Pick of the Month – January 2024

5 January 2024 | By Lucy Pratt

Happy New Year! We're kicking off 2024 in brilliant style with a Pick of the Month feature with perspectives from various sectors including the arts, education and health. 

Charity Leader of the Month – Cheryl Gavin, Helix Arts

Helix Arts is a participatory arts charity and Arts Council England National Portfolio Organisation based in the heart of a local town ‘North Shields’ working across the North East region with local communities from Berwick to Bishop Auckland. Cheryl Gavin has been its CEO since 2020. 

Cheryl explained her work and mission:

“Our mission is to create equality of opportunity for communities to take part in culture because we know creativity improves health, wellbeing and our understanding of the world. We collaborate with artists to support communities creatively. 

Helix Arts does not work from one venue, as most of our work is in partnership with organisations in neighbourhoods and in places where people live, like community centres, churches, youth settings, schools, prisons, hospitals and care homes. We have been known to pop up in shopping centres, on the high street and in parks too!

A thread throughout our programmes is tackling health inequalities by co-creating projects. It’s really important that we support, nurture and develop our socially engaged artists to ensure the best quality process and outcomes can happen for people.”


She noted the key factors in her progress and her role at Helix Arts: 

“I found success with a good sense of humour, grit, care and focus. As well as a bit of luck and opportunity in the mix.

I started in arts admin at Arts Council moving through into more senior roles at other charities, including arts education and running an arts and health programme. 

I have been the Director at Helix Arts since 2020. It is my first CEO role and began a month before the pandemic. I have been on an epic learning journey. Every day is so different and unusual. Embrace it. Keep on top of those flipping emails!”


Cheryl advised prospective leaders: 

“Try and get leadership experience in whatever job you have. I started as a young dance teacher and that has stayed with me and given me some of the best foundations for now.

Prioritise connecting with people; really value and nurture those relationships. Always ask for help, even when you don’t want to or think you need it. 

Get those coaching skills – be a coach and make use of coaches or mentors when you get the chance. There is no handbook after all!”


Considering the future of the arts sector, she identified some areas she’d like to see change:

“More opportunities for female leadership in early careers, better pathways to get into the sector and ability to move across sectors, especially for individual artists as leaders.”


See more updates from Helix Arts’ work on Twitter @HelixArts.


Trustee of the Month – Rashmi Rungta, University of Hull 


The University of Hull, located in East Yorkshire, is a public research university. Founded in 1927 as University College Hull, it offers a diverse range of undergraduate and postgraduate programs across various disciplines, including arts, sciences, business, and health. The campus features modern facilities including Hull York Medical School, a joint venture with the University of York which opened in 2003.


Rashmi began by speaking to us about her experience as a trustee:

“Over the past six years, I have been a trustee across five different charities and currently actively serve on three of them. For the past year, I have been a board member at the University of Hull, contributing to both the Audit and Risk Committee and Governance and Nominations Committee.”


Speaking about her motivations for joining the board, Rashmi said:

“I am passionate about the transformative potential of education and its universal accessibility. When I chanced upon an opportunity on a board hiring website, I knew the University of Hull, on the cusp of its centenary, aligned with these values. Despite any prior connection to the region or university, I was enthused by the university’s ties to the York Medical School and recent recognition with the TEF Gold Award. It is a very exciting time to join the university and I am motivated to contribute to the university’s journey through the ‘critical friend’ role of a board member, offering support, oversight, and constructive challenges to the institution."


Rashmi also discussed the rewards of her role:

“The board itself comprises mostly alumni and individuals from diverse business backgrounds, united by a shared commitment to the university’s well-being and the interests of its stakeholders. This common purpose and desire to contribute to the university’s success makes the time commitment and challenges of the role enriching and fulfilling. It is also satisfying to be able to use my experience and skills for the greater good of a public institution.”


See updates from the University of Hull here.  


Social Entrepreneur of the Month – Scott Darraugh, Social adVentures


Scott Darraugh is the Founder and CEO of Social adVentures, a wellbeing social enterprise specialising in public health, residential childcare, and social care contracts. Employee-owned and led by business-minded entrepreneurs, Social adVentures inspires people to change their behaviour through innovative and evidence-based interventions. Social adVentures, which is based in Salford, also collaborates with a range of healthcare professionals to maximise the impact of their services.


