Hayley Williams-Hindle.


Who have you been mentored by in industry? How have you found that experience?

Ayesha Jones: Lara Ratnaraja, Nicola Shipley as well as artist and photographer Andrew Jackson. It really has helped to give me and my personal practice more direction. and helped spark new ideas. They are helping me finally put in for my first ever solo funding applications.

Jazz Moreton: So far, I’ve had mentoring from Independent Consultant & Curator Mandy Fowler, and I’m also having some with TV Producer and Director Shirley Hunt-Benson because I wanted to split my mentoring across two sectors: Art and Media.

Helen Kilby Nelson: As well as one-to-one’s with Lara, I have also had mentoring from Ruth Catlow at Furtherfield and Mandy Fowler. It was really beneficial to be able to spend time with industry professionals who are outside of my existing network. They have all helped me re-frame how I think and talk about my practice and current projects.

Hayley Williams-Hindle: I was paired with Sonia Boué. I don’t have enough superlatives for this person! Her nuanced empathic support and guidance has been transformative. It’s the first time I’ve had mentoring from someone who also recognises their own neurodivergence. So there is a shorthand there for me – an ease of communication. The usual translation and filtering effort isn’t necessary, and that’s been really enabling and a lot less effortful. Added to which Sonia is a wonderful artist in her own right, and is knowledgeable and experienced in many of the practical aspects of things like funding within the sector – which is still quite new to me. I wish I could keep her on full time! A mentoring relationship, when you find a good fit, is I think one of the most valuable things that anyone can have in their career and development of self.

Edie Jo Murray: I’ve been mentored by Ruth McCullough, Director of Abandon Normal Devices. It’s been great to get her input – particularly as she has really motivated me to pursue a project that I’m really excited about, but kept being pushed to the bottom of the list by other work. Throughout the programme we’ve been able to learn from the experience of loads of interesting industry professionals which has been a real privilege.

Jazz Moreton


It’s an exciting year for Coventry/Warwickshire. What next? What are your plans for the coming year?

Ayesha Jones: I was shortlisted for Unlimited’s next funding round and if I am successful, I will be producing new work on the theme of black female identity and the connection between art and spirituality.

Jazz Moreton: I’ve just completed a BBC New Creatives radio commission (coming to an airwave near you in the spring), and I plan to progress in sound/radio/podcasting/media, which feels far more accessible than it did before I did the AD:vantage course due to Lara’s links with the BBC and her curating Hello Culture.

Helen Kilby Nelson: I will be mainly working on developing new bodies of work,  ‘I Apostrophe S’ and ‘Qwerty’(working title). Funding for the R&D of Qwerty will enable me to be mentored by Ruth Catlow at Furtherfield and artists Doug Fishbone, Antonio Roberts and Simon Poulter. I will also continue to work with the community of Stratford-upon-Avon through to 2022. This is a community initiative to strengthen and develop community connections through creative opportunities and skill sharing for all residents.

Hayley Williams-Hindle: I’ve got a book full of ideas and a brainful more! I have a small CCC/Unlimited commission on ‘Fidgeting over zoom’ which is due to be shown in January as part of the Unlimited Southbank Festival online – which is really exciting. I’m new to public making and am chomping at the bit to see how my ideas land and resonate with others! So plans for this year are to keep having conversations and exploring ideas in this newly open-to-me world of creative opportunity. I’m experimenting at the moment with acrylic and light, and the possibilities of virtual and augmented reality in data visualisation art. I’m hoping to be able to realise a piece this year which is working with additive colour theory to describe a conceptual ‘portrait of a brain’ of an individual using their cognitive skills profile. It will take the form of a chandelier, and is a commemorative and reflective piece to a wonderful neurodivergent woman whose life ended prematurely at the start of 2020. It’s also an iteration of a larger project in development which is using VR to interrogate and celebrate the so-called ‘spikey’ cognitive profile of neurodiversity; challenging the narrative of difference as deficit and visualising the possibilities of complementary skills within groups of people.

