Finding new paths for Artist-led decision making at CDS

A group of people of many ages sit in a circle on the floor of a dance studio, deep in discussion

We’re thrilled that from September, Chisenhale Dance Space will trial a new model of artist-led decision making, through the creation of a new CDS Members Committee. 

Since 2019 we have been working to make CDS to be more inclusive, artist-led, and anti-racist. We’ve been asking what artistic leadership could look like at CDS in the future and how it can better meet the needs of artists. This new group emerges from that process, bringing together five artists to advise and make decisions about programmes, artist support, and the development of the organisation. They will meet for one full day per month and will be paid for all of their work. This trial will run from September to December 2022, with the hope that we can adapt and develop the model into a permanently resourced structure at CDS.

Any of CDS’ 150 Members can apply, and five representatives will be randomly selected using a hybrid random selection process that ensures Global Majority and disabled/neurodivergent artists are represented. This continues our experimentation with randomised selection processes over the last two years, sparked by the ideas of artist-Member Gillie Kleiman.

Questions around how Members can best have a say in the running of the CDS have been central throughout our history, with many different forms of artist leadership emerging and disappearing at CDS over 35 years, often in response to the shifting funding landscape. This question again came to the fore in September 2021 when staff co-wrote a letter to Members, expressing that they needed a new model for how Members inform and lead the direction of the organisation, in order to make CDS more inclusive and be closer in alignment with CDS’ founding vision of being Member-led.

Following this, a working group of 4 Members (Claudia Palazzo, Joseph Funnell, Joseph Morgan Schofield and Rachel Gomme, supported by CDS producer Es Morgan), came together to analyse the responses from a Members survey which asked: what do artists need from CDS in 2022? They met for 7 days between November and May to conduct independent research and follow their own interests. They explored a range of key questions –  

What can we learn from previous forms of artist representation at CDS? What is it possible for the organisation to offer artists whilst resources are scarce? What are the barriers to participation in our communities? And how can we adequately resource our programmes, to ensure the inclusion of marginalised artists?

Inspired by previous forms of artist-led organising at CDS, they proposed a trial of a permanent Members’ Committee, in the hopes that Members’ voices could have a more stable stake in leadership in the future. We are thrilled to say that a trial of their proposal has been made possible with money from the Economic Recovery Fund, awarded by ACE and the DCMS.


“The process was reflective and caring of one another, and represented some of the best of what it means to be part of CDS – working without a pre-decided outcome, through collaborative process, openness to experimentation and new ideas.”

Rachel Gomme – Member of the current CDS Working Group


CDS are excited about what possibilities this work can open up for us, and staff are also currently working with Members: Angela Andrews, Gillie Kleiman, and Valerie Ebuwa to write a significant funding bid to enable this work to continue beyond December. This would enable us to test alternative models of artistic leadership at CDS, fund phase two of the Members Committee, and conduct a wider consultation about CDS’ future with Members and other stakeholders. 

CDS Members can apply to be a part of this group until Sunday 17th July, and the results will be announced in early August – so watch this space!


Pictured: CDS Members, staff and trustees gather at the 2022 Annual General Meeting in March. Photo by Lidia Crisafulli.