UK Theatre’s vision is to see a well-connected and well-supported theatre sector at the heart of UK life, and our Board is vital to helping us achieve this.
In our new “Meet the Board” blog series, you’ll get to know our Board members better and find out why they choose to volunteer their time and expertise to UK Theatre on behalf of the industry. The Board help to steer and advise on our work – from how to future proof and diversify our workforce, to exploring new models of funding and income generation, to supporting the health of touring and the regional producing and presenting model.
In this edition of “Meet the Board” we get to know Jon Gilchrist.
Jon has been on our Board since 2015, when as Executive Director of the Bush Theatre, he was co-opted as the representative for the London Theatre Consortium (LTC). Now Executive Director of HOME in Manchester, as Jon embarks on his second term on the UK Theatre’s Board, we find out what achievements he is most proud of and what he hopes to achieve in the future…
Jon Gilchrist, Executive Director, HOME and UK Theatre Board Member (Photo: Helen-Murray)
For me, it’s about celebrating and supporting theatre throughout the whole of the UK, and not simply focussing on the major cities and larger institutions is so important. Collaborating across the sector means increased opportunities and access to work in theatre.
In February I became Executive Director of HOME, an arts venue in Manchester with a programme across two theatres, five cinemas and gallery spaces which welcomes 650,000 a year.
I’m also fortunate to have worked for theatre companies and organisations at a variety of scales, turnover, artforms and geographical locations, as well as producing and receiving houses. I’ve also worked in theatre marketing at venues across the North West (Keswick, Bolton, Lancaster and Salford). And I’m a trustee of HighTide Festival Theatre, presenting an annual festival in Suffolk.
Before my time at HOME, I was Executive Director of the Bush Theatre. If you aren’t familiar with The Bush, it is a small scale producing venue in West London specialising in new work by diverse voices. Our priority was diversifying both audiences and talent. We created a sustainable business model which grew audiences by 200% in 6 years, and presented a programme of work that was 50% by writers of colour.
While at the Bush, I was also Vice Chair of the London Theatre Consortium, working with twelve other mid-scale theatres on projects including greener theatres, access and training and development. LTC have an Apprentices scheme to encourage young people to provide career opportunities and in-job training for people from all backgrounds, and the MOBO Fellowships, aimed at diversifying the leadership of British Theatre.
I fundamentally believe that talent development in theatre shouldn’t be confined to artists. I am proud of the work we have done since I joined the UK Theatre Board in 2015 as we strive to make theatre more inclusive and wide reaching. UK Theatre plays a critical role in this with their workforce development strategy, diverse casting planning kit and access and inclusion training and I am eager we do even more.
Theatre has a responsibility and an interest in reflecting the community its part of, and that diversity and financial sustainability go hand in hand.
Over the course of my years working on touring theatre programmes at a variety of scales, I gained a real understanding of the increased pressures on the national touring ecology, and the need to develop audiences and deepen their engagement with companies. That is also why I worked with the London Theatre Consortium to develop consistency around interpretation of data sharing to ensure maximum impact for venues and touring companies, something which UK Theatre is pushing forward for the industry with their sales data reporting.
I am incredibly proud to be part of the UK Theatre Board and I believe that over the next three years we can achieve even more for the membership and the theatre and performing arts industry as a whole.
Read the other blogs in this series:
See who else is on the UK Theatre Board here.