About us

About us

Groundswell Arts is a not-for-profit arts education organisation based in Haringey, London. We have an interdisciplinary approach to providing participatory education projects in early years settings, schools and communities with a particular focus on music, drama, movement and filmmaking.

Artistic Directors Gareth Howells and Angeline Conaghan lead a team of artists in a range of cross-disciplinary creative projects.

‘Coming directly from the arts ourselves, we support each artist practitioner in our team to uphold our values and beliefs around inclusion and valuing everyone’s voice.’

Working closely with educators, parents, carers and young children, we devise creative and participatory projects that support high levels of community engagement and inclusion. Our projects encourage learning and exploration, play and sharing whilst supporting children’s wellbeing, language, communication and transitions. We also focus on parents and carers and their role as primary influencers and educators.

We work with a range of our partners to deliver trainings for early years and primary educators around each of our projects and programmes.

Our Values


To encourage a child-centred approach to creative learning that values the ideas of all children and builds on their innate creative capacity.

To promote creative learning techniques using a wide range of art-forms that encourage an inclusive approach to education and increase the accessibility of the curriculum with a goal of reducing educational disadvantage.

To recognise the wide variety of ways in which all children and adults communicate, learn and consider accessibility across our provision.

To show the value of involving parents and carers in creative educational programmes through shared creative experiences which explore and celebrate the diversity of our communities.


To reduce social isolation through creative programmes in the community. 

To develop programmes which support the mental health and wellbeing of all participants while building connections between people.  

To encourage and empower early years and primary educators to confidently develop and use arts practices and skills in their work with children and young people.

Creative Learning

To bring awe, wonder and magic to learning and to celebrate the role that the arts have in supporting resilience, personal identity and self-expression.

To encourage critical thinking, questioning, problem solving and connection making through arts-based approaches to learning.


To foster a collaborative approach to developing partnerships with schools to encourage a diverse range of staff, learners and families to participate.

To engage children and families in free creative programmes in the community and raise the profile of children’s creativity and voices. 

To celebrate the ideas of our creative practitioners within our own organisation and build a network of shared creative practice and generosity amongst the teams we work with.

Artistic Directors

Angeline Conaghan

Angeline is a New Zealander who has lived in the UK since 2002. With a background in music and performing, beginning her career in jazz, experimental music and theatre, she has been actively involved in arts education and participatory art for most of her career. Angeline has produced a number of albums and collaborated as a singer and musician in dance and theatre performances.

Angeline is particularly interested in song writing and composition and how it supports both children and adults to explore their identity and tell their stories.

She has worked as a Creative Agent and consultant for the National Creative Partnerships programme, as a musician in a therapeutic context and as a project manager and mentor to artists in a wide variety of mediums in partnership with schools and educational settings.

In 2017 Angeline achieved distinction in a Master’s degree from Pen Green, Leicester University in integrated practice in working with children and families. Her area of focus in her studies was around the impact and importance of music within the educational lives of looked after and adopted children. She has a passion for working with early years children and a strong interest in issues surrounding mental health.

Gareth Howells

Gareth has been working as an actor, director, set design and production manager for site-specific, immersive and experimental theatre for the past 25 years, working in mainstream and children’s theatre, community outreach projects and with SEND children and families.

Gareth initially trained as an actor at the ‘Court Theatre’ in Christchurch, New Zealand then worked extensively in theatre, film and TV.

Gareth moved back to London in 2000 and continued his training in London at the Poor School, King’s Cross. In the meantime he supported his acting career by designing lighting and sets for theatre. He has worked consistently as a production manager with Punchdrunk Enrichment; creating immersive work in schools and touring children’s shows along with other education projects. They included The Young Vic’s community programme Taking Part, devising interactive play theatre with Coney and working in the Maudsley Hospital with teenage patients. Most recently he has worked with Oily Cart, creating promenade shows for SEND and ASD children, touring venues across the UK and creating site-specific shows for children with complex needs.

Gareth has also directed a number of short films and works regularly with other artists as a director, devisor and facilitator.

Since teaming up with Angeline in 2010 to form Groundswell Arts, Gareth has used his many skills to create theatrical child friendly spaces that use creativity to inspire child and community lead learning.

The Board

Natalie Merritt – Chair

Natalie is a solicitor and, since completing her legal training at a City law firm, has worked as a commercial in-house lawyer for almost 20 years. 

She was previously Chair of Governors of a Haringey nursery school and children’s centre for several years.  


Natalie lives in Haringey with her husband and two children and in her spare time enjoys swimming in the local (heated) lido, reading and singing in a local choir.

