Case studies

How I help leaders in the performing arts manage successfully manage their people and create better organisations.

Battersea Arts Centre, London

My latest client

I was thrilled to be contacted by Battersea Arts Centre (BAC), as the worlds first Relaxed Venue. In a move to open up to more audiences, BAC are radically embedding access and inclusivity across all their activities. The Relaxed Venue method works to identify and dismantle the barriers faced by disabled people, based on the Social Model of disability.

I’m working with the Inclusive Practice Manager, supporting the Head of People and Executive Director to review and rewrite organisation and HR policies, to make sure they are inclusive, accessible, understood and easy to use for everyone who works there.

I’ve also been asked to investigate and hopefully implement an HR Management System to help streamline their online HR processes, in line with their mission as a paperless organisation.

National Voices, London

National Voices logo

Proud to be supporting another health care organisation

National Voices is the leading coalition of health and social care charities in England. Their members cover a diverse range of health conditions. They strengthen the voice of patients, service users, carers, their families and the voluntary organisations that work for them.

I was recommended to them by NSUN (see below). I’m working with the Head of Operations to review and update organisation and HR policies to ensure they are up-to-date and accessible to everyone who works there.

National Survivor User Network (NSUN), London

NSUN logo

I am an Associate of NSUN

I was recommended to NSUN by an exiting client. They are a small independent membership organisation and the UK’s only mental health charity to center the survivor and lived experience voice. You can become a member of NSUN for free if you have experienced mental distress or used/use mental health services. 

I’m working with the CEO and General Manager to review and update organisation and HR policies, ensuring they’re not just fit-for-purpose in 2021 but in-keeping with their organisational culture which encourages thinking flexibly and creatively. I’m also working with the Chair and Trustees, providing administrative governance support to the Board. I was honoured to become an Associate of NSUN in July 2021.

Polka Children's Theatre, Wimbledon

Photo of Polka Theatre during redevelopment
Rachel was an absolute pleasure to work with. Despite only being with us for a short contract she fitted in swiftly with the team and brought a positive vibe at a challenging moment as covid-19 hit.
Lynette Shanbury
Executive Director
Photo of Polka Theatre after redevelopment

Background and context

I met The Executive Director (ED) and Head of Operations at Polka Theatre in a café on a wet evening in Wimbledon in December 2019. After nearly 40 years they had moved out of their home and were working with a downsized team, out of a small office at the New Wimbledon Theatre, a short distance away.  While redevelopment work was carried out on their wonderful theatre for children, they seized the opportunity to get their house in order, so to speak. I was brought on board to help them achieve this. Their ED had met the ED of Talawa at an industry event, where my name and the work I focus on for small theatres was mentioned.

Outcome and achievements

The result, following that yummy hot chocolate, was me being welcomed into their team in February 2020.  I met and had intro chats with members of their senior management team. They all embraced the changes we were looking to make to their HR systems, procedures and policies. This bit excites me, when you know that you’re all on the same page and can see the improvements which will make life easier. This was especially true for this small team, working at capacity, with a desire and drive to achieve even more.  They had a new team to recruit and welcome back into their new home.  We focused on creating new contract templates for permanent/fixed-term, casual workers and freelancers to ensure consistency across all departments. In addition to this, I created and updated a suite of 20 policies and procedures and revised the Welcome Handbook.

Covid-19 and looking ahead

As Covid-19 threatened to stop us in our tracks, I created and launched a Health and Wellbeing policy to support the team during the pandemic. Work continued and following streamlining the recruitment and induction process, I held a training session on Zoom for the senior management team. This ensured they had a clear guide to follow and templates to use at every step of the way, from drafting the job description to holding the probation meeting. I was also able to leave them with a proposal for an online HR system (HRIS) and Employee Assistance Programme (EAP) ensuring that the team are fully supported when they move into their new home.

I was thrilled to be asked to return. I’m currently supporting the ED and Senior Management Team as they scale-up and settle into their newly redeveloped theatre. In May 2021 we launched a health and wellbeing service which does much more than a typical EAP and in June 2021 we launched the HRIS. It’s brilliant to be involved to see these projects to fruition.

Clean Break Theatre Company, London

Clean Break logo
What a joy to work with Rachel. She's knowledgeable, insightful, creative, flexible, practical, diligent...Highly recommended, and I'm already looking for ways to work with her again.
Cath Longman-Jones
Head of Finance and Operations

Background and context

Clean Break’s Executive Director and I share a connection from when I worked at the Almeida Theatre several years ago and she thought of me to support them with an HR project. It was a brilliant feeling to receive my first official email request via my website (with some lovely feedback about my website too). Clean Break are a small but powerful women’s theatre company changing lives and changing minds: on stage, in prison and in the community. I’ve always found their shows insightful and thought-provoking so I was privileged and honoured to work with such an established and groundbreaking theatre company

Outcome and achievements

Over a short period, I worked closely with the Head of Finance and Operations and her team to review, revise and revamp their lengthy Staff Handbook. We focused on streamlining and reorganising it, to ensure it was not just fit-for-purpose in 2021 but in-keeping with their organisational culture and straight-forward for everyone to access and use. At our weekly check-ins we had many interesting conversations about the use of certain words and the overall language of the policies. It’s refreshing to work with organisations who like to interrogate and challenge the status quo as it ensures I continue to develop professionally too.

Further projects

I was delighted to be asked to provide them with more of my time and advise on their own internal continuous professional development programme. It’s definitely a trend I’m in favour of – organisations moving away from the traditional annual appraisal.  

