Mike's Legacy: The Restored Fortunes of HVAF

... And Vice Chairman Chris Green lifts the lid on how we managed to persuade Mike into the job in the first place.

Mike Willison agreed to become our Chairman three years ago in the happy belief that all he had to do would be to chair four OG meetings a year and turn up at the AGM.

He could not have been more misled! He arrived to find that many of the OG Group were retiring with the outgoing Chairman - and that the Open Studio Coordinator was leaving for another job.

And that was just the first week! Mike found himself leading us through two years of turmoil when even the future of the Open Studio project itself was in doubt. He laboured to appoint a new OG Group; a new Open Studios Coordinator; a new Treasurer and a new Secretary.

He also tried his hardest to get us a new Arts Council Grant - but it was not to be. From 2009 we have had to stand increasingly on our own feet, and he rose to this challenge too. His courageous decision to raise fees to fill the gap was well supported by artists and we ended 2009 in a robust financial position with Open Studios breaking even despite the lack of an Arts Council Grant.

This has not happened by accident, and we are all aware of the long hours that Mike has put into restoring our fortunes. It is therefore no surprise that he now feels that the time has come to step down as Chairman from March.

Mike’s overriding legacy to HVAF has been to restore robust organisation and strong funding. Without his energetic leadership, HVAF could well have foundered. As it is, he leaves us in a far stronger position than he found us and we are all indebted to him for the time and effort that he dedicated to the artists of Hertfordshire.

Mike, we wish you every success in a well earned retirement!