Thursday, April 30, 2015

An Interview with Melanie Piper, the New President of QuidditchUK

Melanie Piper was today announced as the fourth President of QuidditchUK, taking over as the current President, Amy Maidment, steps down from the position. After a successful tenure as Teams Director, Piper will be looking to consolidate QuidditchUK’s strong position a year after a major overhaul. COO of The Quidditch Post Jack Lennard caught up with Piper for an interview.

Jack Lennard: So Mel, firstly, congratulations! How are you feeling?

Melanie Piper: Hi! I'm feeling pretty amazing. It's a massive role and a huge undertaking, but I cannot wait to begin. I'd be stupid to say I wasn't slightly nervous, but that is overshadowed by just how excited I am to begin!

Melanie Piper. Credit: Keele Nightline.
JL: You've been a big part of QuidditchUK's overhauls since last summer. What parts do you think have been most successful, and what areas will you want to reconsider during your tenure as President?

MP: QuidditchUK has come on leaps and bounds since the summer overhaul when Amy [Maidment] took over. For me, I think the most successful part of the overhaul have been the increased level of transparency. Transparency to the general UK quidditch community is something I am a big advocate of. By bringing in Captains’ Forums and our minutes summaries on the website, we are giving everyone the chance to see what is happening in the inner workings of our governing body. It’s not perfect, and something I will continue working on, but it’s definitely a big step in the right direction. Obviously we are not yet perfect as an organisation, and I know certain sections of what we do need work in order to truly live up to their full potential. A few things that can be looked at are the Challenge Shield, the Hooch Initiative and QuidditchUK Media. These all have such big potential (as seen with Warwick Quidditch Club and the Bristol Brizzlepuffs, two teams mentored under the Hooch initiative, who have really impressed), and have been an important part of this season to many, they just need to be focussed on to reach the heights they are really capable of.

JL: Do you think your time as Teams Director will help you in building transparency further?

MP: I absolutely adored my role as Teams Director. It was an amazing opportunity, and I’m so glad I decided to apply for it almost a year and a half ago! I do really think it will help me. From my work with teams on both the level of helping set up new teams, and running the aforementioned Captains’ Forums, I both know how teams want to get their voices heard, and understand what is happening inside the governing body. Captains’ Forums gave me the unique opportunity to be the ‘middle-man’ between both the Executive Management Team and the teams themselves. I hope that has given the community trust in my abilities to listen to them, and to take their thoughts into consideration.

JL: You're certainly a well-known and trusted face amongst the team leaders across the UK - how will you utilise that with your new role?

MP: Aww, that’s very kind of you to say so! I’ve been around for quite some time (since the sport really came to the UK in 2011) and have always tried to get involved as much as possible. Quidditch is great, and the more people who know about it and can enjoy it the better. I know a lot of people in the community, and can’t wait to know even more! This level of approachability and a ‘human face’ will be key in helping maintain the transparency and level of trust between me, the governing body as a whole, and the wider community.

JL: What next for QuidditchUK then? After Amy Maidment brought in features such as official teams and memberships, what will you bring in during the first 100 days of your time in charge? Or will you take an approach of stability rather than big changes?

MP: In terms of what’s next for QuidditchUK, the case is continuing the amazing work of Amy and the rest of the Executive Management Team in order to maximise the stability and growth of QuidditchUK in the future.  I know it’s important to not run before we know how to walk. One of my primary focuses will be the stability of what we already have, before we move on to even bigger and better things.  Amy brought in lots of changes, and it’s now time to keep developing those and making sure they are achieving everything they can be. However, there are some amazing plans on the horizon. Very soon, we will officially becoming a nonprofit organisation, and this will be a great step for our future. Getting this in place will be paramount at the start of my presidency. Furthermore, I have been heavily involved in the Strategic Plan, due to be released in the summer. This will be another one of the main focuses for the long term, helping us to achieve and reach a series of set objectives by 2018. Basically, there are definitely changes which are going to be made for the benefit and growth of the sport. However, these will be made alongside a concerted effort to support  and maintain what we already have in place.

JL: What do you think the biggest challenge facing QuidditchUK will be in the next season, the next 5 years, and the next 10 years?

MP: While I said previously that I will be looking at improving stability and sustainability, next season will still be, in some respects, a season of change. Our organisational structure will be modified due to becoming an official nonprofit, and we will begin working towards implementing our Strategic Plan. It will also be the first season to have both a centrally organised Northern and Southern Cup. These will be large scale tournaments, and help start a consistent structure of the annual UK quidditch calendar (Northern/Southern, the British Quidditch Cup, the European Quidditch Cup, and then international tournaments over the summer). In this way, I think one of the biggest challenges will be just ensuring quality. We need to make sure that what we are providing is what people want, and of a high standard. We can certainly achieve this. The other two questions are so tricky though! QuidditchUK didn’t even exist three years ago, and think how rapidly it has grown-from a handful of us to around seven hundred members! Okay, in the next five years, I imagine one problem we may face is the regional development. Currently, there are a dark spots’ where no or few teams exist (such as Scotland, Wales, and so on). While some of these gaps are currently being filled, some regions will develop quicker than others. A challenge will be, when we have enough teams, how the country is divided in terms of qualifiers for the British Quidditch Cup. In the next ten years–wow. By then we will be Sports England accredited (a fact of which I have no doubt) so a problem we may face is just, as it kind of is now, increasing our coverage and widening participation, from a niche sport, to something much more accessible.

JL: How do you see QuidditchUK as a force internationally, and what will, you change about that as you take over?

MP: QuidditchUK is already a force internationally in some respects. Our growth is incredible, and other governing bodies are impressed by what we have achieved, considering our small size in comparison to, say, North America.  Currently Quidditch Europe and the International Quidditch Association are in the very early stages of development still. As probably the most experienced National Governing Body in Europe and one of the most experienced in the International Quidditch Association, QuidditchUK will be looked on for advice by those still developing, and this is something I am happy to help with. Basically, I don’t see it as what I will change about QuidditchUK as a force internationally, but how we can continue to break down barriers and help other National Governing Bodies and the international congresses to grow and become even better.

JL: Finally, what traits from your predecessors (Robert Barringer, Ben Morton, and Amy Maidment) will inspire your choices during your time as President?

MP: My predecessors have all been amazing, and there’s so much to admire in what they achieved. From Robert actually setting up QuidditchUK in the first place, to Ben’s dog-eared enthusiasm and passion for the sport, and Amy’s sheer impressive ability to move us on as an organisation so far in so little time, I have pretty big shoes to fill (and I only have size 3 feet). I have so much respect for all of them, and just hope I can live up to their high standards. I want to kind of bring together the best of all of them. I’m ridiculously enthusiastic, love talking to people, and am perfectly happy to be the ‘face’ of UK quidditch. However, I also know when to knuckle down and get the job done. Basically, if I can inspire people as much as they have inspired me, I will be incredibly happy.

JL: Thank you for your time, and congratulations once again!

MP: Thank you! And thank you to everyone who persuaded me to go for it in the first place–I hope I can do you all proud!

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