Talawa Theatre Company, Croydon

Photo of the team at Talawa
She's conscientious and driven, with an eye for detail. Exactly what you need from a Project Manager.
Natasha Bucknor
Former Executive Director

Background and context

In July 2018 my previous colleague from the Almeida Theatre was the Executive Director of Talawa Theatre Company and looking for some HR support. This involved managing a variety of projects for this small team working at full capacity.  As well as jumping at the chance to work together again, it was exactly the kind of organisation and team I had been looking to work with since I went freelance. It enabled me to fully use my HR skills and expertise to provide effective and efficient solutions across a number of projects. It ensured the team could prioritise and focus on their main jobs, in other areas of the business. It stopped HR admin from being an additional, time-consuming task, making it part of the day-to-day activities instead.

Outcome and achievements

The projects that had the biggest impact at Talawa included researching and implementing an online HR system (HRIS) to help streamline processes and procedures and automating the recruitment process using their CRM system. As I follow-on from this I also streamlined the induction, training and leaver processes. As Talawa had a desire to focus more on company culture, mental health and wellbeing, I organised mental health first aid training for the company directors. I also coordinated full company workshops on theory of change, unconscious bias and creating a set of values. 

I worked with them to increase the specialist expertise and capacity of the team by recruiting three new board members, seven staff members and supporting a pilot internship scheme. I managed the team restructure required for their move to bigger premises as a resident company at Fairfield Halls in Croydon.  It’s great to see them being embraced by their new community.

Further projects

I was delighted to be asked to return. I worked with the Chair and members of the Board to implement various recommendations, following a governance review. These included updating their articles of association to ensure clarity regarding their charitable aims and objectives.

Pursued by a Bear Productions, St Albans

Photo of the team at Pursued by a Bear
We couldn’t have hoped for a better project manager...She is rare in being able to grasp and enact a creative vision whilst also being willing to ‘roll up her sleeves’ to fulfill the many small tasks required to deliver an artistic project successfully and within budget.
Thomas Kell and Rosamunde Hutt
Chair and Artistic Director

Background and context

In May 2018 Pursued by a Bear productions became a resident company at Trestle Arts Base in St Albans and my networking connections fell nicely into place. I was well known to Trestle, having been a board member for four years, holding our wedding there and working there part-time when I first became freelance. I knew PBAB from my time at Theatre503 in Battersea when they performed there. The Artistic Director of Trestle put me in touch with the Chair and the Artistic Director of PBAB and we formed a great team to produce their Foundry Festival for 2018.

Outcome and achievements

This involved recruiting actors and creatives to coordinate rehearsed readings of two new plays with post-show Q&As which were held at both Trestle and the Arcola Theatre in London. I created and managed a marketing schedule to promote the shows on social media and in the local press. I managed the invitations and guest list of important stakeholders. We performed to two great audiences and collated feedback to enable us to evaluate and prepare for future funding applications. PBAB subsequently secured funding to further develop one of the plays and a regional tour which turned into short films being produced instead during lockdown.

Theatrix Performing Arts School, St Albans

Photo from Theatrix website
Rachel is an asset to any business and her organisational skills are exemplary. She is a wizardess with logistics and her care...has earned her much affection in the field of children’s drama tuition.
Rosemarie Partridge
Principal
Painting the set at the Abbey Theatre, St Abans

Background and context

I worked with Theatrix for 3 years. This sprang from a fortuitous conversation with my predecessor, who is still a partner in the business, while painting a stage floor (as seen in the photo)! I had not long become freelance and was talking about my desire for a healthier work/life balance and the kinds of project and organisations I wanted to work with. Little did I know that was enough for them to invite me for a discussion about becoming their Administrator. It involved running the operational side of the business as well as stage managing their annual showcase production and being the local representative of the Trinity College London examination service (the syllabus the students follow and take practical exams in). It was the perfect role for me starting out as a freelancer, utilising a wide range of my skills and ensuring I challenged myself to develop new ones like website maintenance and creating newsletters using publishing tools.

Outcome and achievements

It was such a varied role and I was right in the thick of it, working alongside the Principal, supporting 10 teachers and 135 students and parents, there was never a dull moment! I quickly picked up the bespoke database which enabled me to manage the invoicing process among other things. I soon realised the need for a more modern system and set about proposing and testing alternatives. I was delighted to smoothly and successfully implement this in April 2021 at the start of a term. One day I would find myself updating child protection and health and safety policies/procedures or producing newsflashes and managing the Facebook page. The next I’d be arranging and chairing a staff meeting with the teachers to gather feedback/run training or liaising with agents/casting directors regarding film and TV work.

Covid-19 and looking ahead

During lockdown we ensured we continued to engage with our students by providing fun and interactive activities to do at home. Initially, I set up and launched a private Facebook group. As lockdown progressed we embraced Zoom and piloted online drama and musical theatre classes. This ensured we could resume teaching at the start of the new term in September 2020 prior to going back safely in person in May 2021.

Aframe, London

Aframe logo

My first freelance client

April 2018 saw me working for a brilliant tech start-up based in Shoreditch, East London. I had enjoyed building a relationship with the web development team in a previous, corporate role and I’m also married to a web developer. It meant that when this opportunity came along I knew I could provide the kind of support they needed.

I worked with the Chief Operating Officer to set-up an online HR system (HRIS) for the small but growing team. This ensured they have secure and easy-to-use processes for recording and managing their holiday, absence, training and performance reviews among other personnel needs.