Matthew Burbedge – Treasurer

Matthew Burbedge is the Head of Finance Data at UBS AG, a large global bank in the city of London. Matthew is a chartered accountant, trained in an audit firm and has spent most of his career at UBS in reporting and controlling functions.

Matthew is a strong Financial Accountant with experience in regulatory capital and liquidity reporting in the Financial services industry. Matthew has deep experience in designing and building financial accounting and control systems and ledgers in the fast paced banking environment. Matthew is also the Finance Information security Officer at UBS which gives him a keen focus on data security and control.

Matthew lives in North London with his partner and 3 children, and in what precious spare time he has can be found in the local park with the family dog – Hugo.a

Sarah Crompton

Sarah is committed to bringing the arts to new and under-represented audiences and taking performance into non-theatre spaces. She has previously worked for New Writing South, Rifco Theatre Company, Streetwise Opera and Oily Cart, producing UK tours and large scale site-specific and immersive performances.

She began her career in the press office at the National Portrait Gallery. She now works as general manager at Upswing, a contemporary circus company based in London.

In her spare time Sarah enjoys running, live music, and volunteering with MMUK supporting community and education projects in Solomon Islands and Vanuatu.

Nick Hewlett – Safeguarding Trustee

Nick Hewlett is the Principal Advisor for Early Years in Haringey and jointly leads the Early Years Quality Improvement service. As part of his role he leads the local authority run Children Centres which provide community services for children and families in Haringey. 

The foundations in early childhood are key to a child’s development and Haringey is committed to ensuring that these foundations are as strong and positive as possible. His vision is to enable children to have the best possible chances in life, reach their greatest potential and most importantly be happy in everything they do.

Nick is committed to supporting creative arts and has been a member of different theatre companies performing in fringe theatres in London. He also loves tumbling at his gymnastics club in East London.

Blaise Grimes-Viort

Blaise Grimes-Viort is the Chief Services Officer at social media agency The Social Element. In this role, he oversees strategic development of all of the agency’s services and focuses as much on the use innovative technology for insights and listening as on finding clever ways to efficiently scale social media activations for global brands.

Widely recognized as a social media pioneer in the UK and across Europe, Blaise has a keen eye for technology and how it can help brands better connect with their audiences. A strong advocate for improving how brands handle crisis on social, Blaise also supports The Social Element’s sister company, Polpeo, providing social media crisis training to Fortune 500 brands.

In his free time, you can find Blaise shooting hoops or playing the latest board games.

Lydia Ashman

Lydia has over fifteen years’ experience designing and delivering programmes in creative and community contexts in London including schools, housing estates, children’s centres and youth hubs. She is committed to shaping projects collaboratively and is continually exploring ways to create equitable spaces. 

Her work is place-based and built around the needs and interests of communities. In her current roles at Cubitt Artists and Wheely Tots, she works across Islington and Haringey. Previously, Lydia has worked with organisations including Bow Arts, Ministry of Stories and the National Centre for Circus Arts. 

Lydia is a writer, and loves nothing more than reading and talking about books. She’s also a big fan of swimming outdoors. 


Julia Handelman-Smith

Julia is a cellist and composer, and is the Founder and
Creative Director of Our Symphony, supporting place-making and dialogue through
music. Julia works in the creative and education sectors to support
intercultural dialogue and develop inclusive international practice.  

A former cultural diplomat with the British
Council, she has led arts and education programmes with the European Union, the
Middle East, East Asia and the Commonwealth, including a major global programme
to commemorate the World War I centenary in 2014-18.  

In 2019, she founded the UK Global Alliance,
a network of organisations committed to improving access to international and
intercultural opportunities for young people.  

She is a mentor for The Prince’s Trust and an Advisory Board member for My Life My Say

The Staff

Lucy Dear – Project Manager

Lucy Dear is a theatre practitioner, community engagement producer and project manager from London with fifteen years experience of working in the community arts field. 

In the UK she has delivered projects at the Young Vic, Theatre Peckham, Poplar Union, Lyric Hammersmith, Unicorn Theatre, Kiln Theatre, The Old Vic, Southwark Playhouse, Bush Theatre, British Museum, Gate Theatre, Great Ormond Street Hospital, Chickenshed, Graeae, Green Shoes Arts, New Wimbledon Theatre, Tender, Battersea Arts Centre, Blackhorse Workshop. Internationally she has worked with Faust International and Dramatic English in Hong Kong and the Phillipines. 

Visit Lucy Dear website here

Jen Flavell – Curriculum Advisor

Jen Flavell is a teacher with a passion for media literacy as a cross-curricular tool for engagement. With 20 years’ experience teaching, from nursery to A Level; as HOD of Media, intervention teacher and in daily supply, Jen makes the most of media tools to teach relevant, contemporary content.

