creative leadership



Are you looking for in depth support around the issues facing you as a creative leader? 

We’re often too busy ‘getting on’ with things to find the time and space to look at wider leadership challenges we might be facing. 

Action Learning is a fantastic way to get together with your peers, in a small group, supported by a facilitator, to work on real life work challenges in a confidential environment. 

Each member of the group brings a challenge they are facing, and the group works together through active listening and reflection to gently provide routes to tackling each challenge. It is also a great format for peer support and will help you build a network of trusted colleagues.


This Action Learning opportunity can give you that time and space you need to stop and think. It will bring together your peers, to work through issues, share ideas and challenge perceptions. And we hope by the end of the sessions, you will have a close network of people you can tap into for more support in the future.

There are two separate Action Learning sets (groups) you can apply for: 

  • Gaining Confidence as a Creative Leader OR
  • Leading with Care and Empathy



This action learning set (group) provides a space for participants who would like to gain more confidence in themselves as leaders.  Perhaps you don’t ‘feel’ like a leader but know, deep down, that you have skills and abilities that can be developed even further.  Or you may externally present as a confident person but inside often feel like an ‘imposter’.  

The sessions will give you the space to bring your issues and challenges around confidence into an action learning set environment.  You will find it a supportive and nurturing space where you can be open with others.  

Your facilitator for this action learning set is Natasha Player. Read more about Natasha below.

Dates for ‘Gaining Confidence as a Creative Leader’ 

  • Tuesday 16 April 2024, 9.30am to 1.30pm. In person, Plymouth venue to be confirmed
  • Tuesday 14 May 2024, 9.30am to 12.30pm, online
  • Tuesday 11 June 2024, 9.30am to 12.30pm, online
  • Tuesday 16 July 2024, 9.30am to 12.30pm, online

It is essential that you are able to commit to attending all four sessions.

There are travel costs available for those travelling from outside Plymouth for the in person session. 

Natasha Player

Natasha Player

Action Learning Facilitator

Natasha is a dynamic accredited facilitator, consultant and mentor, building pace working with towns and cities alongside industry-leading organisations, such as Watershed, Bristol, De La Warr Pavilion, Bexhill and outdoor arts consortium Without Walls. Her inclusive consultative methodology includes facilitating ‘Conversations with a Purpose’ underpinned by Action Learning. A space for brave conversations to move through significant challenges and build confidence and trust along the way to doing things differently as better-informed and more confident inclusive leaders of the future.

A successful cultural leader with a recognised reputation across the Southwest and nationally for her work on inclusion and diversity, often working with cultural organisations, local authorities and consortiums in coastal areas such as BCP Council and Plymouth Culture. She draws from two decades of experience working with freelance creatives, organisations, venues and communities as a producer, programmer and changemaker alongside holding an MA in arts and cultural management from Dartington School of Arts, an RSA Fellow and trustee.


Facilitated by Ciara Eastell

This action learning set (group) provides a space for creative leaders who would like to develop their understanding and practice around leading with care and empathy.  Perhaps you are leading a small team at a time of great change or uncertainty within your organisation and are keen to lead that change with sensitivity and empathy. Or you feel that this is an area completely new to you and you would like to gain more insight into how to build an empathetic leadership style.    

These sessions will give you the space to bring your issues and challenges around care and empathy into an action learning set environment. 

Your facilitator for this Action Learning set is Ciara Eastell. Read more about Ciara below. 

Dates for ‘Leading with Care and Empathy’

  • Thursday 18 April 2024, 9.30am to 1.30pm, in person in Plymouth (venue to be confirmed)
  • Thursday 23 May 2024, 9.30am to 12.30pm, online
  • Thursday 20 June 2024, 9.30am to 12.30pm, online
  • Thursday 18 July 2024, 9.30am to 12.30pm, online

It is essential that you are able to commit to attending all four sessions.

There are travel costs available for those travelling from outside Plymouth for the in person session.

