Skillscene elects new chair – 31 January 2011

As reported in the News section of the CCSkills/NSA newsletter, ( :

At its Annual General Meeting last week, Ken Bennett-Hunter was voted in as the new Chair of Skillscene.

On acceptance of this strategically significant national role, Ken said “I am pleased to have been elected as Chair of Skillscene. Representing, as it does, theatre managements, unions, trade associations and trainers it is uniquely placed to influence the future of training and qualifications, particularly in the area of technical theatre. I look forward to working with Creative and Cultural Skills, the National Skills Academy and others to ensure that training and qualifications meet the needs of the industry.”

Outgoing Chair, Anamaria Wills, who also briefly led its forerunner Theatre Technical Training Serves before helping to found and then chairing Skillscene since its inception in 2005, warmly congratulated Ken on his appointment. A vote of thanks was given to her in recognition of her leadership for over 8 years in placing Skillscene in such an influential position on behalf of employers, employees and freelancers in the technical sector.

Well, it’s been fun! Eight years ago, Tony Bond, the founder and inspiration behind TTTS, invited me to take over the chair of the company. Founded twelve years earlier by the Technical Directors of the eight major subsidised companies, TTTS was created to fill the need for professional training for theatre technical staff. By 2004, however, the whole skills ecology had changed and there was a profusion of training providers, many of them manufacturers of the increasingly complex technological equipment that has become such a feature of this industry. What was lacking, however, was any quality assurance – anything that would give employers comfort that the skills training received was high quality and would equip individuals to transfer employment from theatre to theatre without concern.

At the same time, Ken (Bennett Hunter) had been commissioned by the Arts Council to do a national review of training provision for technical theatre. His conclusion that an independent body was needed that a) represented the many voices of technical theatre and b) directly involved employers in the development of theatre wide qualifications in which everyone could trust. Fortunately, at TTTS we heard about it early enough for us to work with Ken and the Arts Council to come up with a proposal that met the requirements and that took over the training mantle from TTTS. One of the most exciting things we did was to recruit far wider than the original eight companies, and we were joined by an array of leading players in the industry, including Mark White of ABTT, Peter Roberts of Cameron Mackintosh, Matthew Griffiths of PLASA, Barbara Eifler of the Stage Management Association and Brian Kelly of BECTU. Ken came on as representative of the TMA and Ric Green represented the TTTS Technical Directors (he later went on to become Vice Chair of CCSKills and the Deputy Chair of the NSA). The new Skillscene became the leading sector champion for the creation of the new Sector Skills Champion and now works in rewarding partnership with both CCSkills and the NSA to deliver a suite of occupational standards, learning units and, hopefully, qualifications that arise directly from real technical theatre industry need, with real industry backing. It is transforming the skills agenda for the sector and we’re all very proud of what has been achieved to date. I’m sure Ken will lead the organisation on to ever greater things, supported by the Board and the indefatigable Maggie Saxon as our powerful Executive Director. I’ve loved being part of it and wish them all success for the future.