© Andrew Brooks


Permeate is a positive action bursary scheme, set up by Arts Council England South East. It is designed to increase the diversity of visual arts organisations.

This scheme ran between 1st November 2010 – 31st December 2011

Photoworks is one of the first organisations to be awarded a Permeate Fellowship.

Although definitions of diversity vary considerably, in this instance the scheme aims to increase the representation of people with a disability or from a Black and minority ethnic background. A series of internships within visual arts organisations have been offered and the project will encourage skill sharing and knowledge transfer between the organisations and the individuals taking part.

We have offered a twelve-month bursary to Ratna Jan Bibi, supporting her career development as a curator, by giving her extended experience of project management and partnership working.

This Permeate Bursary is a unique opportunity for someone who has demonstrated real ambition to develop in the arts sector but whose background, as a young immigrant to this country from Bangladesh, has made that journey extremely challenging. As Ratna Jan Bibi says herself:

“Though it is hopefully changing, finding a Bengali career-oriented woman in the creative industries is pretty rare, I’ve never met one and I can only name one female Bengali contemporary artist (Runa Islam).”

We will support Ratna Jan to take that important but challenging next step in her career, enabling her to develop her profile and professional networks as a curator and project manager.

The Permeate Scheme will enable Photoworks to embed diversity at the heart of all that we do. It will allow us to undertake additional work to diversify our audiences and ensure tangible engagement with audience members. Most importantly, it will bring a new global perspective to the organisation that will filter through all of our activities. And it will provide us with tools to effectively lead on issues of diversity within the visual arts sector.

Ratna Jan Bibi is keen to work in an organisation that has collaboration as its guiding principal and wishes to help Photoworks staff foster a broader understanding of cultural differences and barriers, by offering her own experience and skills to the organisation. In offering this bursary we wish to ensure that Ratna Jan does not feel that her cultural background defines her role at Photoworks or the work that she does. We wish to address the issues as a team, transferring ownership and delivery of diversity to all, involving Ratna Jan without burdening her with any responsibility for diversity per se. At the same time, we wish to recognise that Ratna Jan’s experience as an immigrant to this country and as a young Bengali woman offers a valuable perspective as we devise new ways of extending our audience.

You can read Ratna Jan Bibi’s blog about her experience with the scheme here.