New chairman for Shetland Arts

Shetland Arts has appointed a new chairman.

Danus Skene will lead the organisation following the departure of Jim Johnston, who has left Shetland to take up an appointment to advise the Malaysian government on education reform. The vice chairman will be Irvine Tait.

The appointments were made at a full board meeting this week, in the same week the council said the future of the arts organisations’ flagship Mareel building had been secured following a two-month review of what had gone wrong during the venue’s construction.

After accepting the post Mr Skene admitted there had been challenges but said Mareel was a community asset. “The past year has been a very challenging period for the board. As well as continuing to enhance the high level of arts development achieved over the past seven years, we have in partnership with others overseen Mareel’s progress from a construction site through to practical completion.

“Despite opening Mareel with minimal available funds, we have also delivered an extensive programme of films, events and educational activity. Mareel is already a major community asset, with an estimated 75,000 visits so far, including people of all age groups and from every part of Shetland.”

He added: “The board is committed to minimising its dependence on Shetland’s public funds and maximising its earned income. We are proud that, despite a significant reduction in local grant funding over the past five years, we have been able to double turnover. Mareel is the cornerstone of our social enterprise activity.”

Shetland Arts, in a statement issued on Friday, said it has learned much in recent months about what works well and where improvements can be made.

A new head of operations, Holly Burford, has been appointed. She joins from London’s South Bank Centre and will start on Monday. The statement said she will look at driving through a number of improvements, pinpointed by customers who have given feedback. Among her priorities will be the café bar.

Shetland Arts director Gwilym Gibbons said: “We are fortunate that the Shetland community has developed a real sense of ownership of Mareel and a strong desire to see the venue succeed. When things aren’t right, our customers are not afraid to let us know.

“All of us at Mareel welcome these comments because they help us to be the best we can.  I welcome the opportunity over the coming months to shift my focus from issues associated with the construction of Mareel to ensuring that Mareel meets the expectations of our customers, earns money and continues to grow audiences well beyond all projections.”


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