Pop Culture meets Social Change Retreat 2021

Almir Koldzic and Áine O’Brien (Counterpoints Arts), and Iain Dodgeon (OKRE)


Counterpoints Arts and OKRE are delighted to be organising our first online ‘Pop Culture meets Social Change Retreat’.



Taking place over three days, the retreat will bring together a range of selected individuals from the worlds of comedy, video gaming, broadcast, visual and performing arts, digital and news media, the charity sector together with the fields of policy, activism and philanthropy.

The primary aim of bringing different people and sectors to this retreat is to lay the ground for new cross-sector exchanges, ideas and collaborations, with a view to finding better ways to represent the lived experiences of diverse communities and audiences within pop culture. We hope to create a space to nurture and connect a growing body of artists and change-makers operating in the dynamic intersection of popular culture and social change.

The primary aim of bringing different people and sectors to this retreat is to lay the ground for new cross-sector exchanges, ideas and collaborations, with a view to finding better ways to represent the lived experiences of diverse communities and audiences within pop culture.


The timing of this retreat is shaped by a series of significant intersecting social and cultural events, including COVID-19, Black Lives Matter and the MeToo movement alongside escalating environmental crises. These have further exposed deep inequalities in our society, further amplified by perceived ‘culture wars’ over history, culture and identity.

Calls for action, social solidarity and justice have also catalyzed urgent conversations and changes within the arts, culture and entertainment industries. This has resulted in a growing body of artists, activists and content makers demanding that institutions become more democratic, more culturally polyphonic and attentive to the urgency of representing the intrinsically diverse stories of our past, present and future.


Over the three days of the retreat, we hope to explore some of the above challenges with a view to finding many creative opportunities for social change.

Our conversations on Day One will kick off with a keynote provocation by Marcus Ryder, a leading diversity champion and co-author (alongside Sir Lenny Henry) of the hugely influential book: Access All Areas: The Diversity Manifesto for TV and Beyond.  The day will also feature the launch of a new report: New Brave World: The power, opportunities and potential of pop culture for social change in the UK by Alice Sachrajda, Marzena Zukowska and K Biswas. This report sketches a map of an emerging pop culture for social change ecosystem in the UK, drawing from the insights of many commissioned practitioners and pointing to the opportunities to both influence and invest in what is still a nascent nonetheless immensely vibrant creative space.

Day Two will explore questions surrounding pop culture and social change through the lens of comedy. It will feature conversations and workshops with top comedians including Britain’s Got Talent superstar Nabil Abdulrashid about how comedy engages, provokes and activates public conversations about migration. Writers, including Brian Logan and Momtaza Mehri, will reflect on how we might expand and embed a critical discussion about comedy across both analogue and social media. The day ends with a ticketed comedy gig hosted by the brilliant Mo Omar and headlined by Fatiha El-Ghorri and Nabil Abdulrashid.

The discussions and workshops continue on Day Three with a focus on the immersive world of video games. Ubisoft’s Kurston Timothy, Code Coven’s Tara Mustapha and actor August Aiden Black from hit game Tell Me Why are among the speakers exploring representation and the opportunities and impact of bringing diverse perspectives into game design. Get involved in the lunchtime Let’s Play session and join workshops on writing, real world impact and more with hosts including narrative designer Corey Brotherson, UN Live’s Nikolaj Møller and award-winning studio ustwo’s Maria Sayans. Then join us over on Twitch with Black Girl Gamers as they live-stream a GAME TIME HAPPY HOUR on the games that most inspire.


The popular culture for social change ecosystem in the UK is ripe with potential, but there is much to be done in the context of building new relationships and brokering trust and connections across and between practitioners and industries. We hope that this retreat will bring us together as artists, creative producers, policymakers, activists and funders for what promises to be a lively three days of talk, collaboration and the imagining of future action.

DAY ONE – Social Impact Entertainment
DAY TWO – Comedy
DAY THREE – Gaming


What are the different networking options?
We invite you to join us in using the Airmeet platform to make new connections during the networking, lounge chats and coffee hour slots in the programme.

  • Lounge Chat: an informal coffee and chat session in small groups, where the participants will host conversations of their own choice.
  • Speed dating: Our Speed dating sessions are an opportunity for participants to pitch an idea where they seek creative, financial or other support. The Speed Pitchers will move from Airmeet table to table, can make short presentations and take questions. Sign up in advance to Pitch.
  • Speed Networking: Airmeet’s all-new “Speed Networking.” feature randomly matches participants with each other for a quick one-on-one virtual meeting.Three rounds at 5 minutes each.

