Maintaining the highest standards of service and quality will be key as Lighthouse builds on its place at the heart of the community it serves, not just in Poole and the wider Dorset region, but nationally as well. 

That’s the message from Mark Powell, the new Chair of Poole Arts Trust, the charity that runs Lighthouse, Poole’s centre for the arts. Having held a number of senior positions with major companies across Europe – he was on the Board of a group owned by global packaging giant DS Smith and worked with brands such as Red Bull – Mark is well known locally through his work as Chief Executive of Diverse Abilities and with several community organisations. 

He has taken over the reins following the retirement of his predecessor Mike Jeffries: “I’m filling some very big shoes in this role and in my years as a Trustee I have seen Lighthouse establish itself as a strong business and build for the future through its redevelopment.  

It was enjoying a position of some security before COVID struck and with the right support and management that can be restored. I’m very community minded, which is why I’m passionate about Lighthouse as a brand – it is such a strong facility for Poole and people love going to it. 

My job for the next couple of years is to use the skills of my colleagues on the Board to support the very talented management team at Lighthouse as it recovers from what has been arguably the greatest threat to its existence it has ever faced.” 


Supporting the new Chair, Poole Arts Trust has also welcomed a number of new Trustees, including MT Rainey OBE the former Deputy Chair of Channel 4 and until the end of last year Co-Chair of the Development Board of 14-18 Now, the arts commissioning body set up to commemorate the centenary of the First World War. She has recently become a Trustee of the Booker Prize and brings a wealth of experience from commercial roles in the creative industries that saw her honoured with an OBE for services to Advertising in 2015 Queen’s Birthday Honours List. 

“Becoming a Trustee is a real passion project,” she explains. “I have a home in Poole and have been a punter at Lighthouse for many years – I love the feel of it and there’s real style in the way that it programmes. I came off 14-18 Now at the end of last year and wanted to get back into the arts so when I found myself spending more time at my home in Poole during lockdown it seemed an obvious next step. 

“Lighthouse is a wonderful institution, a real asset for the people of Poole and the wider community, but it’s also a nationally important arts venue and I’d like to help raise that awareness of it both locally and nationally. That’s really the business I’ve been in and if I can use my experience to help make Lighthouse even more accessible as it comes through this period then I’d be very happy to.” 


Monika Barnes was appointed earlier this year. The Managing Director of leadership development company Career Savvy Women and Non-Executive Director of a leading arts and humanities university, she is looking forward to meeting the challenges ahead. 

I moved to Dorset several years ago and experienced first hand the amazing contribution Lighthouse makes to the local community and to the national arts agenda,” she says. I always got the feeling as an audience member that the venue was exceptionally well run and I know now that it is – I am genuinely in awe of the curation of the programme of events. 

My background is in strategic change, leadership and diversity in creative media. Clearly 2020 has been a year of the most enormous change and challenge for all, an unimaginable and incredibly tough year for the arts and performers, but despite these challenges Lighthouse has held its nerve and not wavered from its ambition. 

“I genuinely think that Lighthouse is an inspirational organisation and I look forward to using my experience to support the Board in achieving its vision.” 


Ali Gannage-Stewart, Commercial Director at Woolwich Works and a Non-Executive Board Director for Battersea Arts Centre Enterprises has also joined the Board of Trustees. 

“Having worked at the Southbank before my current roles I am really excited to be involved in an arts centre outside London with a sensational programme and an outlook as positive as it is at Lighthouse,” she explains. 

“The management is inspirational and even during the darkest days of this most difficult year the communications both within the organisation and beyond were open, honest and caring so that everyone understood the challenges. Innovations such as activating space outdoors for performance are really exciting and, as we go forwards, making carefully engineered use of streamed content online that helps grow audiences as well as accessing harder to reach sections of the community.” 


Joining the Board as an observer as part of an initiative by Dorset’s Arts Development Company to bring young people on to the boards of arts organisations, Kate McStraw is an independent creative producer who works across the arts and cultural sector with individual artists, independent companies and national organisations, as well as supporting diverse artists and working in ‘non-traditional’ and public spaces such as caves, car parks and woodlands. 

Published 8 December 2020