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A message from Director & CEO Max May

On the left, Max May on his first day as an intern at Rural Arts. On the right, Max on his first day as CEO at Rural Arts
On the left, Max May on his first day as an intern at Rural Arts. On the right, Max on his first day as CEO at Rural Arts

As many of you will know, I started my career at Rural Arts as an intern – and 5 years and 27 days later, re-joined as Director & CEO. Today, after another three and a bit years, I’m sharing that it is once again time for me to move on from Rural Arts.

Rural Arts has an incredibly special place in my heart. It’s where I cut my teeth. As an intern, I remember printing posters, writing my first funding applications and yes, even unblocking a toilet. When the opportunity arose to return to the organisation, taking over from our dynamic and incredibly driven founder Angela Hall, I jumped at the chance. I was excited to share with as many audiences, participants, partners and funders as possible the fantastic organisation that Rural Arts is, and how it can change lives for the better.

In my first year I focused on revisioning Rural Arts for the future and developing our sustainability. At the end of that year, the pandemic struck.

To this day, I am in awe of the agility, resilience and pragmatism with which our team responded. The day after we closed – before the Government mandate – we started planning what the future might look like. Within a week we launched RADISH – Rural Arts Daily Inspiration while Staying at Home – which went on to reach over 60,000 people via free online creative workshops for adults and children, a Pay What You Decide resource pack and more until we were able to recommence in-person activities in August 2020.

This work led us to create North Yorkshire Together, our partnership with North Yorkshire Sport and North Yorkshire Youth. Initially, this distributed thousands more free resource packs, online workshops and digital devices. The partnership has now evolved to support thousands of children on Free School Meals and young refugees in Selby and Scarborough through our collaborations with North Yorkshire County Council.

And amongst closing – and reopening – three times in sixteen months, we also undertook a rebrand, built a new website, commissioned 11 artists, invested over £100,000 in The Courthouse to make us more sustainable, accessible and environmentally responsible, revitalised our Board of Trustees and reached more people than ever with our growing outreach programmes, ON Tour performances and events and activities at The Courthouse.

I will always follow, support, cherish and champion Rural Arts. I am North Yorkshire through and through: growing up in Selby, Riccall, Ripon, Shipton-by-Beningbrough and finally Thirsk, this county shaped me and made me who I am today. And so did this organisation. Every success, every challenge, every cappuccino from the café.

To serve as Director & CEO of North Yorkshire’s only annually-funded, cross-discipline, cross-county arts organisation has been a pleasure and a privilege. I watch our work and am so proud of what we – as staff, volunteers, promoters, Trustees, and communities – do. To every single one of you, for your support, your kindness, your belief that we can make North Yorkshire a better place through the power of creativity: thank you.

It’s been a whirlwind ride. With Rural Arts in such a strong position, I feel now is the time for me to move on. Although a difficult decision for me, I have great excitement for what the organisation will go on to achieve in the future.

Our brilliant Chair of the Board of Trustees, Gaye Kirby, had these kind words to share:

Max has led the team to reimagine the future of Rural Arts, extend its impact and provide wonderful opportunities for the people of North Yorkshire and beyond to be creative. Amongst all this, he moved us towards greater organisational and financial resilience, all whilst managing the unprecedented challenges of a global pandemic.

I know that you’ll want to join me in thanking Max for his incredible work over the past three and a half years, and I look forward to continuing to build on the amazing foundations that Max has put in place with our next Director & CEO.

Rural Arts today launches recruitment for its next Chief Executive Officer, supported by Minerva Search. You can find out more information by clicking here.

The beautiful ‘Roses Around the Bend’ from Canadian folk duo Cassie & Maggie, which we commissioned during lockdown as part of our project Keepsake.

We’ll start then begin again

We’ll start then begin again

There’s roses around the bend

Roses around the bend…