Abbey Theatre/ Amharclann na Mainistreach/The National Theatre of Ireland www.abbeytheatre.ie
The Abbey is one of Ireland’s national cultural institutions, founded in 1904 and is the national theatre of Ireland. BK has worked with the Abbey and its since 2004 during several phases of review and refinement of its business model. This support has taken account of an evolving operating context, as the Irish theatre community has grown and diversified and as the economy has been subject to volatility.
BK’s initial involvement was to provide the Arts Council with an independent review of the Abbey and its business in 2004 in the context of an internal crisis of confidence. This review identified significant structural weaknesses connected to the governance arrangements and legal constitution of the Abbey which substantially weakened its ability to attract and retain appropriate skills and systems. It further identified weaknesses in structures, skills and systems throughout the organisation. The Abbey board agreed with BK’s recommendations to the Arts Council and asked BK to design and direct the transition to a new organisation with improved governance and management. BK managed the change working with the Government, existing board, unions, stakeholders, staff and management.
A decade later, the Arts Council once more commissioned BK to undertake a review of the Abbey. This focussed on a detailed analysis of its business model and performance, including a forensic review of its activities, attendances, production practice, staffing and finances. International comparators were identified including the Sydney Theatre Company and the Royal Court, providing insight into the composition of skills in the Abbey. A further detailed review of the evaluation processes which the Arts Council used in connection with the Abbey highlighted opportunities for improvement.
Citymoves Dance Agency citymoves.wordpress.com
Citymoves is the regional dance agency for North East Scotland. Originally part of Aberdeen City Council (Education and Children’s Services), in October 2016 Citymoves became an independent SCIO (Scottish Charitable Incorporated Organisation). Its activities include classes and participatory projects, supporting dance artists and producing and promoting new dance work, including the annual DanceLive Festival of contemporary dance.
While Citymoves was an internal team of the Council and during a major internal restructuring of arts, community and education teams, BK was commissioned to undertake an options appraisal. This considered alternative future organisational arrangements including those within the Council, independence, or transferred to another cultural trust. BK modelled alternatives in terms of activity, finance, profile, governance, management and operations using comparator benchmarks. The options were evaluated with the Council using weighted criteria informed by the articulation of a vision for Citymoves. The criteria included the ability to attract and retain the leadership skills requisite to achieve ambitions and the ability to retain and expand finance and funding. There was also a substantive consideration of benefits and of risks.
The options appraisal concluded that Citymoves should become independent and that a new charity be set up. BK designed the new SCIO and the transition process including setting up a shadow board in preparation for the new SCIO and the transfer of assets and undertakings (TUPE). We provided transition management and direction until a Director/CEO was appointed and supported the creation of the new company and new board, recruiting trustees and establishing governance systems and terms of reference.
This project drew upon BK’s earlier work with Yorkshire Dance, where we reviewed the business model in detail and supported a change process which achieved a clearer focus and more resilient business model.
Barbican Theatres www.barbican.org.uk
Built in 1982, the Barbican Centre originally housed the Royal Shakespeare Company in two purpose built venues, the Barbican Theatre at 1,156 and The Pit at 200 seats. Having been closely involved in the original design, which included a specific and unique hexagonal stage, after 20 years in residence the RSC decided not to renew its contract, citing the venues’ physical constraints and an ambition to undertake more itinerant touring. To begin with, the RSC operated a six month season at the Barbican and then, shortly afterwards, none at all.
Faced with the dilemma of what to do with the theatres and how to programme them, the Corporation of London on each occasion turned to Bonnar Keenlyside for advice on how it might take the management and programming of the theatre forward, including dealing with its physical constraints.
BK undertook an appraisal of the market for theatre in London and concluded that, at that time, what was missing was an international season of theatre productions. Taking BK’s advice, the Barbican firstly presented a six month season and then a full year which became the Barbican International Theatre Event.
The RSC had cited that the Barbican theatres were too small for its own productions, exacerbated by the original design of the stage house. Working with Anne Minors Performance Consultants, BK resolved the physical challenges of the main stage, particularly removing the hexagonal form of the fly tower.
The Barbican Theatres continue successfully to offer an established and acclaimed programme of national and international theatre and dance productions. In 2013, the RSC announced a return to the Barbican, with a three season collaboration.
Scottish Youth Theatre scottishyouththeatre.org
Scottish Youth Theatre (SYT) is Scotland’s national theatre ‘for, by and with’ young people, giving young people the opportunity to reach their creative potential through a quality theatre arts experience. It operates from a large venue in the heart of Glasgow’s Merchant City.
As SYT reached its 40th year, the board recognised that changes were required and BK provided support in three stages: an initial review, the design of change and ultimately the management of change. The initial review, undertaken with Liddell Thomson, considered SYT’s national and international roles and its business model. This included stakeholder consultation including funders, partners, artists and young people. The evaluation of SYT’s business model included a review of governance, management, planning systems, premises and finance in the context of a detailed analysis of all activities. All of SYT’s classes and workshops, its productions and festivals, international ambassadorial projects and the community, artistic and commercial hires of the multiple spaces in their city-centre Glasgow base were analysed in terms of organisational impact.
This identified key issues for SYT both in terms of its role and in the way that the organisation was governed, led and managed which were framed in a series of specific objectives for change. A benchmarking exercise against comparators was undertaken to assist the board in considering options to achieve these objectives and decisions were taken to change key aspects of SYT’s activities, systems, operations, governance and management structures and skills.
A Change Project Board was set up to oversee the changes and Anne Bonnar took on the role of Transition Director, leading the process for recruitment of new board members and a new CEO and supporting the management’s adoption of refined planning systems, within a project plan with clear milestones supported by active plans for communications and risk management.