This is the final instalment of our conversation with Marie. In part 1, Marie gave us a brilliant insight into her experience of becoming a younger trustee. In part 2, Marie shared her expert advice for anyone considering becoming a younger trustee but concerned about whether they have enough experience to make a meaningful contribution.

‘It was just phenomenal to have the opportunity to put together a complete cultural case for your city, completely backed by the city, and be the person, with others, fronting it up.’

Watch part 3 in full here.

How has your time as a trustee informed your policy framework within your organisation, or other organisations you’ve been involved with?

I find it fascinating how different organisations handle policy development and implementation, and I’ve been lucky enough to have seen that from several dimensions.

As a Trustee, you need to know that the policies in place are safe and compliant — and you’ll oversee this process and can choose your level of involvement. While you’re not expected to write every line of a policy, it’s interesting to see the difference in approach; some organisations take a bold standpoint on policy, whilst others can be somewhat behind the curve.

Some of the most interesting debates revolve around the direction of policies, such as those concerning equality, diversity, and inclusion, the organisational culture and staff safety and well-being – it’s not just about meeting legal requirements but envisioning ideal practices. These discussions offer valuable insights and are not as daunting as they sound.

Can you give us an example of a time when you’ve made a personal impact on a board and how that made you feel?

I’ve had some rewarding experiences as a trustee for the MAC Trust. One achievement was helping to establish an art centre auditorium in Sunderland city centre, which the phenomenal Paul Callaghan led and is now up and running.

Another highlight was collaborating with Sunderland Culture colleagues on Sunderland’s City of Culture bid for 2021. Although we didn’t win, we did really well. I was part of the panel that presented to the judges to make the case for why my city was far and away the best city to receive that kind of profile in 2021. It was just phenomenal to have the opportunity to put together a complete cultural case for your city, completely backed by the city, and be the person, with others, fronting it up.

Also, being part of Sunderland Empire Theatre has enhanced the city’s performing arts scene, especially its music culture. Having venues like Pot Bricks and the Fire Station adds to the city’s vibrant arts community.

What tips would you give someone looking to find the right trustee position for them? What would you advise them to be looking out for?

If you care about an organisation, even if it’s not well-known, consider joining them. Look at who else is on their board of trustees, and really think about how much time you can commit and what you can bring to the table.

Don’t worry if you don’t have all the expertise they ask for in the advert, and don’t be shy to just give them a call and ask — being passionate about their mission goes a long way.

Becoming a trustee is such a rewarding way to meet new people, engage in meaningful work, and make a difference. So, don’t hesitate to take a look.

If you’re inspired to find your first or your next incredible trustee role in the arts, heritage and culture sector, please email Rebekah, or connect with her on LinkedIn.


About Marie Nixon

Marie Nixon is currently Acting Theatre Director of the Edinburgh Playhouse, Director of Sunderland Empire Theatre, Director of We Make Culture, and Trustee on numerous boards including the MAC Trust, Sunderland Culture, and Sunderland Business Improvement District (BID).

Previously, Marie worked for Arts Council England, was a fellow of the Clore Leadership Programme, and both a CEO and a Direction of Oversight Board Member for Sunderland Students’ Union and NUS Charitable Services.

With a wealth of sector experience and trusteeship expertise, we were thrilled to have the opportunity to speak to her.

About Rebekah Abbott

Rebekah Abbott is the Head of Arts, Heritage and Culture Appointments at Peridot Partners. With over 20 years’ experience in the sector, including having founded her own music-based not for profit Luminosa Music, Rebekah has a first-hand understanding of the importance that having the right leaders in the right roles at the right time can have on the success of an organisation.