The other aspect of my current interest is in somatics – working practically and artistically with embodied memory and place. I hope that 2021 will provide an opportunity to develop some work about the inward biology of the soma, exploring the metaphor of theatre as organism and how this year of pandemic restriction has harmed and stiffened the ‘cultural’ body. I’m further formalising my coaching work too and hope to be in a position to use those skills alongside body work to offer practical support to people who are struggling especially with the particular mental challenges of this crazy year! There’s also some research work in development with Bath University around autism and the cultural sector. So, lots of threads of ‘possible’. I aim to keep lightly pulling on all of those threads, and really hope to be caught right up in the glorious tangle of what Coventry is realising for its year as City of Culture.

Edie Jo Murray: I’ve got loads planned, but unfortunately lots that hasn’t been announced yet so I can’t share too much! Some exciting regional commissions that I’m looking forward to working on, and a personal project that’s still in really early stages – but I hope to start sharing soon!


AD:Vantage has been produced by Helga Henry and Lara Ratnaraja, independent arts consultants who have a particular interest in developing diverse leadership talent in the arts, culture and heritage sectors. AD:Vantage is their third programme in the region designed to transform the diversity of cultural leadership. Their piece on diversity in the arts for New Art West Midlands from October 2017 can be read here. 

AD:Vantage has been funded by Coventry City Council and has worked in partnership with New Art West Midlands, Coventry Biennial and Warwick University. The Advisory Group consisted of Sonia Boué; Mojere Ajayi-Egunjobi; Philippa Cross, Talking Birds; Kim Hackleman, The Belgrade; Becki Morris, Disability Collaborative Network C.I.C and Craig Ashley New Art West Midlands/Coventry University

The AD:Vantage Leadership Programme is a development programme with a focus on d/Deaf, disabled or neurodivergent people who work in arts, culture or heritage in Coventry. A pilot project funded by Coventry City Council, it has been running since September 2020. We caught up with the cohort about the experience.

ਜ਼ੋਨ Zōna, 2020. Sahjan Kooner.

We are delighted to announce that 6 artists have been selected for our latest round of Studio Visits.

ਜ਼ੋਨ Zōna, 2020. Sahjan Kooner.

Freelance curator Adelaide Bannerman will meet with Bharti Parmar; Ryan Hughes, Artistic Director of Coventry Biennial of Contemporary Art will meet David Saunders; Ikon Gallery Curator Melanie Pocock will meet with Helen Kilby Nelson; artist Harminder Judge will meet Sahjan Kooner; Ian Sergeant will meet Thomas Brown, and artist Permindar Kaur will meet with Rupi Dhillon.

As part of our last round of visits, we are also pleased to announce that Zoë Lippett, Exhibitions & Artists’ Projects Curator at The New Art Gallery Walsall met with Nuala Clooney during November.

Applications were selected by the New Art West Midlands team, in conjunction with the relevant studio visitor.

Each of the current round of studio visits will take place online over the coming weeks. We hope they will be useful and fruitful conversations.

We are delighted to announce that six artists have been selected for our latest round of Studio Visits.

We are delighted to announce the eight artists selected for our forthcoming Active Reality Research Lab, developed by New Art West Midlands, working with Coventry City of Culture Trust, ARUP and artist Simon Poulter.

We received a large number of excellent applications from all over the region. In our selection, we have chosen artists working across art forms including visual arts, graphic design, performance, sound, bio-art and other hybrid forms of practice. We hope that the artists taking part will be able to learn from each other as much as from the activities they undertake and from the expertise of the facilitation team.

The artists taking part in the lab are: Carol Breen, Matt Eaton, Helen Kilby-Nelson, Namratha Jacob, Edie-Jo Murray, Priti Patel, Rosa Postlethwaite and Laurie Ramsell.

The lab will take place online (or partly on-site should government restrictions permit and should artists feel comfortable to be on site in Coventry physically) from 13-17 July 2020.

We are delighted to announce the eight artists selected for our forthcoming Active Reality Research Lab, developed by New Art West Midlands, working with Coventry City of Culture Trust, ARUP and artist Simon Poulter.

Are we really living in a democracy, or a cold war ideology re-imagined?

