Trustees Week: A Trustee’s Story

‘It is not only right that dance professionals should be helped, but a privilege to be able to help through the Fund’

Problem solving and helping people who need help is key to being a Trustee and this has been part of my life from when I was 20. I joined a charity for the blind, was then a Governor and Trustee of Coram Family, the Arts Council Dance Panel, the Dancers Resettlement Fund and currently Ipswich Museums, Performance Arts Lab and the new Colchester Museum’s Development Foundation.

As a Director, Governor and then Deputy Chairman my career with English National Ballet and smaller Dance Companies, like Extemporary Dance Company, spanned over 30 years so I had met and had contact with a lot of dancers, choreographers, teachers, directors and designers.

Life hits all of us badly at some time or another and it was always the dance profession that stood me in good stead to get through these times – either through my friends within it or just working alongside marvellously inspirational people.   The work ethic, determination and artistry in the profession was so outstanding and exceptional when adverse events hit them that I did not hesitate to join the Fund in order to help individually in some small way as a Trustee which gave me a sense of giving something back.

All roles have their separate challenges, but Trustees often say that being a Board member has been one the richest sources of learning in their professional lives, for being with a team helps to build up skills and life experience.  I have found this to be the case and it has been incredibly rewarding.

Trustees, together with the senior management team, ensure a charity has a clear strategy. This means being clear that its work and goals are in line with its vision and they are putting the needs of the beneficiaries first.  Security of the charity’s assets is very important. Coming from a business and fundraising background I felt comfortable joining the Finance Committee which looks after the assets of the charity, supported  by a team of investment managers.

The Fund has to run efficiently in order to carry out its work.  For Trustees, there is a balance between offering friendly and challenging criticism whilst also supporting the staff team.  Financial hardship, medical emergencies, help with retraining or general advice and relief are all examples of how the charity can help.

Some former dance professionals particularly welcome someone to remember them at Christmas time.

Throughout my time with the Fund I have been able to offer advice as a counsellor and psychotherapist. In many cases it has been particularly and truly heartbreaking during the pandemic when so may artists have been unable to perform and to see the effect on their mental health.

Performances are happening again which is wonderful to see but dance professionals still face an uncertain future and I am so pleased that the Fund is here no matter what problems the beneficiaries might face.

As my years as a Trustee come to an end I am so pleased to have been part of helping a profession which still means so much to me and which was such a huge part of my working life.  I will be taking my final bow from the Fund this Christmas and will take with me a sense of satisfaction that I have been part of it for so long, and a huge sense of pride having worked with wonderful colleagues and an outstanding Chairman in Dame Monica Mason, and the dedicated team at the headquarters in Brighton led by Clemmie Cowl.   New Trustees will come on Board and the Fund will continue to grow in very capable hands for the benefit of the profession for many years to come.

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