Abid Hussain, Director of Diversity at Arts Council England
Picture by Edward Moss All rights reserved. Aston University MBA

Contributors for the inaugural Vital Spark Symposium have been revealed with organisers stating that the two-day event will be unapologetic about where the Performance for Young Audiences (PYA) sector is and how far it needs to go to reshape traditional approaches and become truly relevant and inclusive.   

Abid Hussain, Director of Diversity at Arts Council England who holds responsibility for delivering the Arts Council’s work on equality, diversity and inclusion, will be joined by Keisha Thompson, CEO of Contact, Manchester and Chair of radical arts funding body, Future’s Venture Foundation to discuss the challenges and realities of the independent PYA sector whilst looking at how current opportunities and challenges are shaping commitments to relevance and inclusivity. They will be joined by Christopher Gorry, Artistic Director at The Spark Arts for Children, writer, programmer and producer Titiola Dawudu and Daryl Beeton, Artistic Director at Daryl and Co.

Other contributors across the two-day event include Lincoln Arts Centre’s Creative and Executive Director Ben Anderson, performance artist, producer & community organiser Adam Carver, also known as their drag persona Fatt Butcher, Founder and Artistic Director of national touring company Mashi Theatre, Trina Halder, Chief Executive of Royal & Derngate, Northampton, Jo Gordon and Executive Director of Catherine Wheels Theatre Company Tony Reekie. They will be joined by Vital Spark artists Tanya AkrofiJustyna Cwojdzińska and Dave ‘Stickman’ Higgins.

Also present will be this year’s cohort of Vital Spark Artists;  Alexandra Gogan, Debora Naomi Adachi, HK Ní Shioradáin, Justyna Cwojdzinska, Sarah ‘Rain’ Kolawole, Tandeka Williams and Tanya Akrofi.

Organised by The Spark Arts for Children, an arts organisation with over twenty years experience in commissioning and producing high-quality performance experiences that are led by diversity and innovation, the symposium will be held at the University of Leicester’s Attenborough Arts Centre, from 13– 14 March.

The inaugural Vital Spark Symposium will be an opportunity for artists, directors, programmers, venues, practitioners, and funders to take part in challenging panel discussions, focused workshops, and view premier performances from new artists from the Vital Spark Programme. The aim of the symposium is for attendees to challenge each other to assess and develop the PYA sector in an environment that is both action-focussed and supportive. 

The Vital Spark Symposium will celebrate five years of Vital Spark,the UK’s flagship approach to making the Performance for Young Audiences (PYA) sector more relevant and inclusive. It is made up of an Artist Relationship Programme and Ideas Fund to create world-class cultural opportunities for artists who are currently underrepresented in the sector.

Since its inception in 2018, Vital Spark has engaged 60 under-represented artists, seed-funded 14 new ideas and delivered seven new productions which have toured the UK and internationally, including venues as far afield as The Sydney Opera House.

The programme has always aimed to change the path of the PYA sector for future generations through development and commissioning opportunities, strategic partnerships and relationship building. It is hoped that the Vital Spark Symposium will help drive new development by allowing participants to take part in open, truthful discussions and debate with peers.

The Symposium is also a unique space to see new work in development and meet the latest cohort of Vital Spark artists, socialise and network with people from across the sector.

Christopher Gorry, Artistic Director of The Spark said: “The Vital Spark Symposium in March will mark 5 years of the approach being delivered by The Spark. It’s an ethos and approach that is central to our existence as an organisation. It will be a reflective two days here in Leicester as we welcome colleagues from across the country. To have vital conversations about how we can work collaboratively to make the Performance for Young Audiences sector more relevant and Inclusive.

There will be sharings of work from this years Vital Spark artists, discussions, learning and socialising! These two days are a chance to celebrate the impact of Vital Spark, reflect on what should come next and collectively take action to drive the next chapter.”

Held at University of Leicester’s Attenborough Arts Centre from 13 – 14 March, To find out more about the full programme of events or to book your ticket, visit

You May Also Like