How can I join the sessions?
If you are a retreat guest you will have received an email with a direct link to join the retreat on the platform Airmeet. If you have any problems, please email Mira (mira@counterpointsarts.org.uk) or Sam (samantha.campbell@cssd.ac.uk).

Is there technical guidance and help on using AirMeet?
If you have any technical issues during the retreat, you can contact the Airmeet tech team using this link.  You can also visit the Help Desk within Airmeet where a member of our team will be on hand to help guide you.
Airmeet is best experienced on a Chrome browser (version 79 or higher), on a laptop or a desktop. You can download the latest version here. For phones and tablets, Airmeet is also available as an App from the Apple iOS Store and Google Play. If you’d like to familiarise yourself with Airmeet before the session, you can do so via this link.

Will anything be filmed?
Some sections of the programme will be live-streamed, but only participants who choose to go ‘on stage’ will be visible. Presentations by speakers (but not the Q&A sections) will also be filmed and shared online. 

Is there a hashtag for the event?
We’d love you to join the conversation online using the hashtag #popxchange

Counterpoints Arts Social Media: Website // Facebook //  Twitter // Instagram
OKRE Social Media: OKRE // Twitter // YouTube // Linkedin





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Áine O’Brien


Dr Áine O’Brien is Curator of Learning and Research and Co-Founder of Counterpoints Arts, London. She has worked across the arts, education and activism in the US, Ireland and the UK and was Co-Director of Counterpoints Arts 2012- 2020.

Alexander Sutton


Alex joined PHF in 2015 as Senior Grants Manager to focus on our migration and integration work. Alex is an experienced programme manager with over 15 years’ experience working in the sectors of migration, youth work and international development in Nepal, Ghana and the UK.

Alice Sachrajda


Alice is a consultant specialising in creative research, storytelling and strategic communications. She works as a cultural strategy consultant to Unbound Philanthropy in the UK. Alice is a fellow of the Royal Society of the Arts and trustee of Counterpoints Arts, a refugee and migrant arts charity.

Almir Koldzic


Almir is a Co-Founder and Co-Director of Counterpoints Arts. The main focus of his work so far has been on developing creative strategies and national networks for arts and refugees; building long term collaborations with leading inter/national arts, cultural, advocacy and philanthropic organisations; and curating and producing a wide range of commissions and programmes relating to displacement, diversity and social justice.

Amina Atiq


Amina Atiq is a Yemeni- Scouse writer, a performance artist, facilitator and activist. Amina is currently developing a spoken word monologue wit DadaFest, inviting the audience to a 1970’s Yemeni-British household, untangling what it means to belong.  

Annie Hall


Annie is Counterpoints Arts’ Operations Manager. Her background is in the fine art and gallery world, with a focus on supporting small to medium-sized creative teams through systems administration, office management and organisational planning.

Anu Henriques


Anu is the founder and co-director of Skin Deep, a collective that makes space for Black creatives and creatives of colour to work towards justice through cultural production.

Ashish Ghadiali


Ashish Ghadiali is a writer, filmmaker and activist based in Dartington, South-West England. Current film and TV projects include a short film, The White Days, currently in development with BBC Films and DMC Film, about racial violence in the East End of London in the late 1970s and a series pilot, Kingdom Come, in development with BBC Studios, about the Jacobite Rebellion in 1740s Britain.

Awate Abdalla


Awate is a visionary Eritrean rapper and filmmaker, raised on Camden's Maiden Lane Estate.

Ayomide Abolaji


Ayomide Abolaji is a talented writer and an active member of the Young Identity writing charity.

Ben Lumsden


Ben Lumsden is a business leader in media and entertainment at Epic Games.

Bisola Falola


Bisola Falola is a program officer with the Open Society Public Health Program, where she works on media and narratives to promote public health.

Brian Waniewski


Brian serves as Executive Director at Harmony Labs. He has a record of establishing innovative organizations at the intersection of tech and social impact. Before Harmony Labs, he served as managing director at the Institute of Play.

Chloe Hardy


Chloe Hardy has twenty years’ experience of campaigning, public affairs and policy influencing in both the not-for-profit and charity sectors.

Chris Pike


Chris Pike recently finished work at Media Trust and the BBC running the Reframing Disability programme. His work focuses on increasing the visibility and representation of disabled people in our broadcast content and media, a great passion of his as an autistic creative.

Connie Bell


Connie Bell is one of the founding members for Decolonising The Archive (DTA). She is a Memory Work Practitioner, Cultural Producer and Theatre Director. Her work explores decolonisation, memory as time travel and diasporic narratives.

