Lara Ratnaraja

ASTONish Masterclass with Dr Mark Sealy MBE

ASTONish presents its first Masterclass in this series:

Following a series of powerful Masterclasses from its sister programme RE:Present, Birmingham Hippodrome and Lara Ratnaraja would like to invite you to attend our first ASTONish Masterclass with Dr Mark Sealy MBE - Director of Autograph ABP. Please join us for this FREE event.

Dr Mark Sealy MBE

Dr Mark Sealy MBE

Dr Mark Sealy MBE - Director Autograph ABP
Mark was appointed Director of Autograph ABP in 1991. He was awarded the Hood Medal for services to photography in 2007 by the Royal Photographic Society, and in January 2013 he was awarded an MBE for services to photography. He gained his PhD candidate at Durham University, where his research focused on photography and cultural violence. He has curated several major exhibitions, and his many publications include Different (Phaidon 2001) with Professor Stuart Hall.

Autograph ABP

Established in 1988 with the mission of advocating the inclusion of historically marginalised photographic practices, Autograph ABP is a charity that works internationally in photography and film, cultural identity, race, representation and human rights.

Autograph ABP is based in London where it runs a photography gallery and a programme of talks and educational activities. It also works internationally promoting exhibitions, events and publications.

For more information about Autograph ABP visit their website at

Our free ASTONish Masterclasses spotlight the best of diverse cultural leadership as part of the innovative ASTONish programme which supports both emerging and established cultural leaders in Aston and Newtown.

Here's what you need to know:

Spaces are limited so book your free place now via Eventbrite 

Join us to hear Mark share his insights into leadership, the challenges he faced and how he has created his achievements and success. This event is open to all and will include a drinks and canapé reception and networking opportunities.

This masterclass is in partnership with GRAIN Photography Hub, New Art West Midlands, Aston Business School and CREATE.

Welcome to ASTONish

Helga Henry welcomes the cohorts to ASTONish

Helga Henry welcomes the cohorts to ASTONish

ASTONish has officially begun! Last Wednesday the team and the cohorts met at Birmingham Hippodrome for an orientation evening. This was an opportunity for everyone to get to know each other and for all the elements of the programme to be explained in more detail.

The evening began with introductions from Helga Henry, Lara Ratnaraja, Rebbecca Hemmings and Shekayla Maragh, the core ASTONish team.

This was followed by an icebreaker activity. Everyone was asked to introduce themselves and tell us which fictional or historical character they would be, and what brought them to the ASTONish programme. It was fascinating to hear who everybody would be, Cleopatra, David Bowie, Dora The Explorer to name a few, but on talking about why people had chosen to be part of the programme, it became very clear how passionate the cohorts are and how exciting this programme is going to be.  Many spoke about a desire to create a hub and community in Aston that goes out and collaborates with the rest of Birmingham, and also about creating social change in the community.

Helga Henry, Lara Ratnaraja and Fiona Allan

Helga Henry, Lara Ratnaraja and Fiona Allan

Fiona Allan, Chief Executive and Artistic Director of Birmingham Hippodrome, spoke to the room about her own leadership journey, her vision for the theatre and her commitment to building diversity and creating change in the cultural landscape of the city. It was wonderful to hear her talk about making Birmingham Hippodrome a place where the brand value ‘Everyone’s Welcome’ really means that. She mentioned that ASTONish is one of the most exciting programmes at Birmingham Hippodrome right now!

Dr.  Annette Naudin and Millicent Chapanda spoke about how they will be evaluating the ASTONish programme, how they will be gaining insights along the way at different stages.

The room was buzzing by the end of the evening, this is the beginning of a journey and we can’t wait to see what ripples it creates.