New chairman at the helm of Maltings trust
The Maltings Theatre & Cinema in Berwick has appointed Graham Brown as the new chairman of the Board of Trustees.
The Advertiser asked him about his role, and what lies ahead for The Maltings.
Q: Graham, when were you appointed?
A: In December. But I have been filling in since last April when the previous chair, Maurice Ward, retired
Maurice oversaw some innovative changes at The Maltings and has left it in great shape considering the unstable climate for arts organisations.
Q: How did you get involved?
A: I sat next to a trustee at a Burns Night supper. We discussed volunteering locally and the work of The Maltings Trust. I expressed an interest. And here I am.
Q: Are you from Berwick?
A: No, I’m a Geordie. I moved here 10 years ago, and I love it.
Q: What are you most proud of about The Maltings?
A: The range of activities. We serve a wide community of locals and visitors – and we really strive to be inclusive.
We have the youth theatre, local productions, blockbuster films, live bands, broadcasts from around the world, an opera festival...
It’s amazing for such a small geographically remote arts centre.
Q: Any frustrations?
A: I think The Maltings is possibly taken for granted by some folk, because they don’t necessarily realise what a hand-to-mouth business it is.
For a non-commercial charitable organisation like The Maltings, the challenge to stay afloat financially and offer the professional standards and quality experience we want our customers to enjoy is very real.
We need to build awareness of areas that support our work: Our friends’ scheme is tiny compared to the one in Alnwick; business sponsorship is much appreciated but, again, sums are small compared to other theatres.
Q: What other challenges lie ahead for The Maltings?
A: The building is an issue. It’s 27 years old and needs major work.
We are talking with our landlord, the county council, about a possible closure period so that we can get it all done at once.
We’d also like to reshape the internal layout of the building to get more from the space we have.
Q: Can you give us details of the works?
A: No, not yet. However, we are thinking innovatively. The fact is that any work will only go ahead if we can attract funding.
We don’t have money in the bank for building developments.
Q: What event did you enjoy most at The Maltings last year?
A: Lots! If I had to go for one, I’d say the Yehudi Menuhin School of Music concert.
I think I probably sat open mouthed throughout, almost unable to grasp the incredible level of musicianship from those young people.
Q: Do you need special qualifications to be on the Board of Trustees?
A: No. But like any board, you need a broad range of skills and knowledge, and trustees who are interested in the organisation’s business.
The Maltings Board has people from business, arts and finance backgrounds. We’re on the lookout for someone with legal expertise – if any of your readers think they might be the right person, we’d love to hear from them.
Q: What do you and the Trustees do?
A: The Trustees’ job is to ensure The Maltings Trust is run in a proper way.
So, sound employment practices, sound finances, proper planning and so on.
As chair, I distil the views of the Board and line-manage the chief executive who leads the staff team, our volunteers and any contractors.
We are extremely fortunate that chief executive and artistic director Matthew Rooke has exceptionally wide knowledge and experience across the arts.
Q: Are you and the Board paid?
A: No, it’s voluntary work.
Q: How long will you be chairman?
A: Three years with a possible further three years if I enjoy it and the other trustees can put up with me.