Student projects include: Documentary of the Hackney Schools, Sports Competition, Stoke Newington local business marketing, Media Literacy in KS3, ICT Skills boost for Year 5, LGBT Conversations Comic day.

Jen works outside the classroom to improve opportunities for students, as a tutor, coach and University Application Mentor, curriculum

Adam Wheeler – Project and Stage Management

Adam is an Essex-born stage manager, facilitator, and arts administrator. Working with charities, theatres, and schools for most of his career, he’s passionate about arts education, and its ability to enact transformational change on communities and young people. 

In 2022, Adam achieved a distinction in his master’s degree at King’s College, London in arts and cultural management. His research specialised on measuring the public and cultural value of participatory work.

Since completing his bachelor’s degree at The Royal Central School in Speech and Drama in 2019,  he has worked with companies such as Kit Theatre, Queen’s Theatre Hornchurch, Bigfoot Arts Education, Half Moon Theatre, The National Archives, and The Rochester Dickens Festival.

The Artists

Mafê Toledo

Mafê (read Mah-Fay) is a community dance artist and movement educator. Through her work, Mafê creates opportunities for people to express their full potential through somatic movement, play and creativity. 

Since becoming a mum, Mafê has delved deeply in the self-discovery process of Motherhood and the fascinating world of child development. From this experience she developed her group classes for Mother & Baby, Parent & Toddler, as well as individual Developmental Movement sessions for babies and young children. Mafê works in partnership with arts/sports organisations and children centres, offering whole-family support that promotes physical and mental wellbeing. She also works with older people in residence and care homes.

As a Master of Fine Arts in Choreography (Roehampton University) and a Diploma in Dance Teaching and Learning (Trinity Laban), Mafê is also training as a Somatic Movement and Infant Developmental Movement Educator (School for Body-Mind Centering).

Oliver Halvorsen

Oliver is a multi-instrumentalist, producer and songwriter from Perth, Western Australia. He started performing and playing guitar at a very young age and developed a strong interest in songwriting and production. Whilst playing professionally in various bands and collaborating with other artists he completed his Advanced Diploma of Contemporary Music at the prestigious Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts with a focus on performance and songwriting. Oliver  completed an honours degree in Psychology in 2017 at the University of Western Australia where he studied development in children allowing him to apply his understanding of music to early years settings and a vast array of SEN schools.

In 2018, Oliver moved to London and joined established UK act ‘Night Flight’ on bass, synth and BVs. Night Flight have garnered over 6 million streams on Spotify and have toured the UK extensively, supporting the likes of Paul Simon and James Taylor. When he’s not touring or in the studio with the band, Oliver still produces and writes both for himself and a handful of other artists. He has written and recorded topline vocals for tracks that have been released on labels such as Armada and CRC. He also tutors in guitar, vocals, bass and production across schools and privately in London.

Jess Shaw

Jess has been working with children, families, schools & charities for over 20 years using creativity and play as a means to support expression and connection. 

When not writing songs with us on Sing Our Story Project, Jess runs PACT Creative Training, a company dedicated to supporting wellbeing & teamwork using laughter, fun & play (particularly for grown ups who really need it!).

Visit Pact Creative website here

Liz Liew

Liz is a Haringey-based multi-instrumentalist and composer. After training classically she toured/performed/collaborated with artists including Moby, Gnarls Barkley, Goldfrapp, Lamb, Asian Dub Foundation and Jerry Dammers Spatial AKA Orchestra. She writes music inspired by her Chinese roots and has performed her music in venues including Trafalgar Square (Chinese New Year), Southbank Centre (New Music 20×12), Rich Mix (solo show) as well as in the UK, Asia, Europe and North America.

Liz is passionate about education and is Co-Chair of Governors in a Tottenham primary school. She teaches piano privately and in a music school and is involved in several early music projects. 

Visit Liz Liew website here 

Emily Stratford

Emily is a SEND music specialist who has been working in London for the past 9 years through the federation of Westminster Special Schools. Emily is also the Musical Director for West London Inclusive Arts Festival and has been composing for the SEND pupils over the past 4 years.

Emily gained her Bachelor of Music from the Australian Institute of Music and worked as a vocal tutor for almost 10 years before relocating to London where she began specialising in SEND and gaining her Diploma of Education. She has vast experience in TEACCH, SCERTS and Makaton and has achieved a Foundation in Music Therapy at Roehampton University.

Outside of education Emily is also a passionate songwriter/musician/artist. Two of her songs were semi-finalists in the UK song writing competition and her song “As I did” was in the top 5 for the pop category in the Australian independent song writing competition: Musicoz.

