Name: Lauren Smethurst
Trustee position: Trustee and Director, Macclesfield Barnaby Festival
How did you become a trustee?
One evening, I received an email from someone I had previously worked for with a link to a trustee recruitment posting for my local community arts festival. She expressed that this was a fantastic opportunity for professional development and initially I thought nothing of it. “I can’t do that” I thought, “aren’t trustees meant to be old and wise?” But with a bit of a nudge and reassurance from others, I sent off the latest version of my CV outlining relevant work experience (festival administration, marketing, project management, practicing creative industry) to express my interest in the advertised trustee role. A couple of weeks later, there was an email sitting in my inbox explaining that the co-chairs would like to meet me. This was really exciting. I met with the co-chairs for an informal interview, they asked about my experience to-date and why I was interested in becoming a young trustee. They explained the role of trustees for their organisation, how I would fit into the structure and asked if I had any questions for them. After this went well, I was then invited to shadow a couple of meetings to confirm becoming a trustee was something I definitely wanted to do. I got a real feel for it during these meetings, and in January 2020 I formally accepted the position and never looked back.
What does your role as a trustee involve?
I am currently a trustee and Director for Macclesfield Barnaby Festival and sit on the board alongside seven others. In our roles as trustees and Directors for Macclesfield Barnaby Festival, we are responsible for legal duties, finance, fundraising, strategy and impact, managing risk and managing people. This includes ensuring Macclesfield Barnaby Festival fulfils its charitable objectives as a biennial, community-based festival for our local town Macclesfield. As a board, we decide on the strategic direction we wish the festival to take, and this has been particularly important during the coronavirus pandemic. Because the festival is small, as trustees, we also provide operational and project coordination where necessary. It really is an all hands on deck team. As an aspiring arts project manager, I like the roundedness of my role as I am able to gain practical experience in a variety of aspects. On average, we meet once a month to review governance and how well the organisation’s objectives are being met, as well discussing programming elements for the next festival.
Why do you think it's important for young people to become trustees?
Becoming a young trustee has changed my outlook on how you can advance professionally, as well as personally. When you become a trustee, you are in a position of leadership for an organisation you’re passionate about. There is no better combination. When you are in the early stages of professional life, it is rare that you make influential and impactful decisions in your place of work. But when you are a young trustee, you are the one actively making key decisions for the charity and that is a unique opportunity young people should grab onto. Being a young trustee enables you to challenge yourself and extend your skills beyond your studies or day job. It shows willingness to try something new. Becoming a young trustee develops your communication skills and confidence to express your opinion. On the other side, young trustees also allow boards themselves to see things from a different perspective and benefit from further diversity. Only 3% of trustees are under 30, and by becoming one, you can be an active part of the Young Trustee Movement aiming for this to change.
You can hear more about Lauren’s journey, as well as fellow young trustees Stella Toonen and Bhavini Goyate, alongside Young Trustees Movement Programme Manager Mita Desai in our upcoming panel discussion. Discovery Session: Young Trusteeships will take place via Zoom on 15 September 2020.