Team Protégé

Sabita Kumari-Dass - Founding Director

As the founding director of Protégé I am privileged to have led its growth from a weird concept in my (younger, naively ambitious) head to a unique cultural learning innovation, now in the Arts Councils’ National Portfolio, providing real world, transformative opportunities for, and with, educationally excluded young people. 

Protégé was inspired by the polymathic, but dysfunctional genius of Leonardo da Vinci; in the belief that individual creativity might be worth exploring and nurturing as a ‘learner-led’ solution to disengagement and school exclusion. It is inspiring and eye-opening to work with young people, many of whom feel rejected by schools and mainstream institutions, to test learning approaches tailored to their needs, using fluid, self-defined notions of art and creative process. 

Protégé’s vision, evolved by dedicated trustees, is to develop its artists and young people for a constantly changing world, to build capacity to future-proof our capital and social assets – and repurpose them to meet the need we have identified for a BME-led gallery/studios programming contemporary art and culture that reflects and resonates with the diverse communities of Hounslow and west London. 

Before Protégé, I am fortunate to have had a varied career including diversity and planning roles at the Arts Council, programme-making and commissioning at BBC and Channel 4; New digital channel development for BBC Three, BBC Four and 4Learning; Producer of landmark exhibition Leonardo da Vinci with Central Saint Martin’s College of Art, the V&A and six European gallery partners; Award-winning documentary film producer/director of The Morehouse Men (C4), Dancing (BBCTwo), The Late Show (BBCTwo), Restoration (BBC One); Multi-partner co-production Malcolm X: Making It Plain and Eyes On The Prize.

Amit Sharma

I have been working with Protégé supporting vulnerable young people for almost 15 years and have been a freelance creative working in sound and art for close to 20 years.

I graduated from Chelsea College of Art & Design with a BA in Fine Art, and then later took a left-turn and studied at Roehampton University receiving an MSc in Applied Music Psychology.

I work as a sound artist, composer & performer, as well as co-running the arts initiative ‘IMA Studio’.

Professor Candy McCabe - Trustee

I have had the privilege of working with Protégé since 2009. I am a clinical academic nurse, working for many years at the Royal National Hospital for Rheumatic Diseases, Bath and the University of West of England (UWE), Bristol where I have delivered clinical care, established and run national clinical services, and conducted national and international research for people with complex chronic pain conditions. In more recent years, my research has extended to include palliative and end of life care as I currently lead research and education at Dorothy House Hospice, Winsley, alongside my academic work at UWE.

The work of Protégé, which seeks to bring out the very best in young people by providing individualised support and opportunities, directly aligns with my passion to provide education and research that is person-centred and driven by the needs identified by patients and their families.

Throughout my career I have benefited from, and learnt the value of good teamwork. Working alongside a group of people who bring different skills and talents to a task is when I achieve my best work. I have also learnt that the mutual support provided by such teams has got me through tough times, and seemingly impossible challenges. Conversely, celebrating success as a team, multiplies the joy!  As a trustee I really value and enjoy the breadth of skills and talents within the amazing Protégé team, and in my fellow trustees.

Barbara Harris - Trustee

During my career in education, I worked as a VSO in Nigeria, then on my return as a classroom teacher in Primary and Secondary schools. Later I taught young people who had been excluded from school and I then progressed to become the Education Officer for the Southampton Youth Offending Team. I have worked with students with special educational needs and those who have had negative experiences in the school setting. I was the Special Education Needs Governor at my local Comprehensive school for eight years. I studied for a Diploma in working with students with Special Educational Needs and my thesis was entitled “The Influence of Grief on Offending Behaviour”

I was introduced to the work of Protégé when I was working with Young Offenders and developed a positive working relationship with Sabita and some of the activity providers. I retired from the Southampton Education Authority in 2012.

I became a trustee before I retired as I believed it was important for me to continue to support the positive work that was being achieved with students who were not able to take advantage of the standard education route.

Samantha McCully - Trustee

I joined Protégé as a student, I was referred as a young carer for my mother and brother. Being a young carer had a huge impact on my education – as it not only made it hard for me to attend school, but also hindered my ability to focus on my classes. It was through Protégé that I had the chance to gain skills and confidence outside of a traditional educational environment – skills that have been a foundation for my personal development and have remained with me from my teenage years all the way into adulthood. 

Protégé has been a constant for me, with the people there supporting me through some of the larger changes in my life. I am now a mother of two young children; I was recently diagnosed with ASD, and I have moved from the South of England to the North. Through all these changes I have had emotional support from Protégé, but more than that I have been able to use the creative writing skills I gained during my time as a student to improve my life; I truly believe that if it weren’t for Protégé I would not have passed my English GCSE nor would I have gone on to stand on stage and recite my poetry in front of an audience of 200 people from the arts, culture and media sectors.

I believe that every child deserves the chance to receive the level of educational support that I received from Protégé. The abilities, skills, and confidence that can be found outside of the traditional educational system are just as important to the success of a person as the ones that can be found within mainstream education, and Protégé gives students the chance to build a set of tools that can help them accomplish their goals. 

Andrew Bell - Trustee

Hello my name is Andrew Bell. I’m an Autistic filmmaker currently serving as a trustee/director on the board of Protégé. My responsibilities include learning about good governance so Protégé can be even more effective.  I enjoy working alongside senior trustees in meetings discussing current and future projects, funding, safeguarding, specialist provision for learners with special needs.

I am an ex-beneficiary, bringing my lived experience to my role. I was referred to Protégé almost ten years ago after the special needs high school I attended was unable to provide an environment conducive to my learning. I’ve worked on many projects relating to Media and Film, with many artists and students. The main thing I’ve learnt from Protégé over the years is the ability to know what I actually want to do and pursue it. Protégé has developed my self-directed learning skills to the point where I’m about to independently shoot and edit my first short film. Protégé also taught me the persistence I needed to continue pursuing my goal after many, many setbacks. I’ve been lucky enough to be able to impart this to others in the last few years as I’ve adapted more into a mentor role. I hope to be more involved in upcoming media related projects currently in the works, and have the opportunity to work with complex learners, particularly neurodivergent learners, as they further their own journeys through alternative, tailored education.

Paul Brooking - Trustee

I am the Creative Director and Founder of Reggie London. It’s a pleasure to bring my experience in communications and content to support the development of Protégé – such an important and unique organisation. As a trustee I am privileged to guide the visuals and messaging of Protégé’s public-facing work. Being seen and heard in a crowded marketplace is difficult, in any sector, but particularly so for small charities.

Reggie London’s work in communications strategy, design, photography and film has won awards from Cannes Film Festival, the Royal Academy, D&AD and others.  My brand experience is far-reaching having spent many years working with leading advertising agencies and recently a new fashion company building from its online creation to the opening of its West End flagship store. Alongside, I collect vinyl records, watch Kubrick movies and am allergic to Christmas trees.

Rick Hall - Advisor

Young people are not only the future but also the hope of survival. We have consigned to our inheritors a legacy of ‘change, innovate or perish.’ No pressure then. If we expect young people to acquire skills and knowledge to save us as a species, it is not reasonable but a moral imperative to involve them in the planning and delivery of learning and to listen to  their opinions and ideas.

Paul Sternberg - Advisor

Scepticism, disillusionment, disengagement and apathy – words to make any parent or teacher’s toes curl. And yet these are some of  the attitudes and mindsets attributed to young people who have been excluded from school. At Protégé we reject the deficit model of ‘understanding’ young peoples’ abilities in favour of a more affirmative approach which involves excluded young people as drivers of their own learning, so we in turn, may learn from their learning.