Achates Inspires

Achates Inspires is a new lunchtime cross-arts forum for cultural sector leaders to come together and share experiences, ideas and to explore new approaches to common problems.

As we celebrate 3 years of Achates Live! our free webinar for fundraisers, and as the sector faces unprecedented challenges, this new programme provides a free forum to support Chief Executives (including Artistic Directors with joint CEO responsibility) and Executive Directors.

With a focus on leaders from across the sector, but in particular from small and medium sized cultural organisations, Achates Inspires will bring people together in an unprecedented forum for sector development. Through guest speakers and Chatham House discussions, initial sessions will cover topics including: Developing Transparent Leadership Models; Disrupting Traditional Models of Excellence in Creative Development; and Creating New Relationships with Audiences.

Achates Inspires is open to all Chief Executives and Executive Directors in the sector simply by requesting to join our mailing list which you can do by contacting Ariana Herbert at

After the success of our first three in-person events where senior arts leaders came together for discussion around radical change across purpose and operations, we are moving these sessions online to ensure that senior leaders from across the UK can come together to explore urgent issues facing the cultural sector. 

All of the online sessions, which include a diverse range of cultural sector experts, are available on our YouTube channel.

Our next Achates Inspires session will be broadcast on Tuesday 19 March, 1pm. More information to come in the next few days.

In the meantime, please do have a look at our previous sessions below!

February’s Achates Inspires: Political and Artistic Freedom

In February’s Achates Inspires, we explored the implications of freedom of speech for cultural organisations. On the panel we were joined by Alia Alzougbi, Artistic Director and CEO of Shubbak, Daniel Gorman, Director of English PEN and Sean Egan, Legal Consultant.

January’s Achates Inspires: The end of the solo Artistic Director-led institution?

In our January Achates Inspires, we talked with Saad Eddine-Said, Artistic Director and CEO – New Art Exchange and Sara Wajid – Co-CEO – Birmingham Museums Trust about questions concerning solo artistic director-led institutions.

November’s Achates Inspires: The Arts Green Book: moving beyond a ‘sustainable’ sector

In our November Achates Inspires, we talked with Andrew Wylie, Partner at Buro Happold and explored the role of cultural organisations in addressing the climate crisis and how, as a sector, we can move beyond simply mitigating to creating positive environmental impact.

October’s Achates Inspires: Balancing the civic role with commercial imperatives in straitened times

In our October Achates Inspires, we will be exploring how to tackle some of these issues and address some of the most fundamental questions facing arts leaders today

September’s Achates Inspires: How do we collaborate?

In this session we explore how to ensure collaborations are truly collaborative, how we can use them to create something that’s more than the sum of our parts and, in doing so, facilitate a greater impact for the individuals and communities we’re seeking to benefit.

You can watch the session below:

June’s Achates Inspires: Extreme Fatigue

In this session we explore how we can bring a more sustainable and meaningful approach to work and wellbeing in our organisations.

You can watch the session below:


May’s Achates Inspires: The Need for Risk

In this session we explore how organisations can embrace risk as a tool for innovation and growth, whilst mitigating its potentially negative effects.

You can watch the session below:


April’s Achates Inspires: Inclusive Trustee Recruitment

April saw the first of our online Achates Inspires sessions. Gavin Barlow, Artistic Director and Chief Executive of the Albany and Liz Gilmore, Director at Hastings Contemporary explored how to drive a more inclusive approach to trustee recruitment.

You can watch the session below.


March’s Achates Inspires: The Ticketing Revolution

In March we were joined by two organisations at the forefront of transforming cultural ticketing models to drive social impact.

Amy Vaughan, Executive Director and Deputy CEO of Battersea Arts Centre, shared learnings from their Pay What You Can ticket model, which they apply to every event, and its effect on their audiences and income.

Oonagh Murphy, Director of the Cultural Philanthropy Foundation, discussed the London Ticket Bank, which was launched in January 2023, and how that has driven a cohort of venues across London to collaborate to support access to culture during the cost-of-living crisis.

February’s Achates Inspires Transforming Traditional Models

After the success of our first event which saw over 20 senior arts leaders come together for discussion around navigating radical change, in February we explored in more detail how organisations have transformed traditional models to build more inclusive and creative approaches.

Our panellists included Nic Thorne, Chief Executive of Orchestras for All (OfA), with Joelle Sogunro, an OfA alumni, young ambassador and trustee, exploring how OfA upended the traditional, narrow model of a youth orchestra and built an inclusive, young person led, national programme. Carolyn Forsyth, Executive Director of Talawa Theatre, explored how Talawa moved from a touring model to a place based approach, and how that has led to wider cultural regeneration.

We also heard from organisations who have moved from touring models to a place based approach and how that has led to wider cultural regeneration, and enjoyed wider discussion and examples from all attendees.

January’s Achates Inspires: Navigating Structural Change for Good

Wednesday 11 January, 12:30pm-2pm

Our launch event will be discussing Navigating Structural Change for Good with panellists including Lisa Briscoe, Joint CEO of Cardboard Citizens and Isobel Colchester, Chief Executive of Poet in the City.

Isobel Colchester – Chief Executive, Poet in the City

Isobel is Chief Executive of Poet in the City, leading its programme of shows, commissions and talent development since 2014. She has worked with hundreds of artists in cultural venues, historic locations and community spaces, and some highlights include establishing a new music festival of poetry & lyrics, a national neighbourhoods programme with the British Library, and filling St Paul’s Cathedral with 2,000 Londoners to hear new work.
With a background in skills development in the commercial and public sectors, her priorities are to get young people jobs in the arts and break down institutional barriers so that arts organisations can connect more effectively with the public. Isobel is also Chair of Camden People’s Theatre.


Lisa Briscoe – Executive Director & Joint CEO, Cardboard Citizens

Lisa has been ED & Joint CEO at Cardboard Citizens since 2015, she started with the organisation as a Fundraiser in 2006 and worked her way up. Before that Lisa led a series of high profile arts events for Cancer Research UK, working mostly with major donors and fundraising committees. At Cardboard Citizens, Lisa has led and managed a lot of change and along with that a lot of very different people from arts and social sector backgrounds, whether its organisations interested in cross sector working, funders from right across the spectrum of support, Members with lived experience accessing workshops, celebrity ambassadors, freelancers, artists and staff at all stages of their journey through life. Most recently, Lisa has supported the organisation through the move from being Founder led to finding, adjusting and now beginning to thrive with a new Artistic Director. Lisa was awarded a distinction for her MA in Enterprise and Management for the Creative Arts, she completed a 1 year course in Cultural sector resilience, then Innovation in Management & Leadership with the V&A, she has recently completed a 2 year Change Creation course funded by ACE.