I have over 35 years’ experience at a senior level in the culture, arts and museum sector, with a passionate belief that arts, museums, heritage and culture can have a positive impact on people’s lives. What drives me is the potential of culture as a creative force that measurably affects people and brings them together in dialogue and debate.
I have a wide range of experience across national, university, independent and local authority museums, and in cultural planning and public art management in regeneration areas aimed at developing community cohesion. I have an excellent network of contacts across the cultural, museum and arts sector.
An independent consultant since 2009, I have delivered projects and strategies for local authorities, national and independent museums, arts organizations, private foundations and community trusts. I have worked on organizational change, strategy development, developing community consultation and participation, and cultural planning, including managing public art programmes, empty shop projects, and creative cultural engagement in regeneration projects.
Clients have included Paul Hamlyn Foundation (Project Director of Our Museum: Communities and Museums as Active Partners); Association of Science and Discovery Centres (consultant on Explore Your Universe 4 participatory programme); Shambellie House Trust (Project Organiser to develop the house for workshops and residential courses on photography, arts/crafts. history, environment and wildlife); the Wordsworth Trust (interpretation strategy); Amgueddfa Cymru/National Museum Wales (critical friend); Stretch Widening Participation (evaluation); Blackburn with Darwen Borough Council and Creativity Works (cultural planning, public art, empty shop projects); Lincolnshire One Venues (young people’s participation); and Birmingham Museums Trust (organisational change to embed participation).
I developed and directed the largest ever programme of organisational change in museums for the Paul Hamlyn Foundation. Our Museum: Communities and Museums as Active Partners facilitated organisational change to embed community participation across museums and galleries in the United Kingdom. As part of that programme, I worked with Belfast Exposed, Bristol Culture, Glasgow Museums, Hackney Museum, The Lightbox in Woking, the Museum of East Anglian Life, National Museum Wales, Ryedale Folk Museum, and Tyne and Wear Archives and Museums (see www.ourmuseum.org.uk for details, final reports, and 200+ multimedia resources). I developed an influencing strategy to stimulate change across the UK museum sector, working with all the key strategic sector agencies and funders.
Through the work for the Paul Hamlyn Foundation, I have also worked with the National Trust and museum networks in the Netherlands, Belgium and Hungary to help them find innovative and practical ways of embedding participatory practice.
Previously, as Deputy (and Acting) Director of Manchester Museum, one of the UK’s biggest multidisciplinary university museums, I was responsible for strategy, fundraising and policy development, and the development and leadership of a team of over 100 specialist staff covering all aspects of museum work. I have particular expertise in team building and development of staff, introducing innovative methods of workforce development to change cultures and behaviours and unlock creativity and potential. I was also Professor of Archaeology and Museology at the University of Manchester, and Chair of the North West Federation of Museums and Galleries, leading its radical strategic programme for the north-west, Rethinking the Museum (www.nwfed.org.uk/thinkpieces).
Before that, I worked at National Museums Liverpool as Head of Antiquities, and facilitated the initial development of the Liverpool Arabic Festival, now a major annual event. My background is in archaeology, particularly of the Middle East and Egypt, on which I have published widely. I also write on ethical issues, and have an international profile as a practitioner and researcher on the theme of cultural institutions sharing authority with communities.