A flying start for future leaders

Top Indigenous creatives are headed to the UK to take their cultural leadership skills to the next level.
A flying start for future leaders

Image: 2015 ACCELERATE participants Emma Loban, Angela Flynn, Carly Sheppard, Marcus Corowa & Teagan Cowlishaw. All photography: Blue Murder Studios.

For six years now, the British Council’s ACCELERATE programme has supported Australia’s best Indigenous artists and performers with a unique creative leadership skills development program. 


Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander creatives with at least five years’ experience in their industry are eligible to apply for a programme which catapults them into the position of cultural leaders.   

The programme involves both intensive leadership training in Australia and a fully funded trip to the UK, where participants undergo professional development placements and mentoring. The participants are able to use the time to utilise creative skills, draw upon their rich cultural knowledge base, and develop valuable international relationships with other creative leaders. 

ACCELERATE has been instrumental in fostering innovative UK-Australian collaborations and helping the new generation of emerging creative leaders reach the next stage in their careers. Alumni include Bunjilaka curator Kimberley Moulton, theatre maker Kyle Morrison and dancer Rita Pryce, who has founded a Centre for maintaining Torres Strait Island Dance, Art, Cultural Practices and Knowledge. 

The diversity of talent fostered by the programme can be seen in this year’s group of participants. They include musician Marcus Corowa (NSW); fashion designer Teagan Cowlishaw (WA); producer and arts manager Angela Flynn (SA); curator Emma Loban (QLD); and dancer and choreographer Carly Sheppard (VIC). 

ArtsHub caught up with three ACCELERATE participants on the eve of their trip to the UK, to hear their motivations and aspirations for the programme. 

Marcus Corowa

Musician Marcus Corowa is currently preparing for a 2016 tour, the release of a 5-track EP, and a reprisal of his performance in The Rabbits with Opera Australia and Barking Gecko Theatre Company for the Sydney Festival. ArtsHub caught up with the hardworking musician while he was in the midst of promoting his recently released single, Nobody Knows

‘I've been working as an independent musician now for seven years, so it seemed like the perfect time for me to apply for ACCELERATE. I’m not really an emerging artist but I also have a long way to go before I would consider myself an established artist. ACCELERATE is for people who are caught in that space between,’ he said. 

‘I was also drawn to the programme because I’m naturally introverted and I thought that participating would be a great way for me to expand and grow, as not only an artist but also as a person.’ 

Corowa’s  jam-packed UK schedule includes ‘co-writing, performing, going to as many gigs and jam nights as possible, meeting with mentors, theatre companies, festivals, and travelling to Scotland’. As well as networking opportunities, he is excited by the possibilities for personal growth that ACCELERATE presents. ‘Whenever I challenge myself it always has a really positive impact on my growth as an artist,’ Corowa explained. ‘So I’m really excited about the whole trip and what it means for me both personally and professionally.’