Corey Brotherson


Corey Brotherson is an award-winning writer, editor and creative consultant, who has worked within the games industry since 2001 as a journalist, critic and content producer for some of the medium’s biggest brands, including Sony PlayStation, King and Apple.

Deborah Mensah-Bonsu


Deborah is the Founder of dmb crew and its flagship initiative Games for Good, which focuses on harnessing games for social impact.

Devinda de Silva


Devinda is a founding member of the National Theatre Wales (NTW). He has over 20 years’ experience of working with communities across the UK and internationally.

Dijana Rakovic


Dijana is a Producer at Counterpoints Arts. Her role spans production, curation and participation, with special interest in climate change and environmental justice.

Elaine Ortiz


Elaine is the founder and director of Hummingbird Refugee Project which was established in 2015. Special interests are in human rights, social justice and youth led action.

Elena Höge


Elena is the founder of Yaldi Games, a micro game studio developing their first title, a foraging life simulator called "Wholesome - Out and About".

Emily Churchill Zaraa


Emily is Refugee Week UK Coordinator at Counterpoints Arts. She has a background in media, music and community work and previously coordinated My Journey, a multimedia storytelling project at Migrants Resource Centre.

Emma Stevenson


Emma has almost 20 years’ experience of working in the public and NGO sector, developing strategy and policy on a range of issues and currently has a strategic overview of the gender justice, early child development and migration thematic areas within Comic Relief.

Emmanuela Yogolelo


Originally from the Upper Zaire and Kivu in the Eastern DR Congo, Emmanuela Yogolelo is a singer-songwriter, live performer, workshop facilitator, speaker and cultural leader.

Esme Peach


Esme is a creative strategist that works to build partnerships between campaigning organisations, charities and the arts and entertainment industries. She is part of the FortaVoca team, a specialist consultancy network that harnesses the power of the creative sectors for social good.

Evan Narcisse


Evan Narcisse is a writer and consultant who works in video games, comic books, and TV. He was a journalist and critic for many years, having previously written for The Atlantic, Time Magazine, Kotaku, io9, and The New York Times.

Halima A


Halima Azan Hassan is a writer and editor from West London with an interest in theatre and film.

Harriet Fleuriot


Harriet is an artist and producer, and Programme Manager at Stuart Hall Foundation.

Helena Puig Larrauri


Helena is a governance and peacebuilding professional with over a decade of experience advising and supporting UN agencies, multilateral organizations, and NGOs working in conflict contexts and polarized environments.

Hesham Hasan


Hesham has international professional experience within the design industry and an MA in Visual Communication

Hossam Fazulla


Hossam Fazulla is a researcher, filmmaker, and producer from Cairo, based in London. Fazulla’s work merges art and new media with human rights and social justice.

Iain Dodgeon


Iain Dodgeon is Director of OKRE. A former medical doctor and producer with over fifteen years‘ experience with the entertainment industries, he previously led Wellcome’s work in broadcast, games and film. He sits on Advisory and Editorial Boards for organisations including the World Congress of Science and Factual Producers and the BGI.

Iman Mahdy


Visual artist, illustrator and 2D animator. Member of BLKBRD Collective.

Jake Lee


Will Lee is Director of UK Program at Unbound Philanthropy.

Jamal Khadar


Jamal Khadar is a writer and researcher. He has written about comedy and identity for the Guardian. As a social researcher, he works to help organisations understand people, culture and new behaviour. Jamal also performs improv at theatres in London and Amsterdam and hosts a hobby pop culture radio show.

Jane Wells


Jane is a Northern Irish curator, activist and community organiser currently living in London. Direct action and creative resistance are central to her work.

Jennifer Williams-Baffoe


Jennifer Williams-Baffoe has spent over 25 years working in the creative industries. With her unique knowledge of Art, Design, Technology and passion for pushing talent, her work as taken her all over the world.

Jo Glanville


Jo Glanville is a journalist, editor and radio producer. Her writing on culture and current affairs has been published in the Guardian, London Review of Books, New York Times, Financial Times and Times Literary Supplement, among other publications.

K Biswas


K Biswas is a critic and essayist on everything from populism to the politics of grime music. In 2019, he founded The Race Beat, a network for journalists of colour working in the UK, and is the Director of Resonance FM, and the editor of Representology: The Journal of Media and Diversity.

Karla Reyes


Karla Reyes is a Product Manager at Square Enix, Partnerships Manager for BAME in Games and Head of Business Development at Code Coven, a global games industry accelerator for underrepresented talent.

