Monday 4th July was an auspicious day for us at Company of Dreams as we held our very first Board meeting. For those of you working in other dance forms this might not seem such a big deal, but for those of us in UK bellydance it’s a first!
Aided by a truly wonderful arts consultant, John Nicholls from Arts Quarter LLP we’ve been setting up a proper formal structure for our dance company with a view to becoming a registered charity and thereby enabling us to access a far broader range of funding opportunities in the future.
UK Charities must be led and guided by a Board of Trustees who work without pay to oversee the work of a charity and to advise and guide the team, and our trustees are a really impressive group. I had asked five people who I know and respect enormously to be my trustees and was incredibly grateful and honoured when each of them accepted. From now on they’ll be giving up their time voluntarily to advise and support me in my work and I can tell you, on Monday I really felt that support.
Chosen for their wide ranging expertise in law, charities, public relations, business and of course middle eastern dance, our trustees are all leaders in their respective fields. But, as I discovered at the meeting, it’s not just their individual skills and experience which is invaluable, it’s also the fact that most of them work outside the field of middle eastern dance and so they ask questions from the perspective of the wider public – an incredibly useful thing when you work in a niche sector.
Monday’s meeting was challenging, informative, inspiring and very refreshing. I feel incredibly excited and positive for the future with such a experienced, talented and engaged Board of Trustees behind me. From the moment I had decided to go down this route I felt sure it was the right thing to do, and last Monday confirmed that decision a hundredfold.
So here they are – Company of Dreams Board of Trustees. They are, left to right:
Joanna is a lawyer and Employment Judge, as well as being a Diversity and Community Relations Judge. She’s also a trustee of Thamesreach, a charity working with homeless people, and was previously Chair of Crisis – organising its Open Christmas for many years. In the meeting Joanna brought up questions and issues I just would never have thought of – legal matters that, as a formal organisation we really will need to address at some point. For us to have someone of such expertise on our Board is an enormous asset and a prime example of the incredible value of having a Board of Trustees.
Richard McCarthy CBE (Chair)
Richard is currently a senior director in a FTSE 100 company and non-executive Chair of a private company investing in affordable housing, but for most of his life he worked in senior positions in charities and central government. He was Chief Executive of the Peabody Trust and Director General of Neighbourhoods at the Department for Communities and Local Government, as well as being the Chair of the National Housing Federation. Richard has always loved the arts and has family members in senior roles in opera companies. In the meeting he was able to offer really valuable advice based on his brother’s experience of running a small, but artistically very successful opera company.
John is a retired company transformation and turnaround director, meaning he was taken on by companies in trouble to help turn them around into success. He worked in a remarkably wide ranging number of businesses and sectors, from arts to engineering, farm feeds to renewable energy. He’s even helped turn around a major NHS trust and, rather excitingly, the Eurofighter Typhoon aircraft project. With John’s guidance and expertise, thank goodness we’re never going need the help of a turnaround director ourselves!
Few people working in our sector anywhere in the world will not know of Leila Molaei and we’re really thrilled to have her on our Board. Leila is of mixed Iraqi/British heritage and is a world authority on Iraqi dance and the dances of the Arabian Peninsula. She is also a highly respected commentator and thought leader in the middle eastern dance sector. The Board and I have particularly asked Leila to hold us to account on issues such as cultural appropriation and to ensure that we, as westerners working in a middle eastern dance form, work in an appropriate and considered manner. As well as briefing the Board on the challenges and issues faced by middle eastern women working in dance, she was also able to give me really valuable advice on reaching out to the MENA community in London.
Michaela is a course leader and senior lecturer in the journalism and mass communications department of the University of Westminster, where she devised and co-leads a post-graduate course in Media, Campaigning and Social Change. Michaela is particularly interested in not-for-profit campaign communications, gender and diversity issues, ethics and transparency, as well as being very committed to green issues. She’s also worked as a freelance PR for many charities over the years. It goes without saying that her knowledge and understanding of not-for-profit campaigning and communications is going to be absolutely invaluable for us now and in the future.