Scott started by telling us about how the organisation began:

“Social adVentures began in 2009-10 when I was working in the NHS and focussing on mental health and Learning Support Services in Salford. The services I ran were going to be integrated into hospitals or the local authority but, due to austerity and the recent financial crisis, they were very vulnerable to cuts. A third option was to create a social enterprise which would collectively own the services. This marked the beginning of Social adVentures and the organisation has been growing and evolving ever since.”


Scott also talked about the resilience of the organisation and some highlights to date:

“In 2010 we started with several public health contracts and quickly acquired some contracts with the local authority. From there, we broadened our services and bought a chain of children’s day nurseries and a garden centre which we transformed into a horticulture-based mental health hub.

Today, around 50% of our work is contract-based and the other half is through our own community initiatives. These diverse income streams have helped us create a really robust and resilient model, which has certainly been tested by COVID-19 and the cost-of-living crisis! Also integral to this resilience is the inclusive ownership model we have”. 

Creating a culture of collective ownership and responsibility has allowed us to have high staff engagement and staff turnover rates of around 3%, something which is almost unheard of in the health and social care sector.”


Finally, Scott shared advice for aspiring social entrepreneurs:

“Through engaging and empowering your workforce, you can begin to implement amazing initiatives and solutions to social problems. I think there is often a tendency in new social enterprises to focus very heavily on business planning but, without a good organisational culture you often can’t make the progress you want.”


To find out more about Social adVentures and/or to enquire about a potential collaboration, follow the organisation on LinkedIn or get in touch via their website


Fellow of the Month – Hannah Tookey, Upstart Theatre


Hannah Tookey is an arts producer and fundraiser working across film, theatre, audio and digital arts, focussing on projects about contemporary social, political and environmental issues. She works across film, theatre, audio and digital arts. She has been a Producer at Upstart Theatre since 2018, supporting artists and audiences to reimagine the world through play. She has been Head of Mentoring at Young Arts Fundraisers since 2020, where she runs Evolve, a professional development programme for early-career arts fundraisers, in partnership with the Chartered Institute of Fundraising.  

Hannah explained her current role and journey into fundraising: 

“I think I’m one of many people in our industry who ‘fell’ into fundraising. I first started raising money as a student to take shows to the National Student Drama Festival and Edinburgh Fringe. 

Whilst a decade later I still call myself a producer, over the years, I’ve become increasingly passionate about fundraising, and it’s become an even bigger part of my work. 

I was invited to join Upstart as a Producer in mid-2018 and have since had the privilege of leading our artist development programme DARE; delivering our International Playable Theatre Lab for artists in Mexico and North Macedonia; and working on national and international tours and co-productions.”


She outlined some of the future opportunities for Upstart Theatre in the UK’s current context:

"Upstart specialises in playable / interactive work. 

A 2021 Ofcom study found there’s a growing appetite for experiences that put audiences in the driver’s seat, and societally – this feels like a critical moment to harness people’s motivation and enthusiasm, and to show them how the arts can be a part of positive change.

For Upstart, this brings opportunities in two areas: audiences and income.   

We’re continuing to grow our commissioning service for arts, culture, and heritage organisations. We build games and playable data capture experiences that help them better understand their audiences and connect with them in new ways, whilst bringing in new revenue for Upstart.” 


Hannah outlined the opportunities ahead for Upstart:

“I’ve been a sole fundraiser for most of my career, learning as I go through online resources and trial and error. I’m looking forward to a structured, supportive programme that can help me deepen my understanding of strategy and work through fundraising challenges.

I’m particularly excited to do that alongside the other fellows as we all know fundraising can get pretty lonely. And, of course, I’m looking forward to going back to school! I’m a big geek at heart and can’t wait to get stuck into studying again.” 


She explained the changes she would like to see in the sector: 

“I’d love to see more focus on the impact that arts and culture can have on some of our most pressing social, political and environmental challenges. The potential for art to affect change was what drew me into the sector early on, and I’ve been inspired by models of impact producing that I’ve seen in the documentary film sector. I think there’s so much untapped potential for this in other areas of the arts.” 


Keep up to date with the work of Upstart Theatre on Twitter @upstarttheatre.

More by posts by Lucy Pratt

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Pick of the Month – May 2024

30th April, 2024 | By Lucy Pratt

Welcome back. In May's Pick of the Month, we had the pleasure of learning about work in areas including the arts; health and wellbeing; heritage and woman's empowerment. They're a diverse range of leaders, each with a unique prespective – read on to learn from their expertise and experience! 

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