Catching Up With: Siobhan

Meet Siobhan Lanigan. She's been the chair of our Ability Bow trustees since we started in 2006. 

Her primary focus is now on providing our Ability Bow management with operational and strategic support, including to our dynamic director, Victoria Kent.

We caught up with Siobhan, 59, to find out more about her, including her work at the fantastic Food Chain

The Q&A

Hi Siobhan. Great to catch up with you! Please tell us a bit more about yourself and your role at Ability Bow. 

Q: Where are you based? 

A: I'm based at the HIV support charity, Food Chain, near King's Cross in London, as a chief executive (where I've worked for 6 years). 

Q: What made you join the Food Chain? 

A: I've always worked within charities since being in my '20s. Albeit, my particular focus for the HIV sector goes back to the '80s when I first moved to London and my housemate - who was diagnosed with the illness - died within 6 months. 

While HIV is obviously far better understood than it was then, it still had a quite major effect on my house share and how devastating it could be then on people's lives.  

Thankfully, a lot has changed and I've always wanted to support people to live long and healthy lives and for those within the HIV sector, for who, living well, isn't always a possibility and through my role I can help enable progress. 

Q: How much do you love your job? 

A: It's amazing and I get to spend such a brilliant time with our team, supporters and clients who are at the heart of what we do. 

Q: Why did you decide to join Ability Bow as a trustee? 

A: I've always had a strong belief in inclusion and how it's important in all of our lives - including with families and communities; whether that's leisure, sport, exercise etc. 

Essentially everything people need to lead fulfilling lives is vital and I really believe that everyone - whether through disability or economic circumstances - should have equal access to sustain their quality of life, which is what Ability Bow really embodies. 

Since joining the charity at its start, I was one of the first people to be involved in redeveloping the gym on the third floor at St Paul's Church into what it is now - a community hub. 

Q: How easy was it to join? 

A: As I say, given I was involved from the beginning, it was very easy as I was able to start and find a core group of people to support Ability Bow and provide the charity's governance. 

So at the time, I just said yes and joined up while being part of the church and we formed Ability Bow (from Ability UK in 2006) there with three or four trustees. 

Q: What's your Ability Bow role trustee specifically?

A: I was the Ability Bow trustee chair until just last year. I now provide managerial and supervisory support to our director, Victoria, which means everything from offering insight and guidance into the Ability Bow 2019-2024 Strategy, to other general day-to-day working life aspects she may need advice on. 

Q: What skills have you learnt since becoming a trustee? 

A: Definitely how to sustain and support a small charity in a rapidly changing environment, which is certainly one of the greatest skills you can learn. 

The entire charity sector itself is under huge pressure and those who work within it have to be able to adapt, change and respond. 

As an Ability Bow trustee, I need to ensure the organisation remains accountable and we keep our core purpose for all of our audiences, whether for gym members, the public, a commissioner or funder etc. 

So I've been able to develop skills in learning and understanding what's available and how to continue to meet needs from all areas. 

Q: Why would you recommend others join Ability Bow as a trustee? 

A: One of the really special aspects is that it's all about the people and it always has been.

Even as a trustee, you can meet and understand the Ability Bow community and join together in amazing events like the Big Fun Run (which I even took part in about six years ago despite spraining my ankle), or meet those in sporting fundraisers like within the Virgin Money London Marathon, which is all what we're about. 

Also, I think it's really important people get to know how all aspects work of the charity and the passion for people Ability Bow has, would certainly very quickly help someone who is thinking of joining, settle in. 

Q: How passionate are you about people, including those with disabilities and long-term health conditions? 

A: The reason I've a particular connection around disability as a topic, is I think it's largely invisible in society (and there's no reason why this should be the case). 

I think the world can sometimes undermine others and make negative assumptions - i.e. someone deemed overweight may not want to exercise. 

So the more we as a society and my role within that, can champion and provide inclusive settings for those who may not already have education on healthy living and wellbeing, the better and I'm definitely passionate in supporting this wherever and whenever I can. 

Thank you Siobhan!