Serendipity’s board of trustees are the guardians of Serendipity’s mission and purpose, with industry leads in arts and festival management, education and artistic practice. Serendipity’s board reflects and supports the organisation’s key aim of bringing diversity to the forefront in arts with high quality work that reflects the demographics of the UK.
Former Premier Dancer with Cuban National Ballet and Northern Ballet. Javier has over 21 years of experience and a demonstrated history of working in the performing arts industry. A collaborative leader with an extensive network in the international dance scene, whose over two decades of personal experience and expertise span the entire spectrum from acclaimed professional dancer to executive cultural manager. He is confident in his cultural ambassador abilities with a gift for inspiring the young generation of ballet dancers. He is skilled in Research, Dance Education, Dance Leadership, Communication and Business strategy. With an intuitive and authentic character, highly organised by nature, detail-oriented, growth-oriented and self-motivated, known for orchestrating the creative direction of art initiatives, promoting an open and inclusive work culture, and perfectly balancing professional rigour with many other extracurricular activities. He holds a BA Hons in Business Management and Leadership Practices and a Master in Business Administration (MBA). He is currently the Managing Director of the Acosta Dance Centre and the Europe Business Operations manager at Sansha Group.
Jean-François Manicom is a conceptual artist photographer and a film director from Guadeloupe. He has recieved many accolades for his work including the prize for the best photographer at the Vera international Festival of Contemporary Art in Moscow (2016) for his series “Darbonne”, which portraits the nightlife on the Route de Darbonne, in Haiti. His artworks explore the imbalance at the heart of human life and more specifically memory and instability of our human condition in very different social and cultural environments.
He was the Director of the Maison de l’Architecture of Guadeloupe from 2005 to 2008. In 2015, he curated the permanent collection of the Memorial ACTe in Pointe à Pitre and set up the first Caribbean Festival of the Image. He has worked as lead curator for the International Slavery Museum, Liverpool and is currently senior curator at the Museum of London Docklands.
Leyla Okhai is the founder and CEO of Diverse Minds UK Ltd. Diverse Minds creates a positively productive workplace for all through training, coaching and consultancy. The focus is placed on wellbeing, mental health and race equity. Okhaihas over eighteen years’ experience in developing and implementing diversity, inclusion and equity practices, with senior leadership teams. She is also the host of the award-winning Diverse Minds Podcast a weekly show about mental health and inclusion. She is a TEDx Speaker, her talk is entitled The Connection between Race, Culture and Mental Health. As a trained coach, mentor, speaker and mediator, Okhai’s coaching practice centres on how staff can navigate boundaries and reach their full potential whilst maintaining their wellbeing. Leyla has also spoken regularly on mental health and wellbeing in the workplace and delivered training programmes and workshops on these issues across both private and public sectors.
Okhai was the Head of Centre for Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Centre at Imperial College London, from July 2012-June 2017 and prior to this worked at the University of Oxford for over six years, firstly in student recruitment, specialising in increasing applications from underrepresented BAME young people. She went on to pioneer innovative race and religious belief equality initiatives at Oxford’s Equality and Diversity Unit from 2008-2012. She was the University’s first specific advisor for race and religion. She has been a member of the University of Leeds Council since November 2018.
Consultant, lecturer and arts producer Tony Graves brings a wealth of knowledge, skill and expertise to Serendipity with a career in the arts and education as a former Associate Professor and Head of Arts and Festivals Management, BA undergraduate degree at De Montfort University. In addition to Programme Leader for the MSc in Cultural Events Management.
A former classical pianist, he is a graduate of the Royal College of Music and was previously the Chief Executive of The Drum Arts Centre, Birmingham and a producer at Nottingham Playhouse.
Graves has been involved in the delivery of strategic arts planning at a regional and national level with particular emphasis on cultural diversity. He lead the researcher for De Montfort University’s Cultural Management and Policy Group evaluating the cultural diversity gateway of the New Audiences Programme for Arts Council England. Alongside holding the position of Director of the university’s annual Cultural eXchanges Festival which has developed this into a major event over the past 20 years. Previous guests include David Olusoga, Grayson Perry, Ken Loach, Jamal Edwards, Germaine Greer, Melvyn Bragg, Trevor Nelson, Bonnie Greer, Meera Syal, Munroe Bergdorf, David Harewood and Adrian Lester.
Graves has served on several boards including Nitro Music Theatre Company, The New Art Exchange and Dance4. Amongst his publications are a report entitled ‘Fear of the Artist’ produced in collaboration with Jude Kelly, former Artistic Director of the South Bank Centre, and funded by NESTA.
Karen Chouhan is the Leicester Organiser for the Worker’s Educational Association which is a national charity providing adult education including for the poorest and most disadvantaged people in society. She is also Chair of Healthwatch Leicester City, a body which aims to champion public and patient views and interests in the Health and Social Care System.
Her background is in Further and Higher Education and she is a qualified teacher. She was previously a senior lecturer at De Montfort University where she managed the MA in Community Education. She has also built a body of expertise and practice in youth work, community development and equalities and human rights work and has managed a national equality charity. In 2005 she was one of 7 recipients of a Joseph Rowntree Charitable Trust award called ‘visionary for a just and peaceful world’.