Meet the ADF Innovators

Get to know the 6 talented artists on our new leadership programme

ADF Innovators is a new paid Artistic Director development programme for Global Majority theatre professionals with an activist spirit.

Six Innovators will be spending six weeks developing their own project idea through a series of training sessions that will cover strategic and planning skills required for an Artistic Director role.
And one chosen participant will receive a 6-month full-time placement at ADF and a £15,000 budget to launch their project.

Introducing our ADF Innovators

Aerial Mel Stevens

Artistic Director of Aim To Fly

“I was excited at the idea of sharing the lived experience as a Black, Disabled Queer creator and the shared needs of all of my peers in the industry, Plus, learning how to pitch ideas in a safe space with education/opportunities that I never inherited from my environments growing-up.”

Aerial Mel wears many hats.

Aerial is a performer circus, spoken word poet, music and film producer, teacher, consultant and an active member in their Buddhist community.
Assisting on many boards of local, national and international levels, including NASA UK, EYCO, CircusWorks facilitating a clearer understanding of Exclusion and what real inclusion looks like, and the differences that lead to access diversity and equity.

Lived experience with of barriers of disability, hearing loss, race, culture, sexuality and inherited lessons, it seemed natural to try to bridge the gaps between all of these marginalised groups, rather than compete with them.

All of Aerial’s achievements in the last 20 years are a result of the access, that is vital to their existence in the sector and many of their peers and by sharing how combined they create a whole new body of evidence to reach excluded communities creating new dialogue.

Daniela Cristo

Theatre maker, Deviser and Creative Producer

“It is such a positive thing that institutions like ADF are truly advocating for change within the decision making positions in the industry. Innovators is such a complete programme, and the fact that it is paid makes it feel so much more professional and makes me feel so valued and respected as an artist and culture worker. I can´t wait to meet my fellow innovators and dive into the programme.”

Daniela Cristo Mantilla is a Colombian theatre maker, deviser and creative producer with international work experience. She is passionate about cross-cultural projects, dark comedy and re-defining gender relationships.Her play The Dragoness has just received ACE funding to carry out a first R&D, and it’s precisely an absurd comedy exploring sexuality. Some of her recent stage credits include Hanal Pixan, by Itzatna Arts Collective, and Migran-te by Xacara Culture. Her work as a theatre maker has been commissioned and supported by Casa Festival and Popelei Theatre.

As a creative producer, she directs Voces Globales, the Colombian branch of Global Voices Theatre. They platform arts from the regions of Colombia and build cultural bridges between Latin America and the UK. With them, she has directed month-long festivals and several cultural events. In the UK she works with Untold Collective for the representation of Latin American creatives, and has co-produced three versions of the successful festival Latinx Scratch.

Eileen Bellot

Writer/Director and Artistic Director of QuestLife

"I am really excited to be working with the team at ADF again, developing a networking and wellbeing programme for global majority creatives. A huge bonus of the Innovators programme, is the funding you get to develop a project that you are passionate about."

At my core I’m a poet, who loves the richness that comes when we decolonise the cultural canon; knock down barriers to participation; champion women in our multitude of guises; and share wisdom across generations.

I am an alumni of Royal Court, Young Vic & Tamasha Theatre Directors Programmes. My work has been staged at Arcola Theatre, Park Theatre, Oval House, Vault Festival, Albany Theatre & Rich Mix.

For 17yrs I ran a wellbeing charity and over 20yrs curated and facilitated award winning arts and professional development activities. I established QuestLife in 2020 to use the arts to advocate for change and social justice within the arts and cultural sector. I am also a trustee at Tamasha Theatre & Stage Sight.

Koko Brown

Artist & Producer

“I was drawn to the ADF Innovators programme because I deserve time, space and the opportunity to focus on my career (some rarely afforded to someone like me). ADF Innovators is a programme that is offering me the time, space and opportunity I am in need of and I’m looking forward to seeing where this leads me.”

Koko Brown is a Black-mixed, Queer, Disabled, Artist & Producer who blends theatre, spoken word and music throughout her work. She takes pride in her roots and creates work about being ‘the other’, focusing on race, mental health, gender, and identity.

Her debut play, WHITE, featured in The Guardian as one of their “Best shows at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival” and Country & Town House named Koko one of their “Ones To Watch: Best New Playwrights”. You can find WHITE and her most recent 5-star, BSL integrated play, GREY, via Koko’s website.

Koko has worked with the National Theatre, Latitude Festival, Soho Theatre, Brainchild,and Glastonbury Festival and international performance collective Hot Brown Honey. Koko is a qualified Audio Describer for Theatre & Live Performance and aims to continue making all her work #AccessibleAsStandard.

Natalie Chan


Creative Producer at Derby Theatre

“I am incredibly thrilled to be part of ADF innovators, having admired the work of Artistic Directors of the Future for a long time. Not many people who look like me are in Artistic Director or leadership roles, I want to be bold, and unafraid to question, challenge and work together for a more inclusive sector through listening and collaborating with my peers.”

Natalie is a producer and fundraiser from Hong Kong. Currently, she is the In Good Company Creative Producer for Derby Theatre, leading the Midlands’ artist flagship artist development programme. She’s previously General Manager for Creative Youth, where she has won the Arts Fundraising and Philanthropy’s Giving Tuesday Competition for the charity.

She independently produces for Max Percy, winner of New Diorama Theatre and Underbelly’s Untapped Award 2022. Natalie is a receipt of the Blackbaud Scholarship for completing her Postgraduate Certificate in Philanthropy Studies at the University of Kent in 2022, and a receipt of the RAISE bursary for completing Chartered Institute Of Fundraising’s Certificate in Fundraising in 2021.

Natalie is on Stage One’s Bridge The Gap Programme 2021/22, Queer Change Producers’ Programme with Homotopia, Milk Presents and Curious Arts 2021/22 and BFI Network South East’s Producers Programme 2020.

Previously she has been the Associate Producer for the Bread and Roses Theatre; Assistant Producer for Theatre503, Spun Glass Theatre and Arch468. She is also a board member for Young Arts Fundraisers.

Nick Ishmael-Perkins

Artistic Director Wretched Theatre/communication consultant

“I was drawn to the ADF Innovators programme because I saw an opportunity to learn from some of the most inspiring artistic leaders and theatre companies in the world, and to do this in a way that could have a transformative impact on British theatre.”

Nick began his career as a performer in the Stage One company in Barbados. After training as a journalist in Canada, he moved to Southern Africa, using theatre for development in education campaigns there. He relocated to the UK and in 2017 started Wretched Theatre determined to build a collaborative multicultural practice.

His work has been presented at the Viola Europe festival and Streatham Space Project. He was selected for the Vault’s New Directors programme and is an alumnus of Black Gay Ink. He also continues to work in media development occasionally.


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