A Question of Leadership Conference

Took place  in September 2018, at Hope Park Campus, Liverpool Hope University.

The conference was co-hosted by Curious Minds and DIY Theatre. It brought together teachers, cultural organisations, artists, performers and academics to hear inspiring stories about inclusive leadership and research across the education and arts sectors and to question notions of leadership and research.

Photo of Jenny Sealey addressing the conference

Jenny Sealey, MBE, gives her “Provocations” to the conference

The event was opened brilliantly by DIY’s patron Jenny Sealey MBE, who introduced us to her own definition of leadership:

L – learning, language (keep it clear, to the point and understandable)

E – enrich, enable, educate, excite, empower

A – Authentic , advocate, act, activist, accountability, awareness, articulate, access

D – Dare, direction, debate, decision making, destiny, dismantle barriers

E – Enabler, empathy encourage

R – Risk, responsibility, role models, retell the story, recreate the norm, rights, 


S – support shape, share, skill up

H – help, harness, hone, hope

I – Independence, individuality, inspire, initiate, ignite, inclusive, invigorate, investigate

P – provocate, prompt, participate, play to strengths, play, proactive, presence, policy, politics, pathways, progression

Geese Inspiration!

Jenny highlighted how much geese can teach us about leadership. For example, when the lead goose tires it rotates back into formation and another goose flies into the point position. This serves as a reminder that we are all interdependent and that it pays to take turns when sharing leadership. When a goose falls out of formation because it’s tired or sick, other geese drop down to help and protect it. A reminder that we need to stand by each-other in difficult times as well as when we are feeling strong.

photo of people sitting in a circle talking and listening

We talked about the different ways people can be leaders at DIY

Research into Leadership

Sue Caudle, DIY’s Artistic Director, recently completed a Professional Doctorate in Applied Theatre at the University of Manchester looking at Leadership and Learning Disability Theatres. Sue presented a session based on her research thesis ‘DEFINING MOMENTS: Leadership and Learning Disability Theatres.’

Sue’s research argues that we need to be more open to seeng leadership differently – not just in terms of the qualities of an ‘heroic’ leader but also in terms of the relationships and dialogues involved in making leadership.

You can read the full thesis by visiting the University of Manchester’s website by clicking this link.

Friday Group lead a Session at the Conference

DIY’s Friday Group ran a workshop about leadership at DIY. We asked people to reflect on everything they’d heard and talked about during the day and to create a ‘human machine’ made of sounds and actions to communicate what they thought was most important about leadership.

Photo of the Friday Group

DIY’s Friday Group made a ‘human machine’ to demonstrate leadership!

One of the groups chose the words and phrases:

  • Sharing Ideas
  • Listening
  • Loud Voice
  • Compassion
  • Considering Everybody

Another group offered:

  • Taking turns
  • Think of the audience
  • Team
  • Everyone on Board
  • Believe.

Two of the four groups returned to the geese analogy and created human machines in “goose” formation. It’s clear there are lots of lessons we can learn from geese when looking at leadership and teamwork within organisations. 

Each of the groups ‘human machines’ was controlled by someone with the remote . . .  we had a lot of fun with the pause and play button!

Visit our resource page to see a copy of our Friday Groups handout on leadership.

photo of group performing and laughing

We had lots of laughs as groups demonstrated thoughts on Leadership with ‘human machines’

Leadership Conference in song form

The plenary session was led by Matt Baker, Artistic Director of Theatre in the Quarter. During the day Matt had been listening and taking notes of what people were saying at the conference. He then transformed this into a rousing song which everyone performed together.

Why not download the PDF of the song below? The words on the right are the chorus.

The best things about the conference:

To see and hear disabled people being leaders and fully included.

Good ideas for encouraging shared leadership.

DIY Theatre’s demo workshop [blush!]

Listening to presentation from DIY, SLICE presentations, relationship between schools and arts organisations – ideas for the future.

It was a chance to reflect on my skills as a leader.

Seeing how all these schemes and organisations work in practice, finding out about things going on, getting to meet people.

Talks and practical workshops. Hearing about the way in which other organisations create space and opportunity for artists and other professionals with learning disabilities to be a leader in different ways.

DIY Theatres research into applied theatre. Reminded that there are other forms of communication and to apply that more in our practice.