Hi, I’m Helen, a board member of The Play House since December 2008. I have to admit, twelve months ago I couldn’t have given you a detailed description of what the position of ‘board member’ entailed and I certainly wouldn’t have anticipated being one any time in the near future. Yet here I find myself, blogging on The Play House website, more enthusiastic about the value of the arts than ever and an eager exponent of the value of getting involved behind the scenes.
I came to be on the board thanks to the Young People and Arts Boards programme, an innovative Birmingham City Council scheme, aiming to increase the involvement of 18 – 25 year olds in the management of arts organisations. Having applied following an email from the University of Birmingham, where I’m currently completing my final year of a BA (Hons) degree in History, I was selected from the applicants to go to a selection day with 13 other candidates, where we discovered more about what the job could entail. Following this, we were offered a free training weekend, which involved interviews of acting board members, discussions of their different roles and responsibilities and how we would respond to these challenges and opportunities. We were then matched to organisations which corresponded with our individual interests so that we were paired with organisations we would care about. I found myself happily paired with The Play House.
Before my first board meeting I had the opportunity to see Out of the Box, a Language Alive! programme, in a school, which gave me a good idea of Play House work in action. This experience demonstrated just how much fun the children can have, with the whole class eager to contribute and join in, and also how the work brings out different sides of every child, appealing to learning styles perhaps not catered for in a classroom environment. Just a brief chat to the class teacher was enough to tell that such a visit can open up doors to a whole range of follow on learning opportunities and projects when fully exploited.
Boards have a rather unfair reputation of being stuffy with a very small pool of members, an unavoidable group whose actions do very little, but my own experience has proved this to be a very narrow-minded view. The people who volunteer their time to be on boards, do so out of a passion for their company and what it can achieve. Perhaps some of them have had personal experience of working in arts organisations, many do not. They do all care about what the organisations can achieve and helping them to realise this, and do so through their knowledge and connections and by offering to be a spokesperson for the organisation in their everyday lives.
I’m still a newbie and learning more as time goes on, but then education was never going to be something that ended with my degree. When it comes down to it, it isn’t just the children The Play House works with that benefit from this great organisation, so can the teachers, practitioners, funders, management and even board members; we’re all on this journey of development together. Long may it continue.