The Ulster Orchestra’s administration team is currently undergoing substantial changes in the process of a restructuring by its chief executive, Rosa Solinas.
Dr Solinas was appointed as permanent chief executive a year ago after a period of instability following the departure of her predecessor Declan McGovern in February 2012 and a six-month stint as interim ceo by Edward Smith, former ceo of the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra.
Coming from Arts Council Northern Ireland (ACNI), where she was head of music for three years, she was tasked with the orchestra board with managing a process of change necessitated by increasing financial pressure and a changing political agenda.
ACNI’s Music Strategy for 2013-18 stated with regard to the orchestra that the current squeeze on financial resources threatened its viability more than that of other organisations because of its size and relative inflexibility, and that it needed to do more to serve the whole province of Northern Ireland. In addition, the 2013/14 Business Plan for the province’s Department for Culture, Arts and Leisure is framed within a mission to promote social and economic equality, and to tackle poverty and social exclusion, and clearly states that whereas these objectives had previously been seen as essential obligations of the department in addition to its policy cycle, they would now drive the agenda and prioritisation of work when framing policy and allocating resources.
It is within this context that the current restructuring is taking place. At the beginning of this year it was widely believed that the orchestra would have to be significantly reduced in size, but Dr Solinas recently told CM that some months into her new post she decided this should be avoided; instead she aims to look for new ways of working so that the orchestra can become less dependent upon ACNI, which currently provides 50% of its funding, and the £700,000 it receives annually from the BBC for providing a percentage of its output.
Dr Solinas is also keen to integrate its education and outreach work more fully into both the orchestra’s artistic programme and the local school curriculum. This will include launching Northern Ireland’s first Sistema-style instrumental tuition scheme.
A consultation review on the administration of the orchestra was completed in October and three roles were identified as being at risk of redundancy. Dr Solinas decided to give all staff the opportunity to consider voluntary redundancy, and five individuals chose this option: orchestra administrator Angela Madden, press and publications officer Karen Gartside; education and outreach officer Noreen McFarland; orchestra manager Andrew Smith and acting education and outreach officer Jan Power. CM understands that these staff have left the orchestra, their roles being filled by temporary staff while a recruitment process gets under way for positions within a new team to take the organisation forward.