Kathryn Penny


Kathryn Penny is Head of Screen Operation at the National Science and Media Museum. She leads the Cinema Events team and the creative direction of the Museum’s cultural festivals.

Kayza Rose


Kayza Rose is a dynamic creative producer, artistic director, filmmaker, BLM activist and cultural leader based in London, UK.

Kish Hirani


Kish brings with him 25 years experience in the games industry. He has been mainly in technical leadership roles at various exciting companies, BBC Multimedia, Microsoft, and Sony.

Kooj Chuhan


Kooj Chuhan is a digital artist, filmmaker and creative producer.

Laura Lines


Laura's specialist area is social change. She also co-convenes the ACF’s criminal justice network and is a Trustee of Safe Ground which empowers people to change, reduce reoffending and build stronger communities.

Marcia Chandra


Marcia Chandra is a Creative Producer at Counterpoints Arts working on the PopChange initiative and Neighbourhoods programming. She has developed a range of projects across participatory arts, collaborative research and visual storytelling — focusing largely on issues of migration, sustainability and justice. She is also a photographer and ethnographic film-maker.

Maria Sayans


Maria has been helping games companies succeed in the digital space, build great brands, and engage players for nearly two decades.

Michael Terwey


Michael Terwey is Head of Heritage Services and Consultancy at the National Trust for Scotland, a role that leads the Trust’s operational direction on conservation, heritage planning, curatorship, archaeology, participation and learning.

Milica Milosevic


Head of Equalities, Diversity and Inclusion Milica came to the UK from former Yugoslavia in 1992 and has worked in the arts sector for over 20 years. As Senior Relationship Manager for Diversity and Music at Arts Council England, Milica led on diversity, equality strategy and policy, informing the development and delivery of diversity strategy across England.

Mira Sengupta


Mira Sengupta is an arts & culture curator, producer, DJ and musician. She is the Refugee Week music curator at Counterpoints Arts and has contributed to programmes including the Mayor of London's Eid Festival, Who Are We? at the Tate Modern, Celebrating Sanctuary and Platforma.

Mo Omar


Somali-born, Cardiff-raised and London-based, Mo Omar is a fast-rising stand-up comedian with a unique perspective on culture, faith and love. Recently making his TV debut on Harry Hills Clubnite on Channel 4, Mo was a finalist in the BBC Introducing Radio 4 Comedy Award and won the Leicester Square New Comedian Of The Year competition in 2017.

Momtaza Mehri


Momtaza is a Somali poet, essayist and meme archivist. She is the co-winner of the 2018 Brunel International African Poetry Prize.

Natasha Anderson


Natasha leads on all engagement work based in Islington and East London as part of the Learning and Engagement Department.

Nathalie McDermott


Nathalie is a former broadcast journalist and worked at the BBC, Guardian, and Media for Development where she set up the Prison Radio Outreach Project in Wandsworth Prison.

Nicky Hawkins


Nicky specialises in strategic communication and framing at On Road Media. She works with campaigners, commissioners, content makers to bring effective stories to life at scale.

Nike Jonah


Nike Jonah is the Executive Director of the Pan African Creative Exchange (PACE) and a Visiting Research Fellow at The Royal Central School of Speech and Drama. Nike was Creative Producer at Counterpoints Arts and led the development of the PopChange initiative from 2018-2021.

Ouafa Belgacem


Ouafa is an expert in Resources Mobilization and sustainability & a researcher in topics related to CCI financial engineering.

Pelumi Odubanjo


Pelumi Odubanjo is a London-based multidisciplinary artist, writer, and curator.

Phill Minns


Working collaboratively with musicians with diverse heritages from around the World. Supporting and documenting music projects made by people from refugee and migrant backgrounds Established in 2009, Best Foot Music is an intercultural music and art organisation. We aim to encourage social inclusion and cultural diversity by supporting, promoting and documenting the music and arts of communities and individuals who have moved to the UK from around the World.

Raheel Khan


Raheel Khan is a Sound Artist and Musician originally born in Nottingham and now based in Manchester (UK).

Rebekah Delsol


Dr. Rebekah Delsol has worked for twenty years on anti-discrimination and racial justice issues, with specific focus on policing and racial profiling. She is a founding member and trustee of the charity StopWatch, a coalition that uses research and action to promote fair and accountable policing.

Ros Ereira


Ros works on strengthening networks among grassroots refugee-supportive organisations, and on helping to make the movement more connected and visible.

