Blue Teapot was initially founded in 1996 by Brothers of Charity Services Galway as an arts participation project providing a creative outlet for adults with intellectual disabilities. Such was its initial success, it expanded rapidly with the appointment of an Artistic Director and establishment of a dedicated ensemble that would become Blue Teapot Theatre Company.
From 2007, with new Artistic Director Petal Pilley at the helm, our mission has been to effect positive change in public consciousness concerning people with intellectual disabilities through the medium of theatre, allowing our members inherent talent and creativity to speak for itself.
In 2009, we became an independent, multi-stranded theatre company specifically for people with mild to moderate intellectual disabilities, comprised of participants with Downs Syndrome, Epilepsy, Autism and associated impairments such as hearing and speech difficulties. Nonetheless, over the past decade, our public profile has grown considerably with the creation of a dedicated Performing Arts School (2010), second Outreach project for teenagers (2013) and an award winning play Sanctuary (2012-2014) which subsequently went on to become a multi- award winning Irish feature film starring Blue Teapot’s actors, that continues to screen around the world.
Our Governance Journey
Overview: Between 2009 (company formation) and 2013, Blue Teapot comprised of 4 Board Trustees (and 4 other registered company members). Our Artistic Director was yet to be formally appointed CEO and one other employee was part-time also. With only 4 Trustees, scheduling and execution of Board meetings was often difficult; Directors’ availabilities, not having a quorum for meetings and delays between meetings led to a lot of retrospective governance work to be actioned.
During this period, it was, economically, extremely challenging. Not least Ireland being in recession, and disability services impacted by austerity and recruitment embargos, it was also a time of highly public and disgraceful charity scandals. The fallout from those prominent outrages led to significant lack of public trust and subsequent funding.
Addressing Governance issues (2013 – 2017)
As a charity serving vulnerable adults, we were reliant on fundraising endeavours to increase creative and operational outputs. In that climate, we knew we had to raise our profile, not only artistically but with outward facing robust governance, for public confidence in us. Funding bodies and philanthropic organisations (i.e. The Ireland Funds) were also asking – were we compliant?
Subscribing to The Wheel really accelerated our learning and journey towards compliance with The Governance Code. We invested seriously into the process of informing and educating our trustees and staff through various trainings and resources. However, practicalities (Board members’ availability) and focused time required still proved demanding. In order to accelerate this process, in January 2014, we offered to host the first Governance Code Roadshow in Galway, facilitated by Senan Turnbull. We did this to ensure our trustees became fully aware of the best practise model, implications of noncompliance and a commitment to the governance journey.
Social Return on Investment
In 2014, we commissioned a Social Return on Investment (SROI) study by Quality Matters to assess the value of outcomes to those affected either positively or negatively by our services. We chose to do this as it was timely; in 2014, we had 18 years of programme delivery and it was considered time to get independent, evaluated insights to all aspects of the company. These measured results would inform future strategic planning, help improve services all round and gather the genuine voice of a wide range of stakeholders.
Ability not Disability: Arts, Bravery and Changing Views in Ireland is the 103 page report which is available to view http://blueteapot.ie/sroi/
In Autumn 2014, we recruited 3 new trustees, with 2 via Board Match. Our Board not only expanded, but brought a diversity of skills – an independent TV producer, a Communications expert and a CEO Personal Assistant expert in governance & legal compliance.
In 2017, Blue Teapot finished the adoptive journey to full compliance of The Governance Code. Three Sub-Committees were formalised and firm commitments from all to uphold best practice along with statutory compliances.
Today, we are governed by a non-executive Board of Directors (six Directors, with additional 16 company members) and Blue Teapot’s lean staff structure has increased from two-part time employees (in 2010) to five part-timer workers.