AHSW's Director and Trustees reflect on various aspects of arts, health and wellbeing.
Reflections of the last 10 years by retiring AHSW Chair of Trustees – Sue Isherwood
Sue Isherwood, our retiring AHSW Chair of Trustees has written her own reflections on being part of Arts and Health South West over the last 10 years.
I became Chair of Arts and Health South West (AHSW) when it was a relatively new organisation and I was looking for a challenge, firstly because it would broaden my knowledge of what I knew to be an important area – that of arts, health and wellbeing. Up till then my arts ‘specialisms’ were education, film and photography. And secondly because I had developed a year long leadership programme, Leading Learning, for senior cultural managers working in local government. So I was interested in practical experience of leadership, feeling it as Keats said of poetry ‘on my own pulse’.
I was guided by the invaluable insights of Simon Baddeley of Inlogov, University of Birmingham, about the key and complex relationship between Chair and Chief Executive. After nearly ten years I can attest to the importance of this relationship to the health and wellbeing of the whole organisation and its trajectory. During this period, in the greatest part because of Alex Coulter’s (AHSW Director) brilliant combination of passion, energy and strategic ability, Arts and Health South West has consistently punched above its weight. My job was to encourage and sometimes query. Then all I needed to do was stand back and let her get on with it, acting as an occasional sounding board and counsellor. My other main role has been to ensure we’ve had an energised, skilful and experienced board of trustees who are committed to helping the organisation set a clear forward direction, to both challenge and support. I believe we’ve had a great team over the years and I’d like to thank all past and present trustees. It has been a pleasure to work with you.
In these last ten years, AHSW has provided the secretariat for the All-Parliamentary Group on Arts, Health and Wellbeing, nurtured the production of the 2017 report ‘Creative Health: The Arts for Health and Wellbeing’, initiated and managed three international conferences and incubated two new strategic national organisations – The Culture, Health and Wellbeing Alliance and the National Centre for Creative Health. And these are just the highlights. Like in any professional relationship of any longevity, Alex and I have come to a close understanding of what drives us personally. I have particularly valued Alex’s strategic, team building and networking skills, but also the insight into her more spiritual side and her love of nature as much as fine cuisine.
I have thoroughly enjoyed my years with AHSW and hope I can continue to be useful without cramping my successor’s style. We face big challenges. The cultural funding scene looks quite threatening (but when did it not?) The organisation needs to do some re-focussing on its regional roots. The field of arts and health work is considerably more established and recognised. So now we need to further support the professional development of arts, culture and health workers in our region, to raise their profile, extend their range and help equip them to deliver their very best work. From the Autumn we will be asking you, our members, how best we can support your professional development. Let us know your thoughts.
Sue Isherwood, Chair of Trustees 2011 – 2021
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