Sam Campbell


Sam Campbell is a Creative Producer currently studying at the Royal Central School of Speech and Drama. With a background in Gender and Sexuality and theatre, Sam is interested in working at the intersection of Art, Culture and social change.

Sameer Gardezi


SAMEER GARDEZI is a Pakistani-Muslim WGA Award Winning writer known for his satire and grounded absurdism. He has written for several networks/streamers including Nickelodeon, Comedy Central, The CW, FOX, ABC, NBC and Netflix. He most recently created EAST OF LA BREA, a dramedy digital series about two Muslim-American woman trying to make it in LA. He is Co-Founder of Break the Room Media — a writers room incubator making diverse content — initially supported by Pop Culture Collaborative.

Sarah Lowe


Sarah E. Lowe is the Director of Research + Impact at Define American, a media advocacy organisation that uses narrative change strategies to humanise conversations about immigrants.

Selina Nwulu


Selina Nwulu is both an independent consultant and writer with a commitment to social and climate justice. She has worked extensively in the not for profit sector as a strategist, educationalist and social researcher, including the Equality and Human Rights Commission, the RSA and till 2020 as Director of Education at Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights UK.

Shayane Lacey


Shayane is Counterpoints Arts' Social Media Officer. Her background is in marketing and communications across charities, social enterprises, and other non-profit organisations.

Simone Pennant


Simone Pennant MBE  has spent over a decade and a half working within the television industry.

Sondos Mandy


I am an Egyptian contemporary artist based in London. And a recent graduate of a BA Sculpture from Camberwell College of Arts. My work explores the visual and cultural debris of neglect of the Egyptian state.

Sonia Uddin


Sonia Uddin is a visual artist with a social, collaborative, interdisciplinary approach to her practice. Working across film, performance, actions, collage and print.

Stella Barnes


Stella Barnes is Creative Director at Community Arts North West (CAN). She leads CAN’s creative team in the development and delivery of artistically diverse, socially-engaged arts programme; responding to the ambitions and cultural aspirations of Greater Manchester’s diverse communities and connecting programmes to wider cultural sector initiatives.

Suchandra Ghatak


I am a journalist based in Kolkata. I write on culture, socio-political changes, literature and lifestyle. I am a visiting faculty member in a Liberal Arts Department. I hold a PhD in Humanities.

Suchandrika Chakrabarti


Suchandrika Chakrabarti is a broadcaster, writer and comedian. She is currently a co-host on the Counterpoints Arts comedy criticism podcast, But Is It Funny?, with Brian Logan and Jamal Khadar. She has also co-hosted Podcast Radio Hour on BBC Radio 4 Extra, and is a regular guest on the multi-award-winning news podcast, The Week Unwrapped.

Susie Sandilands


Susie Sandilands is Commissioning Executive for BBC Ideas and an associate member of the Chartered Institute of Marketing.

Tamsin Ace


Tamsin Ace joined the Museum of the Home in January 2019. She was previously Head of Public Programming at Southbank Centre, responsible for programming across the entire 17-acre site.



I am an Iranian musician and visual artist based in Liverpool and Birmingham, mainly working within the genres of rap such as Grime, Hiphop & Drill in my native language Persian.

Taryn Higashi


Taryn Higashi is the Executive Director of Unbound Philanthropy. Taryn managed the migrant and refugee rights portfolio at the Ford Foundation from 1997-2018 and was Deputy Director of the human rights unit from 2001-2008.

Tasnim Mahdy


Tasnim Mahdy is an Egyptian visual artist currently living in London, employing mediums of dance, illustration and painting. She is a member of BLKBRD Collective.

Tom Green


Tom has managed the Counterpoints Arts’ Platforma project since 2011. Previously he has worked for organisations including the Refugee Council, the Writers’ Guild and Youthnet, primarily in editorial and online communications.

Tosin Adeosun


Tosin is the Project Assistant for PopChange and Refugee Week at Counterpoints Arts. Her background is in art history, archival research and curation.

Umit Ozturk


Umit is a Brighton based editor, broadcaster, poet, playwright, linguist, and creative writing and media trainer. He is also a curator of a number of exhibitions with a focus on underreported depths of world cultural heritage.

Vanessa Otim


I am currently the Curatorial & Production Assistant for Culture Box, a project that is exploring how the arts can help alleviate feelings of isolation and loneliness in people with dementia. I also freelance as an Assistant Curator.

Zia Ahmed


Zia Ahmed is from north-west London. He is part of the London Laureates, having been shortlisted for London’s Young Poet Laureate 2015/16.