Deborah Norris - Chair's end of year message 2023

Deborah Norris - Chair of the Board of Trustees

Firstly I must thank and congratulate our outgoing Chair, Steven Roberts, for his expert leadership over the past nine years and his incredible commitment to our organisation. He continues to mentor myself and support us as an advisory board member, for which we are most grateful.

I feel incredibly humbled and privileged to have been elected as the Chair of the British and International Federation of Festivals in October. Since performing my first ballet solo at a festival in Lancashire many years ago, I am forever grateful to have been part of this network of independent festivals in many guises. As performer, educator, adjudicator, festival committee member and board member, each role has enabled me to gain a rich understanding of the wider ecology of what our performing arts festivals offer to so many people around the world.

So, at a time of global crisis where many are unable to share in performance or expressive arts, and we acknowledge the significant challenges we face particularly in Britain, where we see many of our arts in education provisions dwindle and disappear, we have a responsibility to continue to make our festivals inclusive and accessible to all performers. I believe there are things we can do to strengthen our ability to do this, via fundraising, training, and partnering with other organisations to support volunteering strategies, and developing our equality, diversity and inclusion practices.

We now hold an important position to ensure that young performers are given the opportunity to share their artistic and expressive work. An opportunity to gain encouraging, informative and supportive feedforward from our professional adjudicators to enable them to develop their technical and interpretative skills, and most importantly an opportunity for them to enrich their enjoyment of the performing arts.

After a century of providing performance platforms for thousands of people over the years, I believe we must now work hard to encourage, invite, and welcome new adjudicators and festivals to our organisation to ensure another century of provision. Therefore, we must aim to share our work far beyond our festivals. We must engage with the wider arts and cultural sectors to demonstrate how we serve our local and international communities, whilst sustaining the professional standards that our performers, teachers and supporters deserve. 

At this festive time I must offer our thanks to Claire, Michelle, Fay and Sean at Festivals House for their incredible hard work and commitment to our organisation. To the Board, and members of the Adjudicators and Festivals Councils, to every adjudicator, and festival committee member, thank you for being part of this organisation and upholding and guiding our ethos and standards within your work. Finally, the most heartfelt thank you to our volunteers and performers, without whom our festivals would not happen.

I very much look forward to working with you all next year in shaping the future of the organisation.

I wish you all a peaceful festive season and very best wishes for the New Year!