Ciara Eastell

Ciara Eastell

Action Learning Facilitator

Ciara Eastell is an experienced coach, consultant and facilitator working within the cultural, HE and social enterprise sectors.  She works with clients from both large cultural organisations, such as Tate and the Royal Shakespeare Company through to small arts and heritage organisations.   

Ciara is an experienced coach and action learning set facilitator.  She works part-time as a Professor of Practice at the University of Exeter Business School, where she facilitates a number of networks and action learning sets. 

Ciara was a National Council member of Arts Council England from 2019 – 2022, is a Governor of Arts University Plymouth and was one of the first cohort of Clore Fellows in 2004/5.   

You can find out more about Ciara at 


Research has shown us that D/deaf/Disabled people and people from the Global Majority are particularly under represented in Plymouths’ cultural leadership. At least one Action Learning place (out of 12 places) will be for D/deaf/Disabled applicants. And at least one Action Learning place (out of 12 places) will be for applicants from the Global Majority.


We will contact all successful applicants to discuss how we might best support any access needs so participants can fully engage with the mentoring and the networking events.


1. Applicants must live in the Plymouth ‘Travel to Work’ area which includes Plymouth, Torbay, Exeter, Tiverton, Launceston, Bude, Liskeard, and places in between.

>> Click here to see a map of the Plymouth ‘Travel to Work’ area.

2. The action learning is aimed at people who are leading a one-off project, an organisation, a team witnin an organisation, in arts and culture:

– Visual Art
– Theatre
– Dance
– Music
– Writing (poetry, plays, novels, non fiction etc)
– Performance
– Film making
– Craft
– Design (including graphic design and illustration)
– Animation
– Libraries
– Museums
– Cultural education
Cultural Management/Cultural Development
– Heritage

You can be working voluntarily, freelance or in a salaried role.

If you’re unsure if you can apply, please contact Sophie Mellor for a friendly chat –

can you apply for action learning, mentoring and the bursaries?

You can apply for both the Action Learning and the Mentoring opportunities, which are being advertised at the same time.

But you cannot be awarded a place for Action Learning AND Mentoring. So have a think about which opportunity would suit you best. If you’re not sure, email Sophie Mellor for a friendly chat before the application deadline.

Action Learning applicants/participants and Mentoring applicants/participants can also apply for the Bursaries. The call out for the Bursaries will be in mid February and mid April 2024.

what else is included in the action learning package?

  • 2 x in person facilitated meet ups with other participants in the Creative Leadership programme (travel costs available for those traveling from outside Plymouth). These will be happen between April and July 2024, dates and times to be decided with the programme participants.
  • Invitation to be involved (as a participant and/or co-organiser) in two Creative Leadership Programme public events.
  • Regular email updates on other creative leadership training and learning opportunities
  • Social media highlight of yourself and your work


Deadline for applications is Tuesday 27 February 2024 at 5pm.

selection panel

The selection panel for the Action Learning will be Lorna Rose (artist and curator), Kate Reed (Chief Operating Officer, Real Ideas Organisation) and Sabrina Candido (Sector Development Officer, Plymouth Culture). Lorna and Kate are part of the Focus Group for the Creative Leadership Programme, and you can read more about them by clicking here. 


Sophie Mellor, the Creative Leadership Programme Coordinator, will be running two online informations sessions about the Creative Leadership Programme and how to apply. These sessions will be on:
– Thursday 8 February 2024, 1pm to 2pm
– Thursday 15 February 2024, 6pm to 7pm

If you would like to come along to one of the sessions, and ask questions etc, please email and she will send you the zoom link

You can also book a one-to-one session with Sophie for support on writing your application. This can be on zoom or by phone.

This may include reading through your application; help turning your notes into an application; chatting more about what Action Learning is; helping you decide whether to apply for the Action Learning or the Mentoring.

She will be running a set number of these one to one sessions, between 1 February and 22 February 2024. Get in touch as soon as you can to book your support session before they get booked up! One session per applicant.
Contact Sophie on
(Sophie will not be on the selection panel).