Alice Kristina Rose

Alice is a trained costume maker specialising in children’s theatre and interactive storytelling. She studied Performance Design at London College of Fashion and has worked extensively with companies such as Oily Cart, the Little Angel Theatre, and JW3, as well as heading her own small company, Tigerboat Theatre. 

Alice is passionate about the power of storytelling, imagination and exploring ways in which creativity and imaginative play can be inspired and stimulated.

Hannah Sharp

Hannah is a freelance prop maker, designer and set builder based in North London. She builds immersive worlds and sensory objects for various theatre companies and organisations working with all kinds of kids. 

Hannah loves making things in her workshop and the variety of work which comes her way from short films, music videos, dance projects and making lamps.

Giles Leaman

Giles is a creative arts practitioner, sound artist and musician.

As an artist Giles works with a mixture of art forms from collage, painting, printing, sound Art, and sculpture, working in festivals, community groups and schools.

He is regularly commissioned to create bespoke musical instruments for educational settings,  performance and sensory environments, collaborative projects and workshops.

Giles has recently been exploring the parallel between his visual and sound art practice by creating sound machines that combine the visual with the audible.

Giles says that his work is deliberately playful and adds: “In deciding to call myself an ‘artist’, I’m giving myself the license to play, look and let my imagination lead to invention!”

Hetty Burton

Hetty’s been working in the world of theatre for 21 years and getting deeper and deeper into immersive and interactive entertainment that invites the audience to participate and play. She’s interested in collaborating in the creative process, opening up imaginations and engaging audience through storytelling. 

Her work has focused greatly on audience’s own stories and weaving them into a narrative or inviting them to build into one she’s created. Working with children has formed a large part of her working life, where the emphasis is on building confidence in voice and in engaging with art and theatre.

Hetty also works in training, people, communication and soft skills that help build relationships with those around us, which feeds and strengthens Hetty’s performative work.

Tinka Slavicek

Tinka is a professional puppet designer, maker, performer and workshop facilitator. She is the artistic director of two puppet theatre companies where she designs and develops quirky shows using natural materials: The Puppetellers specialises in interactive puppetry pieces for early years and Clogless Lobster is a national and international touring company. 

As a maker and performer Tinka has also collaborated with a number of other puppet theatre companies including The Little Angel, One Moment in Time Theatre, Alchemy Early Years and Puppet Craft. 

In addition to her work as a theatre maker Tinka has run many exciting puppet making and performance education projects for theatres, communities, schools and festivals around the world.

Oscar Lotis

Oscar is a music therapist and songwriter/composer, based in Norfolk but well connected to London and the south of England. 

Oscar’s first instrument is guitar, he uses a mixture of folk, jazz, pop, rock and experimental approaches to song writing but finds inspiration from most genres. He has been in various ensembles over the years and has collaborated with composers, artists and organisations along the way. 

Afra Jurkiewicz

Afra is a music therapist and a community musician, based in the North East. Born and raised in Poland, she has lived and worked in the UK, Brazil and Portugal. 

Afra is passionate about breaking the barriers that stop people from experiencing music. She is currently working as a music therapist in a variety of settings and plays accordion in a band La Sonora Boreal.

She loves blue skies and high hills.

Lara Jade Greenfield

Lara is a trained actor and musician with a degree in Theatre and repertory actor training. She plays the guitar, is a singer/songwriter, and produces her own music. She  has completed many theatre and music tours around the world, for example in Italy, Spain, USA and the UK.

She has lots of experience working with children of all ages and has worked on various arts and educational projects and jobs. 

Bhavesh Hindocha 

Bhavesh has a background in television and independent production. He has worked in community settings for over 20 years in a wide variety of arts and education projects. 

Miia Mäkilä

Originally from Finland, Miia is a London based movement practitioner, choreographer and performer. Working in multidisciplinary performance and community settings, Miia draws her movement practice from imaginative and accessible storytelling through joy and empathy while bringing dance to a wider audience and communities. Miia has been working in various projects with organisations such as Greenwich Dance, The Natashas Project, Barnes Music Festival, Satore Studio and many more. 

Miia’s creative mission is to make dance to be for everyone!

Eleanor Mack

Eleanor is an actor and community dance artist. Originally from Norfolk, she is now based in East London. 
She trained on Mountview’s MA Acting after studying English.
Her work in community arts has included dancing with older people with dementia (Green Candle Dance Company, Resonate Arts), working with babies and their grownups (Groundswell Arts, DanceWest) and primary school children (DanceWest, The Place).