Georgiou & Tolley’s (Darryl Georgiou & Rebekah Tolley-Georgiou) multi-layered, multi-textured and multi-framed moving image work, Twin Stranger: Entangled State, is currently showing as part of The Twin, at the 2019 Coventry Biennial of Contemporary Art. The work has been situated in The Row, a disused NHS building, and as it turns out, an apt site; a building that had previously been a place where only the most vulnerable of society visited, their secrets laid bare in order to receive the care they needed; consent and control? In keeping with the theme of The Twin and also the 30th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, the work is also being exhibited in the former GDR, in what is a ‘false original’ of the former Hotel Berolina; now a doppelgänger government building, responsible for issuing fines and parking tickets. Surveillance and control in a different guise?

The Hotel Berolina, which features throughout the film, was built in the German Democratic Republic, long before the wall came down. A symbol of opulence and power; a place for sleeping, eating, meeting, playing but with an added punch of surveillance thrown in for free. Was the status of being seen there, worth the price of really being seen?


Who is watching who?’ …

… in the foyer, in the rooms of this Stasi controlled building … opposites and parallels, connections and diversions, play out across the screen as the viewer is pulled into the lobby, suddenly alert to a woman with red hair, a tall man at the elevator, meeting their gaze. A disturbed voice (actor Jack Klaff), asks questions, makes observations and reacts … layered over soundscapes, interviews, conversations, protests. As a viewer the tension becomes palpable, the tempo and the urgency of the dialogue builds, a feeling that you have entered into something very dark and most probably dangerous.

As you start to engage with the work, the many layers begin to make themselves known. Each word, phrase, image and sound is wrapped around double meanings, subliminal messages, hidden text, semiotics, dualities within dualities, juxtaposed against one another. It is an allegorical work that doesn’t take you on a gentle meander but spins you headlong down a fast flowing rapid, heading straight to the open mouth of a monster, that has travelled through time, shape shifting, mercurial and ever present.

Twin Stranger: Entangled State explores the wider themes of Georgiou & Tolley’s previous works: Magician Walks Into The Laboratory, Resistance ’68, and Magician: Walking Back The Cat; regarding mass surveillance, data gathering, paranoia, consent, control, through the lens of both still and moving images, to re-present the past and situate it within the present. In parallel, an associated Twin Stranger Radio Film, to be broadcast on Saturday 16 November, 6-7pm (MixCloud), along with the siting of the work in Berlin, offers a celebration of resistance and revolution against both historical and contemporary Cold War ideologies that lead to the eventual demolition of the Wall. The experimental soundscape: a layering of the moving image, dialogue and location sound recordings, synthesising with the archive material and music of the 1980s.

In addition to Twin Stranger: Entangled State, a ‘sound walk’ entitled, From A to B: Anhalter Bahnof to Berolina, will take place in Berlin on 16 November 2019; passing the site of the former Berolina statue (the female personification of Berolina), that once stood in Alexanderplatz. This sister project and off-site event, will form part of a subsequent limited edition audio work, to accompany the site-specific works in Coventry and Berlin.

How the hell did we get here and why?’

Spend enough time with this work and the parallels with contemporary society become stark and frightening. There’s no need for a Hotel Berolina anymore, there’s no need for a Berlin style wall. Every discovery, every crack in the capitalist right wing armour, is sealed with false originals, wormholes and rabbit holes, and deceptive connections. An invisible panopticon structure that sees all, but remains unseen and untouchable, to all but a few … our digital footprints analysed each time we enter the Hotel Internet, regardless of which room we inhabit.


Review by Helen-Kilby Nelson

Helen Kilby-Nelson reviews Twin Stranger: Entangled State, a video work by Georgiou & Tolley, currently on display at The Row as part of Coventry Biennial 2019.

Axis Directory member Helen Kilby-Nelson reports back from The Coventry Biennial, a city-wide arts festival taking place 4 October – 24 November 2019, including the work of New Art West Midlands x Coventry Biennial artist Ewan Johnston – via axisweb

Artist Helen Kilby-Nelson discusses her research interests and working methodologies ahead of her exhibition at Coventry’s City Arcadia gallery at the end of August.




