AGM 2024: Out-Going Chair, Gareth Nicholls’ Introduction SpeechAGM 2024

In my AGM introduction last year, I talked about how our precious sector was facing some unprecedented challenges. Now, I’m becoming more and more suspicious of the word ‘unprecedented’. As soon as you utter it, something else comes along that’s far more unprecedented than the unprecedented thing you were going through before. I really should stop tempting fate.

But here we are: still reeling from the pandemic, and now facing a cost-of-living crisis. The economics of independent theatre-making are stacked against it more than ever, despite yesterday’s budget announcement about the continuation of Theatre Tax Relief. And yet, here you are: still doing what you’re all so brilliant at – building communities, serving audiences, empowering participants and making intelligent, courageous, sometimes challenging and often joyous work.

I know for many of our members, the greatest challenge you face right now is simply surviving. But know that your work is important and valuable, even if it doesn’t always feel like it is treated with the respect it deserves. I hope in the year ahead you can find glimmers of joy where you can and take time to celebrate all that you achieve, knowing that ITC is here for you whenever you need us. Because at each hurdle you face, ITC will find the resources, energy and clarity of thought to help you explore your options and move forward in the best way possible.

So, my call-to-action for members over this coming year is two-fold…

Firstly: pick up the phone and use us. Use us often, and use us early, before you hit any kind of crisis point. Now is the perfect time to reach out as we welcome a new member to the ITC team. Fred Jerrome joins us as our new Legal & Industry Relations Manager, working alongside Jackie and Charlotte. Many of you will get to know Fred when you reach out to us for support and he’s excited to get to know you.

Expanding the team during a time when our industry is so short on resources and other membership organisations are closing their advice services, is proof, if proof were needed, that ITC is a rare entity indeed. We offer far more than a rates-of-pay PDF. As part of your membership, you can access unlimited, bespoke and confidential advice from our team of legal and industry experts whenever you need it. It is, and always has been, an incredible offer that continues to be at your disposal. And to mark this we’ve re-launched our dedicated advice line number and email address for the exclusive use of members. You’ll find the details on our website and in your Members Matters email. Please do use them.

My second call-to-action is this: If you find value in what ITC does, spread the word to your peers and networks, and encourage non-members to join. Membership is the lifeblood of ITC. We rely on membership for the main bulk of our income because we refuse to seek public funding that would put us in direct competition for funds with our members. A robust membership, who we are in contact with often, also provides crucial intel about what is happening on the front line of our sector which we can then use in our training, advice and lobbying activities. It’s a simple equation: The more members who join and draw support from ITC, the stronger ITC will become. Your word-of-mouth advocacy is crucial in making that happen.

It has been a privilege to support ITC as a board member, Vice Chair and Chair over the last six years, but now I’ve reached my full term and will be stepping down at the end of this meeting. Before I wrap up, I’m excited to introduce you to your new Chairs and Vice-Chair who were unanimously elected to their posts by the rest of the board at our last meeting in January.

I’m so pleased to be leaving the board in the brilliant hands of Co-Chairs Ria Parry and Keisha Thompson, and Vice-Chair Dougie Irvine. That is, of course, as long as you re-elect Ria and Dougie for their second term in the upcoming elections, otherwise, this could all be really awkward! All three of your new Chairs are hugely inspiring cultural leaders and advocates for our sector, who care so deeply for our members. They’re all fabulous and you are so lucky to have them fighting your corner.

Finally, I wanted to take this last opportunity to say a huge thank you to Charlotte, Zoe, Rachel, Jackie, Honest Kev, Fred and the rest of the board for all of their unwavering hard work, not just in support of our sector, but also in their support for me. This was the first time I’ve done anything like chairing a board and if I’m honest, I’ve been winging it this whole time! But every step of the way, Charlotte, the team and the board have shown me kindness, generosity and love. I’m going to miss working with you all enormously, but can’t wait to cheer you on from the sidelines.

Thank you.