Screenshot of a Zoom board meeting. Captions in the meeting read "A board meeting ideally should feel like the time when the organisation is in its most supported space"
This week's remote board meeting.

Introducing Unlimited’s new board

Unlimited is transitioning into an independent organisation, a process that will be complete by the end of March 2022. For this we needed a governing body to take up the reigns and guide Unlimited. The Advisory Group worked on and made a public call out in the summer of 2020, and now the board has now been appointed…

Unlimited wanted a board that was diverse, intersectional, and that would help it question and revitalise the way boards govern. After commissioning some research into best practice in Governance from Mark Robinson, Thinking Practice, we knew we wanted a board rooted in equality, diversity, and the lived experiences of disabled people that could provide clear appropriate direction, oversight management and accountability and support the staff, partners, artists, and others to do their best work.

But what could make our board unique? We committed to the following:

  • Unlimited will be disabled-led, with at least 75% of any board, committee, or panel identifying as disabled
  • Governance should be proportionate and enable Unlimited to be fast and flexible
  • We should bring creativity into our governance work
  • Governance should be accessible to all, with people of all kinds and situations able to play roles in the overall governance. Those roles such be clear and abundant rather than scarce and restricted.
  • We take an intersectional approach to diversity, and value all lived experience.
  • We should use a variety of forums, all to serve the mission of the organisation.

The recruitment process called out widely – in a variety of ways – and supported people to apply in the format they found most appropriate rather than through a narrow form with set questions. 34 people applied, 27 had conversations (two separate conversations, one with an advisory group member, one with a member of the current team) and finally 13 were chosen.

“The key idea to be remembered in all governance: that of holding something in trust.” Mark Robinson 

Who is on the board?

A massive thanks to all the members of our Advisory Group who worked so hard through the year helping us get to where we are now. Three of those move to the board and the others step back to allow the new board to come forward. So, drum roll please…

The Unlimited board will be chaired by freelance concept developer, curator, and facilitator Anna Starkey.  Thomas Ryalls, writer, theatre maker, producer, and Assistant producer, Out of Joint will serve as Secretary and Adel AlSalloum, Director, The Spark Arts for Children as Treasurer.

The board also includes artist Hannah Aria, David Dixon, Director, Chapel Arts Studio, Carole Edrich, Ruth Fabby, Director, DAC, writer Nichola Ibe, Jocelyn Mills, Producer (international touring), Kaleider, artist Sonny Nwachukwu, artist Sorcha Pringle, Tarik Elmoutawakil, Co-Artistic Director, Marlborough Productions, and David Tovey, Creative Producer at Arts and Homelessness International.

Full biographies can be downloaded here as a Word doc.


Data and diversity

The board is comprised of 92% disabled people, 31% people of colour, 46% those who define as LGBTQIA+, 62% artists, 31% people under 30 & includes people with interests in international work, equality for working class people within the arts sector, homelessness, rurality, and children and young people.

It was important for us that it included a wide range of people, and strongly represented disabled artists. We made the decision that anyone applying to the board could also be a funded artist of Unlimited (past, present or future) – or we would rule out so many brilliant people. This meant we took particular care over ensuring our declaration of interest process for our recent application was sound and clear. No one applying to Unlimited was ‘scored’ by anyone within Unlimited and all interests were logged so that it could not sway the application process in either direction. The Board includes artists who made our shortlist and also those who did not.

What next?

We really want to hear from others to find out how to ‘do boards best’.

The process of governance is an important one – but we think should also be a creative one. We want to experiment with various ways to hold board meetings – obviously both face to face and online, but also in small groups, on Google docs, white boards, and other methods – we are really interested in finding out what has worked for other boards interested in diversifying how they hold ‘meetings’ – and of course, we want to ensure access.

We also want to pilot providing support for board members who need it – we won’t be paying people to be board members but will be offering people paid work through the year if they need it to offset the time spent on the board – on panels, writing blogs, reviewing work, representing us at events, and so on. And anyone who needs it can claim a take away meal the week of the board meeting to make it easier to dedicate the time needed to absorbing board papers and information. Again, we are keen to know what others are doing here.

We don’t have a legal or financial expert on the board – and so will be looking for advisors to help us in year one, whilst we are still building systems and processes for the new organisation before we formally and fully separate from Shape and Artsadmin at the end of March 2022. Please get in contact if you are interested in helping us.

Over this year, we’ll be looking out for gaps in the knowledge, skills and lived experience of our board, and then calling out too for new members to fill those gaps. Watch out in 2021 for news on what we might need next!