ADF to close

After ten game-changing years in the theatre industry, Artistic Directors of the Future (ADF), announce that they will be closing this autumn.  ADF was founded in 2014 by the visionary Simeilia Hodge-Dallaway.  

ADF’s mission is to demystify the role of artistic director and senior executive, thereby increasing leadership representation and progressing the careers of theatre practitioners who are Black, Asian or ethnically diverse (Global Majority).   

Since becoming a registered charity in 2016, ADF has made a significant impact on the creative landscape by working in collaboration with the theatre industry, academia and numerous leading producing theatres located nationally and internationally.  ADF deepened its relationships with Executive Teams including the CEO’s, Artistic Directors and Executive Directors of over 20 leading theatres and arts organisations across the UK, including Donmar Warehouse, Battersea Arts Centre, Theatre Royal Stratford East, Bush Theatre, Young Vic Theatre, National Theatre, Royal Court Theatre, Lyric Hammersmith, Royal Exchange Manchester, Curve Theatre Leicester, Talawa Theatre Company, Northern Lines(Bradford), Stonecrabs, Tamasha Theatre Company, ZENDEH and Royal Academy of Dramatic Art (RADA). 

When ADF opened its doors in 2014 there were less than a handful of Global Majority artistic directors and executives in the UK.   A decade later the landscape looks markedly different with Global Majority artistic directors/executives at Arcola Theatre, ATC, Battersea Arts Centre, Belgrade, Bernie Grants Arts Centre, Borough of Culture 2022 (Associate AD), Bristol Old Vic, Brixton House, Bush Theatre, Chichester, Contact, Eclipse, Extant, Home, Hoxton Hall, Kakilang, Kiln Theatre, Leeds 2023, Liverpool Everyman, National Theatre (Deputy AD), New Earth, Northern Stage, Sheffield Theatres (Associate AD), RIFCO, Royal Exchange Theatre, STL Ltd, Talawa, Tamasha, Tara, Theatre Peckham, Theatre Royal Stratford East, Tiata Fahodzi, Tribe Arts, Uproot Theatre, Utopia Theatre, Young Vic, and more.

ADF’s pioneering programme, UP Next, in partnership with The Bush Theatre and Battersea Arts Centre, handed over power and resources to six global majority makers – Tarek Iskander, Saad Eddine Said, Lekan Lewal, Sita Thomas and Tobi Kyeremateng.  All of whom are now in leadership positions:  

  • Tarek Iskander, Battersea Arts Centre 
  • Saad-Eddine Said, New Art Exchange
  • Lekan Lewal, Eclipse
  • Sita Thomas, Fio
  • Tobi Kyeremateng, award winning TV and film producer

Our award-winning Board Shadowing Programme launched in Yorkshire in 2019 with Sheffield Theatres, Leeds Playhouse, York Theatre Royal, Hull Truck Theatre and Stephen Joseph Theatre.  Further organisations followed: English Touring Theatre, Punchdrunk, Complicité, Dance Umbrella and Without Walls. 

Further successes over the last decade include:  

  • Winner of The Stage Innovation Award in 2020 for our innovative Board Shadowing Programme
  • 17 bespoke programmes, workshops and events 
  • Growing our membership to over 500 based in the UK and abroad
  • Over 530 members taking part in our activities
  • Members who attended our award-winning Board Shadowing Programme and other programmes who have joined boards include:
  • Anni Domingo, actor, director, author and Shakespeare scholar, Chair of Theatre Peckham
  • Kamara Gray, Artistic Director of Artistry Youth Dance is a trustee at English National Ballet
  • Eileen Bellot, Founder of Questlife is a trustee at Tamasha
  • Anthony Almeida, theatre and opera director is a Trustee at Nottingham Playhouse

ADF’s current leadership training project ADF Innovator will be completed this summer.  Eileen Bellot, Associate Programme Director, will deliver an artist wellbeing project, ReViVe.  

Our final project Think Tank: Agents of Change will imagine what the future of arts leadership will be in our diverse society.   This research-based project will explore pathways that will create equal opportunities and support leadership progression for Global Majority arts practitioners in an evolving landscape. 

We would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone who has worked with us and helped us deliver our vision and mission over the last 10 years. 

Firstly, our funders:  Arts Council England, Paul Hamlyn Foundation, Esmée Fairbairn Foundation, Garfield Weston Foundation, Aziz Foundation, without whom none of this would have been possible.   All our members, arts organisations, practitioners and academics who have collaborated, advised and challenged us to help address the inequities in the sector.  Thanks go to Bush Theatre, Battersea Arts Centre and Strike a Light for their collaborations with our Up Next programmes and all the numerous theatre buildings and organisations around the country who took part in our Meet the Programmers events. 

We’d also like to thank the dedicated individuals who worked tirelessly for ADF with love and dedication over the years.  A special mention goes to Sandra Thompson- Quartey who has been a steady and brilliant force at ADF over the years creating and delivering our game changing programmes whilst looking after our members with compassion and care.  

And finally, none of this would have been possible without the ambitions of ADF’s founder Simeilia Hodge-Dallaway who had the belief, drive and tenacity to make an intervention in the sector for Global Majority arts practitioners, and was the creator of ADF’s UP NEXT and Board Shadowing Programmes.

“Artistic Directors of the Future stands proud in its mission to redefine leadership structures, board representation and pathways to leadership in the cultural sector. Simeilia Hodge-Dallaway’s pioneering vision and dedication to see more culturally diverse leaders at decision-making tables has resulted in ADF’s programmes and initiatives redefining the landscape, narrative and values of what leadership looks and feels like.  The sector looks markedly different than it did when the organisation was founded in 2014 and the board and team are confident that this legacy will continue to resonate and inspire the next generation of Global Majority leaders and change makers”.

Pooja Ghai, Chair of Artistic Directors of the Future.  On behalf of the Trustees 

The closure will be managed by Transition Manager, Pauline Walker.  “I have followed ADF from the beginning and have seen how the organisation’s work has transformed the theatre sector.  Simeilia’s singular vision was a bold one – to effect change for Global Majority arts leaders in Britain and the work she started has certainly borne fruit.  ADF is undeniably a success story and during this year I will be documenting that success within a publication so that the incredible work the charity has done will not be forgotten and will serve as an inspiration for those currently working to diversify the sector and for those who are yet to take on the mantle.” 


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