Bryony Jarman-Pinto

Bryony is a singer and composer from Cumbria, based in London. She writes and performs internationally alongside her music facilitation in the community and teaching singing and songwriting.

Naoko Ishihara

Naoko brings a range of skills to our team supporting and assisting  Groundswell Arts workshops in particular our puppetry and making sessions and  offering origami sessions and cooking for Groundswell events.   Naoko is currently both working and volunteering for a range of community organisations in Haringey and brings her experience and background in economics and her wonderful cooking talents to explore work around food poverty and community action. 

Ryan McLelland

Ryan McClelland is an artist and educator based in London.

Ryan studied art at Camberwell College of Art and Goldsmiths College before receiving his Masters Degree from the Royal College of Art in 2007. From 2010-2012 he was Printmaking Fellow at the Royal Academy Schools, he currently programs the Cypher billboard in Bounds Green an artist’s run public platform.

He has taken part in exhibitions at venues including the Academia de Venice (Venice), Palais de Tokyo (Paris), Temple Bar Gallery (Dublin), The Oscar Niemeyer Museum (Brazil). As well as the V&A Museum, William Morris Gallery, Tate Britain and The Royal Academy all in London UK. Alongside his studio practice he has been active for over 20 years as an educator working in schools, universities and for arts charities including work/projects with Camden Arts Centre, Tate, Crafts Council, The Royal Academy Schools, Goldsmiths College, Camberwell College, Birmingham Institute of Art & Design, Intoart and Core Arts. Ryan supports Groundswell’s work with  CPotential Creative Club and is a regular in our Green Man Festival Team. 

Alice Rose Barnard

Alice is a singer / songwriter from Kent. She currently works musically with young adults with learning disabilities and people living with dementia. She also performs regularly both with a band and as a solo artist. In the past she has worked as a full time singer and toured several professional children’s theatre shows. 

 Alice also uses her songwriting skills as a co-host on the podcast “The Ghost Gig” – a show that mixes the paranormal with original music. 

Alice is  very excited to join the Sing Our Story team!


Jonathan Barnes

Jonathan has taught in primary, secondary and nursery schools, in prisons, adult studies centres and universities. He spent 7 years teaching in Africa and south Asia and has been a head class teacher for 10 years in England before becoming a teacher educator and researcher in education.

He was awarded a National Teaching Fellowship in 2015 and granted a Visiting Senior Research Fellowship at Canterbury Christ Church University in 2017.

He writes and does research on the arts, creativity, curriculum, values and well-being in education. His books Cross-Curricular Learning 3-14 and Applying Cross-curricular Approaches Creatively are used in schools and teacher education throughout the country.

In 2018 Jonathan founded the charity Education4Diversity dedicated to celebrating the huge creative and social value brought to education through stories, perspectives and wisdom of refugees and other migrants.

Visit Education 4 Diversity website here 

Mbilla Arts

Mbilla Arts was founded by Seneke Sillah  and offers  projects, workshops, classes and performances in traditional African drumming and dance, Afro-Brazilian drumming and dance, Afrobeat aerobics, African storytelling, drama improvisation, spoken word poetry, printmaking, mask-making, upcycled arts and recently – children’s yoga with African drumming.

Mbilla’s artists come from diverse backgrounds and offer a wealth of experience in arts education and performance.  We pride ourselves in providing a high quality, affordable and authentic experience tailored to our clients’ needs.

Visit Mbilla Arts website here


Soundcastle are a group of musicians, friends and facilitators with a vision to positively challenge the landscape of community music.

Together Soundcastle are a music social enterprise that connects communities, enhances wellbeing and reduces social isolation. Working across London, Bristol and the South-East, they run sustainable programmes that enable people with any or no level of musical experience to create imaginative and thought-provoking new music.

Visit Soundcastle website here

Scribble and Smudge

Scribble and Smudge are a collective of artists specialising in participatory art events, workshops for families, intergenerational projects and programmes for museums, galleries, festivals and community groups. We produce workshops for participants to be playful and creative, making our workshops a fun and sociable event. We have been delivering workshops since 2007 across East and North East London with expertise in artist education, 3D, visual arts and public art.

Visit Scribble and Smudge website here 

Donate to our work

A donation to Groundswell Arts supports our programmes in a variety of ways for example;
  • A donation of £20 can fund the cost per child of participation in one of our Story Lab green screen and animation programmes.
  • A donation of £100 can fund a bespoke song for a child as part of our Sing Our Story programme.
  • A donation of £1000 can enable us to offer a series of workshops and training in a school on programmes such as Sing Our Story, Story Lab. Light Box or Forgotten Stories.