AIM Higher – Bahamas Locomotive Society

Based in Keighley, West Yorkshire, the Bahamas Locomotive Society was established in the 1960s to restore the Bahamas steam locomotive. An entirely volunteer run organisation, the Society approached AIM for help in developing a diverse Board. Working with consultant Claire Turner, the Society explored why they needed a diverse Board, what would a diverse Board look like, what skills/experience were missing and why someone would want to be part of the Society. 

Francis Galvin, Trustee of Bahamas Locomotive Society, shares their experience of undertaking a governance review.

Why did you apply for support from AIM Higher?

The Society received a National Lottery Heritage Fund grant a few years ago, which changed the outlook of the Society and the nature of the work we do. The grant has enabled us to diversify our audience, to do outreach locally, learning activities, community workshops and to take the Locomotive to events elsewhere in the country.

With the success of the visitor facing activity, it was time to look at the diversity of our trustees and this evolved into a broader governance review.

What did you look at as part of the governance review?

Working with an external consultant, Claire Turner, we’ve reviewed a number of aspects of how the Society is run. We were fortunate to also receive support from Museums Development Yorkshire for Claire to provide us with additional time, including a written report of recommendations.

The Articles of Association of the Society focus on the restoration of the Bahamas Locomotive, rather than the museum. We wanted to ensure our governing documents reflect what we actually do.

The Bahamas Locomotive Society is a volunteer run organisation, established in the 1960s and we still have trustees working with us who have been involved from the beginning. We identified early on in our work with Claire that setting a maximum term of office wouldn’t suit the Society. It was important to retain the knowledge, skills and experience of our older trustees, while bringing in new perspectives from the local community with skills we were missing.

We have some great younger volunteers but they have been reluctant to become trustees. Part of the recommendations from Claire is to establish working groups for specific tasks with a mix of trustee and non-trustee involvement. We would get our younger volunteers more involved in the running of the Society and working groups would also help the Board focus on more strategic issues.

And this ties into another recommendation. Our Board meetings are currently held online and can be up to three hours. We’d like to streamline these meetings with more of the work done by working groups, freeing up Board time to be more strategic. And we could potentially reduce to bi-monthly meetings too.

How did you get your Trustees involved in the process?

The governance review was championed by some Board members and although there was some scepticism from others, this has changed as they’ve seen how it’s necessary. Many of the aspects of the governance review would be relevant to any future funding bids e.g. to NLHF, so we found that a useful way to frame what we were doing.

We achieved majority Board involvement at each step of the process and did reinforce the reasons for doing the review throughout. The review was driven forward by a core group of four, including myself.

What have been the benefits of working with the consultant?

The consultant Claire Turner was excellent. She was generous with her time and tuned into what Bahamas Locomotive Society is all about. It was especially beneficial to work with an external consultant on the governance review. Claire asked searching questions that we might not have asked ourselves, and was impartial – an independent advocate with relevant experience.

What would you say to other AIM members considering reviewing their governance?

The overall governance review has been more successful than anticipated. We’ve had great engagement with the process and have got further working with the consultant than we would have done on our own. We’ve been able to identify the challenges and have clear actions to take forward. We can’t do everything at once, but we’re all feeling really positive about the future of the Society.