The Sampad Team

If you have a specific enquiry for someone in the Sampad team, you can contact them via email below or call the main office number on 0121 446 3260.

Piali Ray OBE Director

Piali has been a performer, teacher and choreographer in the UK since 1982. Born in Bengal, Piali first moved to Birmingham in 1982 and quickly identified that artists working in culturally diverse Britain would benefit from formal, structured support that would help them to establish their place within mainstream culture and showcase their rich heritage. Her formidable energy and vision led to the setting up of Sampad in 1990.

Under her leadership, Sampad has flourished into a dynamic, forward-thinking arts and heritage organisation, which continues to play an influential role in creating and promoting opportunities for South Asian arts and artists in Birmingham, across the UK and beyond.

Piali was awarded with an OBE in 2002, an Honorary Doctorate from the University of Central England in 2006 and Outstanding Business Person of the Year by Birmingham Chamber of Commerce in 2009. In 2012 she was commissioned by the Cultural Olympiad to produce two large-scale shows; Moving Earth, one of Sampad’s biggest dance productions to date, and Mandala, the dazzling multimedia finale of the prestigious London 2012 Festival.

She was highly commended by the judges at the Asian Women of Achievement  and received British Indian Award for raising arts and culture awareness in 2015. In 2017 she was appointed as a Festival Director for Birmingham’s biggest arts festival, the award-winning Birmingham Weekender. In 2018 she was Artistic Director for the Athletes’ Homecoming and brand launch of the forthcoming Commonwealth Games event in Birmingham in 2022.

Outside of work, she loves cooking, reading and travelling.

Sabra Khan Executive Director

Sabra has worked in the arts and cultural sector for more than 20 years, as a Creative Producer and Project Manager.

Her early career saw her managing Women & Theatre and Nahid Siddiqui Dance Company, and she went on to gain significant experience within the intercultural arts sector at the PAN Centre and ShivaNova in London. From 2002-2006 she managed Birmingham’s major large-scale arts festival, ArtsFest.

Sabra is also Producer for BEDLAM, a pioneering arts festival centred on the theme of mental health, delivered by Birmingham & Solihull Mental Health Foundation Trust and artistic partners.

She is an Arts Adviser for Baring Foundation and, through her freelance work, collaborates with independent artists to realise their vision by developing partnerships and raising funds.

Outside of work, she is a keen runner and has recently signed up for her first Half Marathon!

Harriet McGuire Smith Marketing & Communications Manager

Harriet has worked in marketing within the Birmingham arts scene for the past 5 years. She has worked for numerous festivals including Birmingham Weekender, Birmingham International Dance Festival and Fierce Festival. The CBSO, MAC and Stan’s Cafe are also organisations Harriet has worked with.

Outside of work, Harriet enjoys using her recipe books to cook, has Lizzo on repeat and loves to travel.


James Vegnuti Projects and Programme Co-ordinator

James studied Music Technology at Birmingham City University before working in the music department of St. Paul’s School, London, and then the Music Centre at the University of Warwick. He has also volunteered and worked at arts events in both the midlands and further afield.

As Projects and Programme Co-ordinator, James works on the planning and management of Sampad’s arts, heritage, and learning programmes in collaboration with the Sampad team, as well as with external partners and artists.

Outside of work, James enjoys making music, traveling the world, and upcycling!

Buzby Bywater
Buzby Bywater Marketing & Programmes Assistant

Buzby helps the team with in-house design and publishing, online publishing, video filming and editing, research and technical set-ups. He has worked for Sampad for around 20 years and his archive knowledge is often called upon!

Outside of work, he enjoys the outdoors, especially camping in the summer holidays with his family.

Gillian Twaite Learning and Community Engagement Manager

Gillian has been a part of the Arts/ Education sector in the West Midlands for the past 28 years and is delighted to have joined Sampad as part of their team in the exciting new role of Learning Manager.

Her background is in Theatre in Education and Applied Theatre; working as a core company member (performer) and subsequently as a freelance director, workshop leader and trustee with The Play House.  She also worked extensively across the Midlands as a Creative Practitioner (being awarded ‘Creative Practitioner of the Year’ twice from the Black Country Creative Partnerships) and as director and writer for her own company Open Stage Productions.  She has an MA in Drama, Education and Cultural Studies from the University of Warwick and is a published researcher.

Gillian has run theatre/drama education lectures at Newman, Warwick & Wolverhampton Universities as well as overseas at Trinity College Dublin & Griffith University, Queensland. One of the highlights of her career was when Trinidad Theatre Workshop and the Trinidad Education Department invited her to take up a Theatre in Education residency and work with both performers and teachers on the islands.

She has a PGCE in Secondary Drama and for last few years was fortunate enough to work with a fantastic group of children as the ‘Creative Arts and Enrichment Lead’ at Ladypool Primary School in Sparkbrook.

Outside of work Gill likes to sing, visit the sea and spend quality time with family,  friends and her excitable dog Pheobe!

Naomi Awre Learning Officer

Naomi has lived in the West Midlands for study and work since 2016 when she started her undergraduate degree in Classical Civilisation at the University of Warwick. Whilst at Warwick she arguably did more music than classics, and she is now thrilled to be combining her interest in history and heritage with her love of music and the arts, working for Sampad.

She has just completed a Masters in vocal performance from the Royal Birmingham Conservatoire, where alongside lots of performing she gained experience working in educational settings and with young people. As learning officer she is happily putting these skills to good use!

Alongside working for Sampad she is developing a career as a freelance singer and community musician, which is keeping her wonderfully busy.

Outside of work Naomi enjoys spending time with family and friends (she is slowly convincing everyone to move to Birmingham), rummaging through charity shops and eating yummy food!

Joan Durose Finance Officer

Joan has many years of experience working in the arts and events industry including producing ArtsFest throughout its 15 years, working as the Head of Events at Birmingham City Council and was the Championships Director for the World Indoor Athletics Championships in 2018. She has managed many large scale events and festivals in Birmingham.

At Sampad, Joan is responsible for the day to day financial processes of Sampad and maintaining  records of all financial transactions.

Outside of work Joan enjoys the theatre, reading and history.