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Trustees' Week 2021| Trustees: the winning formula

01 Nov 2021

Trustees' Week Series 2021| Trustees: the winning formula, Brona Whittaker

Our Head of Arts, Brona Whittaker, reflects on the vital role of board members for NI's arts organisations, as we celebrate #TrusteesWeek2021.

There has never been a more important time to be a Trustee and to contribute to the strong leadership that will help the cultural sector in Northern Ireland look toward recovery.

Promoting good governance is one of our organisations key objectives: in fact, it's this commitment to celebrating the role of trustees that prompted us to create the category of Inspirational Trustee within our annual Awards ceremony. And in looking at those nominated for the award year after year, as well as working closely with brilliant arts boards members day to day, that we see real-life examples of what it takes to navigate a cultural organisation through a crisis.

Trustees must show some essential elements to steer through a crisis and beyond. These skills include:


The most effective Board Members are those that are passionate about the charity they volunteer with. They feel committed to the work of the arts organisation and the impact it makes. This passion drives the motivation needed to fulfil the governance duties required of a busy arts Board.


As arts organisations try to deliver their work in a changing environment, adapting to the shifting parameters of the pandemic, Trustees must ensure that the organisational purpose remains paramount and is the key driver behind all decisions. The most effective Chairs are focused on core values, putting the purpose of the organisations first, leading with character and integrity.


The ways arts charities are governed changed, with virtual meetings replacing in-person ones, governance schedules shifting to respond to the ever-changing landscape, and new technology being utilised by Boards. Covid-19 has shown that traditional governance practices can change when required. The most effective arts Trustees have balanced maintaining Board performance with creative priorities.

So, good governance isn’t just about oversight and compliance, it’s also about creating the best mix of skills, experience and passion. Under normal circumstances, good governance can be hard to achieve, requiring a delicate balance of operations, strategic vision and belief in the mission. In a crisis, it gets even harder. Are you up for the challenge?

We're taking time out to consider and celebrate what makes a great trustee this week, with blogs and a dedicated event series. These daily 15-20 minute discussions with the boards of five NI cultural organisations will take place at 1pm from 1st- 5th November 2021. They will feature the chair/CEO of each organisation in conversation with a board member who went through an A&BNI governance programme, hosted by an A&B member of staff.

You'll see the full line up below:

Monday 1st November, 1 - 1.20pm: David Codling & Mark Eaglesham, Outburst Arts

Tuesday 2nd November, 1 - 1.20pm: Fiona Bell & Mark Walker, thrive audience development

Wednesday 3rd November, 1 - 1.20pm: Stephen Beggs & Matthew Jeffrey, Tinderbox Theatre Company

Thursday 4th November, 1 - 1.20pm: Sophie Hayles & Cormac Maguire, Crescent Arts Centre

Friday 5th November, 1 - 1.20pm: Sean Fitzsimons & Ciara Smyth, University of Atypical


Are you an arts organisation looking to bring passionate, talented individuals onto your board? Arts & Business NI can help.

Fill in our Board Matching form here, and let us know what skills you are seeking, and we'll endeavour to match you to a professional from our Board Matching programmes who can make a real difference in your organisation!

Our Funders & Partners

Arts & Business NI is generously supported by The Arts Council of Northern Ireland.