Case studies

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

Pursued by a Bear Productions, St Albans

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.

Talawa Theatre Company, Croydon

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.

Future 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.

Polka Children's Theatre, Wimbledon

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

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 am currently supporting the ED and Senior Management Team while they scale-up and prepare to move into their newly redeveloped theatre later in 2021.

Theatrix Performing Arts School, St Albans

Background and context

My longest standing client who I’ve worked with since June 2018. 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 involves 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 is the perfect role for me, utilising a wide range of my skills and ensuring I challenge myself to develop new ones like website maintenance and creating newsletters using publishing tools.

Outcome and achievements

It’s such a varied role and I’m right in the thick of it, working alongside the Principal, supporting 10 teachers and 135 students and parents, there’s never a dull moment! I quickly picked up the bespoke database which enables 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 an alternative. One day I might be updating child protection and health and safety policies/procedures or producing newsflashes and managing the Facebook page. The next I’ll 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 can resume teaching at the start of the new term in September 2020 prior to going back safely in person.

Clean Break, London

My latest freelance client

My latest client is a small but powerful theatre company. Clean Break is a women’s theatre company changing lives and changing minds: on stage, in prison and in the community.

I am working with the Head of Finance and Operations and Executive Director to review, revise and revamp their lengthy Staff Handbook. We are streamlining and reorganising it, to ensure it’s not just fit-for-purpose in 2021 but in-keeping with their organisational culture and straight-forward for everyone to access and use.

Aframe, London

My first freelance client

My first ever freelance project manager role, back in 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.