How has the residency at Coventry Art Space shaped your work?


My initial proposal for the residency included researching socially engaged art practice alongside developing how my own practice might fit under this umbrella term. As a social housing tenant I founded an action group in my local community in May 2018 and I have wrestled with whether this was something separate from my practice or a part of it. If it is a part of my practice how do I ensure an ethical and transparent relationship with fellow members? The time and support from Artspace trustees helped me to work through these questions and I have found that these two parts of me now sit comfortably with each other and with members of the action group. I finally gave myself permission to allow the socially engaged aspect of my work to grow organically without feeling the need to have a prescribed or time sensitive outcome.


The residency has allowed me to further develop my research-based practice which has manifested in a body of work that responds to stigma based on social housing. These two elements of my practice currently synthesise and weave in and out of each other in a non forced way. The residency has therefore helped shape my practice to incorporate various methods of working. I see my practice as multi-dimensional in terms of approach, process and outcome as I move forward.



What can visitors expect from the exhibition at City Arcadia?


The exhibition includes film, projected moving image, sculpture and text. The combined works are a layering of different forms of language, representing misinformation, learned behaviour, lived experience and the perpetuation of stigma both external and internal. The work focuses on cause, dissemination and effect.


As part of the exhibition I will also be running a workshop on Saturday 31 August, ‘re-imagining Monopoly’, as a creative tool  to address the challenges faced for marginalised groups within a hierarchical society.



Can you tell me more about the title of the exhibition?


A word, an insult I have come across through talking with other social housing tenants and one which I have been called myself is “leech”. There are so many assumptions wrapped up in this single word. Yet the leech is an incredible creature, some of the fascinating facts I discovered are that a leech can adapt to almost any environment, it is gender fluid and that it has 32 brains. It felt appropriate to take this negative imagery and subvert it as well as use a potent, visceral word that hints at supposed intelligent collective behaviours and instigators.



Can you tell me a bit more about your approach to the timely subject of social housing and its myriad political, economic and social associations?


I chose to approach this subject through an autoethnographic process, having been a social housing resident for over twenty years, feeling angry about poverty porn, misinformation about social housing tenants, the loss of autonomy and reduced life chances. Using my own experiences as a base from which to research other artists and collectives who have tackled issues around social housing and open dialogue with others, including housing providers, researchers, community workers, other social housing residents and the wider public. The hardest part has been unpicking the political, economic and social associations and how these all merge. There are elements of all three in the work but the main focus has been stigma and how that is created and the power it has.



How do you conduct your research and how are your works made manifest?


My research is rhizomatic including everyday observations, interactions, feelings and thoughts, conversations with friends and peers, philosophy, critical texts, art-works and artist links. My practice responds through writing and making throughout the process. I make multiple works in different media and the process can appear chaotic, however it creates a visual and written ongoing critical dialogue of itself. These instant responses to external interventions and internal thought processes maintain a state of flux, a constant questioning and production towards more resolved pieces of work.



What will you be working on next and how does this support longer term ambitions for your practice?


My practice will continue to question, respond to and act on issues within society that marginalise, dehumanise and perpetuate inequality and the cause and effect of these hierarchies, language and inequalities within society and on identity and life opportunities. My work in response to social housing doesn’t finish with this exhibition and I will continue to collaborate with fellow tenants in my local area to shift the balance of power. I am also planning a further period of self-guided research into hierarchies, cause and effect.


I have already begun working on an exciting project as part of my professional development with Black Hole Club at Vivid Projects that continues to experiment with language, this time through sound and methods of input.


Myself and artist Adam Neal, who has also been undertaking an Artspace graduate residency and is showing at City Arcadia, are working together on a ‘Graduate Toolkit’ which will add another dynamic to both our practices, as well as planning other collaborative projects.



29 August – 7 September 2019
Arcadia Gallery


Artist Helen Kilby-Nelson discusses her research interests and working methodologies ahead of her exhibition at Coventry’s City Arcadia gallery at the end of August.