Carnival of the World Reading - image by Wokingham and East Berkshire Camera Club (WEBCC)

Mary-Venetia Genis is the artistic director and founder of CultureMix Arts a company specialising in carnival arts and music education, performance and professional development. A first generation British born Trinidadian, she was educated at The Holt County Grammar School for Girls and studied Art and Fashion at the Berkshire College of Art and Design.

She began her career as a freelance designer in fashion, theatre and carnival costume, and as a touring musician and performance artist, later facilitating music and costume making workshops and advising on capital and carnival grants for The Arts Council of England.

She then joined Reading Borough Council as the first arts officer specialising in cultural diversity piloting the free Black Arts magazine Boom and record label Talic. She later became the magazine’s independent producer and editor whilst presenting The Sonic Boom Radio Show.

Southern Arts subsequently Arts Council England South East employed Mary as the first arts officer for cultural diversity in the region. She left to focus full time on CultureMix Arts and her vision for a pioneering carnival arts and music facility.

She now leads the development of young musicians from the established home of award winning steel band Reading All Steel Percussion Orchestra (also known as RASPO Steel Orchestra) at the CultureMix Centre for Steel Pan Music based in Berkshire.

She became the freelance audience development consultant to Reading Borough Council initiating Urban World events whilst coordinating the One World Stage at WOMAD Reading for seven years from 1997 to 2003.

As a facilitator Mary delivers training courses in board development, arts funding, cultural diversity, carnival and the history of Black Music for, amongst others, the Independent Theatre Council, Reading University, Creative Partnerships, and as a guest lecturer in arts business and world music at Reading College.

She is a member of the Cultural Diversity Advisory Group to the Media of which she was previously the vice president, contributing a chapter to ITV book ‘The Guide to Cultural Diversity’ and sitting on the BBC Local Advisory Council for three years. In 2006 Mary received a BBC Radio Berkshire Community Award for her services to the Black community. An Arts Council Artist Fellowship Award enabled her to study carnival arts and music in Brazil.

In 2008 Mary was awarded a Clore Fellowship through the Clore Leadership Programme, an initiative designed to help develop the skills, knowledge, networks and experience of exceptional individuals who have the potential to take on significant leadership roles in the cultural sector.

She spent three months seconded to the London Organising Committee for the Olympic Games at Canary Wharf. Mary worked as the UK Cultural Olympiad Launch Coordinator and carried out a first stage research at Kings College London. In 2009 Mary was successfully nominated for the Windsor Leadership Course which she attended at Windsor Castle.

Her previous non-executive roles include board member for South Hill Park Arts Centre and Readipop music projects. As a member of the 2012 Reading Partnership Group Mary helped to organise local events during the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games.

She is a member of the Outdoor Leadership Group South East, an Arts Council England funded programme for established and emerging producers, programmers and artists working in the public realm to reflect on their practice, refresh their thinking and make space for new creative approaches and relationships.

Mary is school governer at Theale Primary School, acting Chair for Black Mentoring Charity Reading Refocus, she is also a Trustee for the Jelly art group, and is a Business Ambassador for Central Berkshire Education Business Partnership.

In 2013 Mary was listed by the Reading Post as one of the top 10 women in the cultural life of the Berkshire town. In the same year she joined the board of the Carnival Village Trust, an Arts Council funded National Portfolio Organisation founded by the Association of British Calypsonians, Ebony Steel Band Trust, Mangrove Community, and Yaa Asantewaa Arts based at CVT’s two West London venues the Yaa Centre W9 and The Tabernacle W11.

She was shortlisted for Performer section of the Sue Ryder Women of Achievement Awards 2013 and attended a glittering award ceremony and gala at the Royal Berkshire Conference Centre, Madejski Stadium Reading. Mary was also honoured at the Black Women of Achievement 2013 lunch gala alongside screen actors Corinne Skinner-Carter and Donna Croll, Tamarind Books founder Verna Williams, Chaplain to Parliament Rose Hudson-Wilkins and Diane Abbot MP.