Felicity Woolf shares her experience after six months of becoming the Chair of Trustees at The Mighty Creatives.
It’s only six months since I took on the role of Chair of Trustees at The Mighty Creatives, but a lot has happened in that time. Nothing stands still with an organisation of this size and aspiration. We’ve recruited several new excellent board members, said goodbye to some long-serving colleagues who have given a great deal to the board, agreed a new business plan and applied to Arts Council England to continue as their Bridge organisation in the East Midlands.
I was flattered when Nick asked me to consider becoming chair. I was pleased that he thought that I could make a useful contribution to arts and cultural learning in the region, something which has occupied me for most of the last 30 years. This was especially the case as I had been living abroad in China for three years, so I felt a bit out of touch but ready to get back into the fray. I was intrigued to find out first-hand how the concept of regional bridge organisations was working out in practice. I led much of the initial work to produce two of The Mighty Creatives’ main programmes, Artsmark and Arts Award, and, although these have both changed over time, especially Artsmark, I was curious to know how they are now viewed.
But I was also rather daunted. I was already chair of a small charity, Upstart Projects, a spinoff from Arts Award, and was aware of the responsibilities ahead of me. However, I knew there would be a whole lot more to do in the context of an organisation with a turnover in the region of £1.7 million – and so it has turned out. This is true not just in terms of the time I spend attending meetings and events and talking to staff, but also in the preparation needed to fully grasp the charity’s activities, strengths and challenges.
Sometimes people ask me what my vision is for The Mighty Creatives. This is a difficult question to answer. Of course, broadly speaking I’d like The Mighty Creatives to be a leading and respected player in the region, setting the agenda for arts and cultural learning and having a positive and inspirational effect on the lives of children and young people, especially the most disadvantaged. But I don’t see our vision as dependent on me, rather more as a collaborative effort between board and staff.
Like most cultural organisations, The Mighty Creatives' focus and direction have developed gradually. The Mighty Creatives have existed for nearly a decade and already have a strong character and reputation of their own, especially for work around student voice, using creative learning to tackle inequality and supporting young people as entrepreneurs. I believe we should build on these achievements, whilst also looking for new opportunities, especially to facilitate regional networks, partnerships and collaborations, and to celebrate the individual artists and cultural organisations who deliver directly to children and young people.
I haven’t carried out a systematic study, but my hunch is that success in the cultural sphere comes when there is an enabling partnership between the chief executive and the chair of the board, which is both supportive but sufficiently challenging. I’m working on the premise that the CEO and his team come up with ideas, which they pitch to us. It is the job of the board, led by the chair, to test out every aspect of these ideas, add in their own pennyworth, agree to own them and then support their implementation. For what it’s worth, that is my vision.
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