Guest Blog: ITC Chair AGM Speech 2021

This last year, we have seen the arts hit very hard, venues forced to close, tours cancelled, rehearsals stopped. We have seen employees made redundant, some freelancers left unsupported by the government and much more that has been hard to bear and see.

Alongside all of this we are beginning to see the impact of BREXIT on our sector as well and what that will mean to us, as we emerge and begin to plan our recovery from this our third lockdown and a world pandemic.

There have been other major events this year as well which the arts have reacted to, showing solidarity around Black Lives Matter and looking at their own companies practice and what they can change. In all of this, in what has been an incredibly challenging and difficult year with so many people on furlough, so many working from home and juggling all that encumbers, you may ask at this stage, what is the point of continuing to work in the arts, what does the future hold?

BUT there has been another side too……..

I have been heartily cheered by our sector and reminded of how resilient, inventive and adaptable we are, with what I have seen and witness people do.

As the independent sector so many of you have rallied, turning your venues into community hubs, shelters and food banks. Artists and companies quickly moved their work online making it free for people to access. Classes and workshops that were also moved online for participants and communities and artists to access, often again without charge.

The structure that companies large and small have put in place to support their staff and teams with the challenges with working from home and keeping well mentally as well as physically.

Then the lobbying we have all done and taken on. I am sure for many of you, like me, this is a whole new area to your job and role. It has been so important making sure we have a voice and that we are heard. Also to all the planning groups that have been set up and resources shared for how to make work in and out of lockdown and adapt to COVID 19 restrictions. As well as supporting each other through various networks.

Also the support for freelancers through such initiatives as the Fuel initiated Freelance Task Force that gathered over 160 organisations, to the funding and other initiatives offered when it was obvious that not all would benefit from the government support.

To the funders who quickly redirected their funds to support us, as small organisations and individuals as well to survive as well as make much needed work for communities.

Through all of this ITC and the team have listened, adapted and supported us. I know their lines have been as busy as ever and the amount of events they have run and training sessions to support us. They’ve adapted to the new world we are in and they have been much needed and very well attended events and sessions.

It has shown us all how relevant ITC is and how needed it is not just now, not just yesterday but for tomorrow and the future ahead. I am so grateful to all the ITC team and to the board.

I am so proud and humbled to chair ITC and to represent this sector and you our members, that we are all part of a community. Who not only have shown our resilience but have also shown great care, compassion, kindness and support to each other.

Over zoom we have connected in ways we never could before, making us all so much more accessible to each other, around the UK, further afield and also for those who find it harder to leave their homes.

As we emerge and the world starts again we need to remember how we have connected, the acts of kindness and the time that maybe being stuck in one place has afforded us.

I know so many of you have done work and adapted during this time but as we emerge from this lockdown there are some that have not been able to. So we need to come together again as restrictions are lifted, to heal any rifts and to work with the larger venues and companies again. Together, making work, supporting artists and giving communities something to see, engage with and enjoy, as live work emerges onto the streets, in venues and anywhere else. I know ITC will help us with this.

As we look to the future hold on to some of the things this last year has shown us, I know once in while I will make sure I stop and listen to the lessons I learnt during this last year. I will hold onto what it showed me about the sector I am part of, my community and my team.

You should all take a moment to reflect on what you have done this least year, how you have survived and weathered this momentous and battering storm.

I hope I can do this whilst applauding a show, with a drink in my hand and a friend by my side, knowing you are all out there safe and well. That new work is beating away in our sector again and ITC as always is just a phone call away.

By Ali King, Chief Executive of Turtle Key Arts & ITC Chair