As a small but fast-growing touring theatre company run by part-time staff, Hubbub Theatre Company has benefited from appointing a Director of Business Development. Jo Kemp explains what her job entails.
Hubbub Theatre Company was established as a registered charity in 2015, with origins from 2012 when Jen Sumner, now our Artistic Director, brought together an integrated company of learning disabled and non-disabled performers to produce a street theatre performance for Derby’s celebrations for the closing of the Olympic Games. The company has since toured its first production, followed by a successful funding award from Arts Council England’s Elevate programme, intended to strengthen the resilience of arts organisations that demonstrate a significant contribution to diversity.
As with any new job, you need to make connections with all relevant personnel and partners and stakeholders, both current and potential
Our performances are for all and must be of equal quality to any other professional theatre company of its size, so we can provide evidence of our value to the sector and place ourselves favourably for highly competitive funding.
This is where the role of Director of Business Development comes in. I started in this role in June last year and work closely with the Artistic Director to ensure the effective delivery of our objectives and vision. I have overall responsibility for:
- strategy and business planning
- fundraising research and applications
- financial management
- HR leadership
- policy writing and implementation
- reporting to the board of trustees
- stakeholder management
- meeting responsibilities as a charity and employer
- supporting marketing and public relations.
To date, my focus has been on consolidation and connection.
Because the company has grown so rapidly in a relatively short space of time, systems and processes required formalising in some cases and establishing from scratch in others. For example, it is the first time that the company has been able to employ anyone on a PAYE basis, necessitating legally approved contracts and terms and conditions, leave policies and so on.
I have many years’ experience of recruiting and managing staff in large organisations where these processes and policies were well established and overseen by central functions. Apart from working as an actor for two small-scale theatre companies and as Assistant Drama Officer at East Midlands Arts, I led and developed a learning and audience development programme with a team at Nottingham City Museums and Galleries. So, I have the skills and experiences to draw upon as I seek to support Hubbub through growth and to maturity.
By researching and reviewing best practice from similar organisations, we were able to develop an approach that is a good fit for who we are and what we do. One of our newest board members is a solicitor who cast a legal eye over our draft contract and employee terms and conditions. We are fortunate to have this expertise, as otherwise we would have needed to source it externally.
As with any new job, you need to make connections with all relevant personnel and partners and stakeholders, both current and potential. I have always worked in the arts sector, so I have a good understanding of that landscape, including funding bodies. As my previous role was in museums and heritage, I am now learning more specifically about the current theatre and learning disability sector.
It has been a joy to get to know our trustees and reassuring to understand the varied skills and experience with which they support us. This was made clear especially when I had to search and recruit for a new trustee when the former chair stepped down.
Challenges and joys
The main challenges so far have been around balancing the workload across my three-day week, and prioritising between strategic and operational tasks. As a company of three part-time staff, we work supportively and flexibly to do whatever is required to get the job done. Understanding the structure and practices of our finances has required dedicated time.
Other financial challenges will come as no surprise, such as working to find ways to expand our income sources and become less reliant on grants. We have worked up plans with our board and my next focus will be pulling this together in a way that makes them actionable and measurable.
What appealed to me about Hubbub Theatre Company was its integrity and ethos. I am passionate about the role the arts play in positive health and wellbeing and am excited to be helping to grow the company in inclusive ways.