We’re honouring our chair Maggie Wheeler, who is retiring from the board of trustees after seven years at the helm.
We’ve launched a fundraising campaign which will fund thousands of bursaries for young people from disadvantaged backgrounds and challenging circumstances wanting to taking part in dance, music or theatre classes and courses at either The Garage in Norwich or The Workshop in King’s Lynn.
Adam Taylor, the trust’s executive director, said: “Our growth is a direct result of this incredible woman’s time, dedication, hard work and support. We owe the success of our flourishing participation and accredited courses programmes and us securing the freehold of our Norwich site and opening of the King’s Lynn site to her. We can’t think of a better way to honour Maggie’s legacy than continuing to mentor and support young people to change their lives through the performing arts and these bursaries.”
Despite her background in social work and with local authorities, it seems former NHS Trust chair Maggie was destined for a life in the arts. Upon leaving university, she took a temporary job as a social worker while waiting to take up her place at drama college the next year. She never took it though.
Becoming a trustee, and soon after the chair, at The Garage Trust was the perfect chance to bring together her interest in the arts and her experience of governance.
She said: “It’s been a rollercoaster, but it’s been fun. It’s very different than chairing a big organisation. One of the great things about a small organisation is it can be very fleet of foot. If something is not going quite right, you can tweak it very easily. It’s not like turning around the Titanic. That’s what the team at The Garage is really good at. I’d like to pay tribute to Adam and the team for the fantastic work they do, particularly how they’ve kept things going and adapted to the current circumstances.”
Maggie loved being part of developing the trust’s relationships across Norwich and getting it to the stage where it had its distinct place in the city’s arts scene. We said ‘okay, let’s not try to do everything but let’s try to fill the gaps that are there’. Over the years we’ve become much clearer about what we are and what we’re not and we’re stronger for that; we’re doing something unique in the city.
“There was a lot of goodwill starting out, but you can’t live on just goodwill. In the time I’ve been chair and Adam has been executive director it’s like the trust has grown in independence. Establishing our participation and accredited courses programmes, our decision not to be dependent on outside hires, our My First shows, securing the Chapel Field North site freehold and our expansion into King’s Lynn are all evidence of that.”
Maggie’s proud of what she and the trust has achieved in seven years, especially their relationships with local funders.
“When you apply, you want people to fund you because they believe in you and really support you. That matters a lot. The thing I’m most proud of is the work we do to give opportunities to young people who might not otherwise have them in the arts, to hear how they grow because of it. It’s about us helping them get from A to B. We don’t care what B is, it’s about them getting where they want to be. Whether that’s landing up with a career in the performing arts or just making a friend, it doesn’t matter.”
Maggie’s sad to be leaving; but knows it’s the right time for her and for The Garage Trust.
“Last year I told Adam and the board it was probably time. Seven years is a long time to chair an organisation and change is healthy. I felt confident about leaving because we have a top team supported by incredible staff and a group of very committed trustees with a wide range of life experiences and skills that really bring a lot to the organisation.
“It would be lovely to stay and I’m really sad about leaving but it’s the right thing. It’s brilliant that (new chair) Alison Guy came forward in these difficult times so I’m feeling quite comfortable about it. I will really miss it, but I’m not going away. I can’t wait for there to be shows on again.”
She may be retiring from the trust; but has no plans to take it easy.
“I’m involved with a number of other organisations. I’m pursuing a project with the Norfolk and Norwich Festival for next year, getting involved with my local community centre and with a number of arts-related projects with the refugee and asylum-seeking community.”
Adam added: “It’s been an honour sharing this adventure with Maggie. She’ll always be part of The Garage Trust family. We’re very sad to see her leave, but excited to continue our journey with new chair Alison. We are continually grateful for people’s generous support and hope they will donate to our bursaries campaign and help us continue Maggie’s legacy.”
Alison, the new chair, said: “Maggie will be rightly missed. The Garage Trust has enjoyed such a strong time with her at the helm and she’s left me with a fantastic base from which to take it forwards.”