Zerritha Brown. Photo Credit - Roy Mehta

Hearts for the Arts 2022 Shortlist – Zerritha Brown

London Borough of Brent's Zerritha Brown has been shortlisted for Best Arts Champion - Local Authority or Cultural Trust Worker in the 2022 Hearts for the Arts Awards

Previously as Senior Producer, and now as Brent 2020 Legacy Manager, Zerritha has been championing culture in Brent and the Council for over a decade ever since leading Brent’s Cultural Olympiad programme. Her work has always been rooted in community engagement, supporting local grass roots artists, and putting audiences at the heart of artistic programming. She always strives for excellence and has worked to deliver her vision of bringing artists of national or international standing to the borough to foster local relationships that allow knowledge exchange between local and established creatives.

For example, the development of No Bass Like Home brought together international reggae artists and local musicians. Importantly, through the production process, Zerritha significantly increased trust and understanding between the Council and the Black community. This project ended up showing Brent’s culture and community to the nation and beyond: 81,000 audience for No Bass Like Home’s seven-hour online festival, which has since been shown on LondonLive TV to audiences of over 90,000.

Through her active participation in professional networks (including the GLA Culture Forum) and as a Clore Leadership Alumna, Zerritha has developed her practice to become a respected leader within the culture sector. She is frequently asked to share her knowledge of culture, community representation, and engagement at conferences. Zerritha has established herself as an effective advocate for culture across the Council creating a Culture Working Group and embedding culture in the “day jobs” of colleagues in Children and Young People, Regeneration & Environment and Corporate Strategy: she is currently working with Regeneration colleagues to unlock space in the borough for creative activity.

Zerritha managed the Culture Fund during Brent 2020. This made grants to creative individuals and organisations in the borough to deliver cultural programmes during 2020. Key to its success was the partnerships, Zerritha facilitated between organisations and individuals, for example linking local artists with opportunities in the borough to exhibit.

A significant part of the legacy of Brent’s year as London Borough of Culture is the Creative Alliance led by Zerritha. She has built connections and created space for partnerships to develop between the Council and cultural organisations in the borough – and between those cultural organisations, including Kiln Theatre, the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra and Mahogany Carnival Design.

Zerritha has never been satisfied with “art for art’s sake”. She combines artistic aspirations with a deep understanding of the role culture can play in civic pride, community cohesion, and individual and community wellbeing.

What the judges said:

“How lucky is Brent to have Zerritha! She’s clearly an amazing advocate for the arts, and that rare beast who is able to think and act strategically as well as deliver on the ground. Her work to build relationships inside the council and between it and local artists, activists and arts organisations is clearly the heartbeat of much of what goes on locally. It’s also really heartening to see the extent of the legacy of the No Bass Like Home project she led. Amazing work!”

“Zerritha’s work sounds really outstanding. She is genuinely out there working with communities, actively championing the arts and embedding the work of her organisation in the lives of the people they aim to serve. The approach has been driven by the community, collaboration and a supportive way of engaging with those who receive funding. More of this kind of work across the UK would work wonders!”