Board and Governance
The Highlights Rural Touring Scheme is operated by Highlights Productions Ltd, a registered charity (No: 1100920) and is a Company Limited by Guarantee (No: 4646007) governed by a Board of Trustees:
Cinzia Hardy (Chair)
Cinzia Hardy was born in Dublin and is a graduate of the Guildford School of Acting & Dance, Surrey; Trinity Laban (MSc Dance Science, Hons) London; Arts Administration Diploma, City University, London. Following a period of working as an actor and movement director, Cinzia moved into directing and creative producing, working with companies such as LIFT (London International Festival of Theatre); Blast Theory (Multi-Media Theatre Company); and Arts Council North East. In 2007 she founded and established the multi award-winning Northumberland based performing arts company November Club (www.novemberclub.org.uk). In 2020 she stepped down as Artistic Director and CEO to return to freelance directing and creative producing.
“I’m thrilled to be the Chair of the Trustees with Highlights Rural Touring. It’s an organisation I love and believe in and that brings much needed cultural activity to rural areas across northern England. Now, more than ever, we need the vibrancy and entertainment that artists and performers bring to our communities. Together with the staff and my fellow trustees, I look forward to shaping the vision, mission and values of Highlights and steering it forward into the future.”
Mary Ingham (Vice Chair)
Mary Ingham was brought up on a fruit farm in Berkshire and studied English at the University of Southampton before landing her first job in journalism, on SHE magazine in London. After living in San Francisco for several years, Mary returned to the UK and worked for Farmers Weekly, as a sub-editor, writer and section editor, before moving to Penrith in the late 1980s with her husband and two children. Mary joined Cumbrian Newspapers in 1992, working on The Cumberland News, News & Star and Cumbria Life, and was Cumbria Life’s freelance arts editor for the four years leading to her retirement in 2020.
“My passion for the arts includes choral singing, theatre, film, dance and the visual arts. Throughout many years of editorial contact with Highlights, I’ve been inspired by its creative energy, integrity and ability to deliver what it promises and excited by its ambitious programming. After Highlights advertised for trustees with relevant media experience, I joined the board in 2021 and became vice-chair earlier this year (2023). I am proud to be on the board of such an inspiring and inclusive organisation and to support our chair Cinzia in any way I can.”
After studying Fine Art in the mid- 70’s, I had a change of career and became a Registered Nurse – a happy and fulfilling profession from which I retired a couple of years ago – just in time to be recalled for Covid! However, I am now fully retired and loving it. My partner and I enjoy travelling and have just returned from a 5-week Interrail journey across Europe to Istanbul. It was like being back in the ‘70s again (but without the youthful hedonism).
I’ve lived in the village of Felton for 32 years now, having brought up my two sons here; everyone says it’s a lively, socially active village, and this is very true – it has a busy and well-equipped village hall. In about 2012, a neighbour took my partner and I to see a production of Beowulf at Wark Town Hall, organised by an outfit called Highlights Rural Touring – I’d never heard of them. I loved my evening out – it was fascinating to meet different people and to see a rural town hall absolutely buzzing with a throng of spectators. And the performance was amazing!
This is when I had an epiphany – it struck me that there was something missing in Felton: performance art. And Highlights was the way forward! I made enquiries about how to get on-board, persuaded the Village Hall committee that it’d be a great thing for the village and before I could get cold-feet I was putting together a team of volunteers for our very first performance: Chip Shop Chips.
It was a complete success, and we were all buzzing with excitement, eager for the next performance. It was the first of countless performances staged in our Village Hall – we are now in our 8th year, and each performance brings with it that same buzz of adrenaline as our first one.
The reason I absolutely love being a Highlights promoter is two-fold: I still have an interest in the Arts, getting a huge sense of satisfaction from it; and having been personally frustrated by its inaccessibility, I believe it’s so important to make the Arts accessible to all, no matter where you live or your personal budget. Moreover, there’s a great deal of support available to promoters as well as a certain kinship between us.
