Journal and News

Guest Blog: My Time as Chair by Alison King

This week at the ITC AGM, I will step down from the board, having served for seven years and nearly five of them as Chair.

When I joined the board in 2015, Turtle Key Arts had been a member of ITC for many years, and we thought it would be good to give something back to support the organisation and its members. I felt I had valuable skills and knowledge to share. It also seemed a good time in my life and professional development to join a board and gain insight into supporting an organisation at this level.

Like the nominees this week, there were more applicants than places on the board, so I made that nerve-wracking speech and waited to see how many votes I had garnered. Of course, basic human nature takes over, and I wanted to win my place more than anything. I guess there is nothing wrong with some healthy competition and drive!

I found this from my original nomination form, showing why I wanted to stand.

Through my wealth of experience in running Turtle Key Arts, producing companies, tours, shows, and projects, I can bring a range of skills to the ITC board, which I hope will be useful. I have much experience in management, production, communication, networking, participation, funding, and finance. I believe in the value of ITC, Turtle Key Arts have been a member for over 20 years, and I would like to give something back to the organisation by serving on their board.

I was elected, and that started my time on the board. By the time I stood for re-election in 2018, I was Chair of the board, elected in May 2017.

When I joined the board, I felt relieved to have been elected but was nervous about what lay ahead and was expected of me. I never thought about being Vice-Chair or Chair – that role seemed to be filled by people with far more knowledge and industry expertise than me, or that’s what the little voice inside me said anyway. After a year on the board, we needed a second Vice-Chair, and everyone was very quiet, so I spontaneously raised my hand and volunteered, but led it by saying, ‘I have only been on the board a year but….’ At that point, I started to see ITC for what it is as an organisation and how it serves and supports its members. It is open, inclusive, and wants its board to come from the membership and be led by the members, regardless of whether you think you have the skills or not. Believe me, you do, and ITC helps you realise them. Joining a board that is passionate about the sector you are part of, knowledgeable and caring, is a wonderful match.

That is where ITC differs from other boards as it recruits from their membership, meaning that as board members, we know what we need and can help the team support and deliver that to our community and industry. That is what, in my opinion, makes it such an excellent board to join. If you are keen to learn more about being on a board and what it may entail, start with ITC. You will have good peer support and fantastic guidance and wisdom when needed from ITC’s indefatigable CEO, Charlotte. So I encourage you to ignore the little voice inside that says you couldn’t possibly do it and stand next time. 

When I was Vice-Chair, it seemed a natural step to be Chair, but a couple of us stood, so I stated what I could bring if elected Chair and again waited for the results. I felt invested, wanting to help ITC realise its plans and see the business strategy, planned projects, dreams, and ideals realised. When I became Chair, the real job began, and I wanted to answer an essential question: what sort of Chair would I be? And how did I want to help the organisation and support and build the board? 

I decided early on that I could only be myself and would be guided by the same principles that steer me as CEO at Turtle Key. I was determined to be a supportive and caring Chair. I wanted to nurture the community spirit of ITC and make board members feel welcome, so they felt able to express themselves and, most of all, respected. Charlotte desired to continue to create a positive board atmosphere and to build a board that was representative of the membership from geographic location, gender, art form, race, disability, and age. She also wants board members to question and challenge as if they were a ‘critical friend’, a perfect phrase for a board member. 

As a board member, and certainly as Chair, I believe you need to admire the organisation and share its values and ideals. Similarly, in my opinion, you need a good rapport and understanding with the CEO. I have enjoyed working with Charlotte as we share a vision for ITC, and I admire how much the team achieves and their dedication to members.

As Chair, the following principles have been vital; be an advocate, an ambassador for the organisation, support, engage, care, challenge, question, energise, listen, and when needed advise, inspire and be on hand with a dose of hope.

It can be challenging to make the time to be a board member, with demands on our time and pressures of our sector. I get that, so if you do join a board, remember that you have to carve out the time. Don’t make it the thing that gets pushed down the agenda or the thing you just ‘can’t do’. Be passionate about an organisation that you join as a board member, and if you do become Chair, ensure you have the time to be that sounding board for your CEO, other board members, and staff when needed. That is the sort of Chair I hoped I have been, by making sure that ITC knew I was only a phone call or meeting away; engaged, ready, and always flying the flag.

I wanted to ensure that ITC could continue to grow, gain new members, support the sector, advocate for us, and develop new initiatives, projects, and plans. I didn’t need to worry; ITC is constantly looking for new ways to support, engage its members, and best serve the sector.

After 20 years at the helm as CEO, Charlotte is an inspiration with her brand of honest advice, integrity, passion, and belief in the independent sector and proud of what it can and does achieve, and this is reflected in the team and rubs off on us as board members as well.

Since my time as Chair, I have seen three general elections, the Trump years, Brexit, funding cuts and changes, and COVID. The last five years have tested our members to the limit, bought many into question, and challenged many to survive. We have all worked hard to keep the creativity going, effect change and protect ourselves. I am amazed at the resilience of our community and proud of how ITC has responded with help, practical advice, engagement, and constant resourcefulness. We have supported the sector with important movements and made sure that real change does happen. As Chair, it was so important to me to support ITC so that it could respond, adapt and help.  

ITC is 50 years old in 2024, and I will have only been a small part of its rich history and legacy. As I step down, I know that I leave it in the capable hands with its indomitable CEO, dedicated team, and its new Chair and board. I feel emotional to be finishing my time on the board and proud of what ITC stands for, and very grateful that it exists to help us all. I am so pleased that I joined the board those seven years ago and got to see from the inside what this small but mighty organisation does. It has been an honour to support the team and board, but most of all, I have been so proud to support our community and be able to step forward and say I am ‘Chair of the Independent Theatre Council’.

My hope for the future is that ITC continues for many years to come. To serve, support and shout for our sector.

I will now be in the wings but always cheering loudly and proudly. “We are the independent sector, and we are here to stay.”

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