Eileen is currently on the ADF Board Shadowing Programme: London Edition until February 2020
At 57 I have taken the bold act to step away from a London well-being charity I co-founded and ran for 20 years. All in the pursuit of allowing my creative nature more space to flourish. I have been writing for as long as I have known myself and am fortunate to have some short stories and poems published. Now the lure of the theatre world is calling.
Whilst I have many transferable skills, I often found myself feeling like Alice in Wonderland needing to find the way up. So, I put myself on as many workshops and network events that I could find to help build skills, a better understanding of the sector, its nuances, language and playground rules! I have found some great opportunities and experiences, along with frustrations around the inequities of the sector. In particular for women, black artists and older creatives. I’ve noticed there is a big drive in the theatre industry to think more about climate change and waste. One of the biggest wastes that I am seeing is human waste, with anyone over the age of 35 considered to be spent. Why do so many opportunities stop at 35??
I started to realise the only way to get to grips with this industry was to understand how it operates strategically. How are programming decisions made? What are the concerns and threats to having a thriving sector? Who are the movers and shakers? How do relationships between board members and senior management influence work? I had so many questions. When I saw the opportunity to join ADF’s Board Shadowing scheme I jumped at it. I liked that they were working towards addressing some of the inequities that I could see. To increase the diversification of boards in mainstream theatres and arts organisations, by bridging the gap between culturally diverse artists, leaders and board of directors, across the UK.
I was over the moon to be selected for a programme that is now shortlisted for The Stage 2020 Innovation Award. I have the opportunity of shadowing the boards of Punchdrunk, Complicité and ETT (English Touring Theatre). From my past governance experience, I know that the board is critical for supporting and informing the vision of any organisation. So this would give me experience of seeing how three big established theatre companies were operating and looking ahead. All very useful information helping me to think about the strategic development of my own company QuestLife, as we prepare to take our first production ‘Blood Rites’ to VAULT Festival 2020.
So far I have attended ETT the press night for August Wilson’s ‘Two Trains Running’ and team meetings with Complicité & ETT. Along with seeing behind the scenes of Punchdrunk, Complicité and ETT, the ADF Board Shadowing initiative has come with a whole host of other opportunities:
- Confidence building and professional development
- Being part of a peer support network with the other Board Shadowers. This has led to a few collaborations and skills exchange
- Support, network & skills development opportunity with ADF
- Networking opportunities with the three theatre companies
- Awareness about other strategic platforms and events
This has been an incredible opportunity so far, and I wish ADF all the best with The Stage Innovation Award in 2020.
Vault Festival show https://vaultfestival.com/whats-on/blood-rites/