I am now also a Trustee of Highlights, which makes me very proud and provides a good insight into the management and maintenance of a highly successful Arts organisation.
“On a sunny day in 2013, I was in Barnard Castle on my way to the Bowes Museum where I worked as a volunteer guide. My eye was caught by a flyer for a show with Liz Lochead who was at the time the Scottish Makar, and I was astonished to discover she was appearing in a village hall in rural County Durham! So I obtained tickets straight away for a wonderful performance enjoyed by the whole audience – it was such a treat! I had no idea that such an organisation like Highlights existed, but signed up to their emailed programmes and have been revelling in glorious performances ever since! In 2015 Highlights asked for new trustees and so I joined them, and felt it has been such a privilege to be part of an organisation that has gone from strength to strength, and has made such a positive difference to so many people’s lives.”
Sally Seed lives near Penrith in Cumbria and was the volunteer Highlights promoter at Orton Market Hall for nearly 17 years before moving home. She has her own PR and marketing consultancy and hopes to use that professional background as well as her experience of governance as a former Chair of School Governors in her new role as a Highlights Trustee.
“When I applied for a Trustee role, I hoped that a combination of my love of Highlights performances with other aspects of my experience could be useful. The organisation seems to be in a good place after the uncertainty of recent years but I’m sure there’ll be new challenges for Highlights and its venues to deal with in the coming years too.”
Robert Burns, no not that one, the other one, is now long retired having spent over 40 years in Local Government, mainly in the field of community, arts and sports development, but also as an elected Councillor.
“My interests are too few to mention, but do nonetheless include regular enjoyment of the excellent and varied programme of shows promoted by the Highlights Rural Touring Scheme at which I have been a regular attender for round 15 years. It was the unique pleasure of experiencing the thrill of high quality entertainment in the intimate surroundings of small village halls that prompted my interest in becoming part of the Organisation and I hope that some of my life experiences may be useful in driving Highlights to even greater heights and who knows, maybe even help to find an audience for my latest work ‘Tam O’Shanter, the Musical!'”
Izaak Gledhill is a Community Project Coordinator, Facilitator and immersive Theatre Maker based in Newcastle Upon Tyne. Identifying as LGBTQIA+ and having grown up in Grasmere with sheep and the local village hall for company, Izaak is thrilled to be joining the Highlight’s Trustee team. This will be his first Trustee role.
“I believe that young people’s voices need to be heard, listened to and actioned upon. Growing up working class amongst the hills, my first experience of theatre was at the age of 8 when my Mum managed to persuade the local drama teacher to let me in to the half term theatre group for cheaper than the required fee. Since then my love for the arts, for communities and for rural spaces has grown. I believe art should be made accessible for everyone, and I am so excited to be joining an organisation that continues to provide this to rural communities.”
Hi. My name is Chris Jones. Originally from Lancashire, I have lived in the North East with My wife Fiona for almost 40 years. I worked in further and higher education for most of my career, ending up as one of His Majesty’s Inspectors of Further Education and Skills (I know, I’m sorry) and as Ofsted’s specialist adviser for apprenticeships.
“I retired (sort of) in March 2020 so that I could spend more time at home and do some of the things that you aren’t allowed to do as an HMI. I am now chair of governors of a secondary school, and chair of the quality committee for a college group. I have been involved (on stage and directing) with amateur theatre since childhood. I have written and directed our village pantomimes (Oh, Yes I Have!) and had the great privilege of directing the Alnwick Passion back in 2013. I love live theatre, but it’s a bit of a trek to Newcastle – and it’s expensive. Highlights Rural Touring has brought joy to our community and we’ve been able to see a great range of productions. The chance to play a part in supporting the arts in rural communities was one I was not going to pass up. I am thrilled to be a trustee.”
Annual Report and Accounts
Details of Highlights’ past activities and finances can be found in the Annual Reports and Accounts listed below: