As our final guest contributor of Trustees' Week 2021, we asked Rosie Timoney to share her experience and journey from the A&BNI Young Professionals programme, to chairing the board of Bruiser Theatre Company through unprecedented times.
“It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen”
This was the quote that came to mind when I sat down to write the Chair’s update for Bruiser Theatre Company in April 2020. It was a striking quote for the times, and for the situation I found myself in.
This is of course the famous opening line from '1984' by George Orwell, the production which Bruiser was due to open in co-production with The Lyric on 18th April 2020. At that point I, along with the rest of the world, felt like the clock had struck thirteen. I found myself as a young professional, newly chairing an organisation during dramatic and entirely unprecedented times.
My journey to this point started when I heard about the Arts and Business Young Professionals on Arts Boards Programme (the “Programme”) back in 2015. At that point I knew it was something that would be interesting. I had no idea, however, that over the course of the next five years it would prove to be such a challenging and rewarding journey – that as a board member I would face funding cuts, a step up to Chair and closure of the entire industry during a global pandemic (to name just a few challenges). I also had not fully appreciated the opportunities that a relationship with Arts and Business NI would offer.
I completed the Programme in early 2016 and was paired with Bruiser Theatre Company, being appointed as a director in September 2016.
In 2018 I was appointed by Arts and Business NI to devise and deliver a new corporate governance training programme to incoming charitable trustees placed on the Programme. I have been delivering the training programme since then.
At the time I joined the board Bruiser was core funded by the Arts Council. However after a period of two years on a board of a thriving theatre company we sadly had to launch our #savebruiser campaign when our core funding was cut. In the midst of this uncertainty I became Chair of the board. I was naturally daunted by the prospect but was adamant that Bruiser would come through this challenging time. Little did I know that this would not be the last of the big challenges, and that the skills that I developed during my training on the Programme would really be put to the test.
Through diversification and very hard work on the part of the Artistic Director and staff, Bruiser has also now survived the pandemic. My role in this saw me bring my business and legal skills to drive strategy and to problem solve – this is why the Arts and Business NI board matching programmes make such good sense.
My journey on an Arts board has been colourful to date, hard work at times, but always rewarding. I am particularly proud to have been nominated for, and won, the 'Inspirational Trustee of the Year Award' at the Arts & Business NI Awards 2021: this was awarded for my role in stewarding Bruiser to continued success despite significant funding cuts and the effect of COVID-19 on the Arts sector. Certainly not something I thought would happen back in 2015, and this formal acknowledgment meant a lot.
To conclude, as a life long lover of the Arts in Northern Ireland it has been, and continues to be, my hope that after the last 18 months we never again “get used” to going to the theatre, to taking in an exhibition or seeing the latest cultural project spring up on the streets of Belfast. I hope that the ultimate silver lining for this sector will be a renewed appreciation and support for the Arts in Northern Ireland. I am glad that my affiliation with Arts and Business NI has led me to be able to assist in some small way with the continued fight to sustain and develop this important sector.
Arts & Business NI is generously supported by The Arts Council of Northern Ireland.