Birmingham Museums Trust announces board of trustees

By on 16/07/2012 in Leader, News

Today, interim Chairman Len Clark announces a new impressive board of trustees for Birmingham Museums Trust. After advertising, over 60 expressions of interest were received. The selected trustees bring a wide range of skills and experience to the board and a passionate enthusiasm for the collections and sites managed by the new trust.

The Birmingham Museums Trust is the largest museums service in the UK to go to Trust status. The new family of museums includes Aston Hall, Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery, Blakesley Hall, Museum Collections Centre, Museum of the Jewellery Quarter, Sarehole Mill, Soho House, Thinktank and Weoley Castle.

Already, the innovative approach of the trust has been recognised by Arts Council England as a Renaissance major partner museum, and has been awarded £5,091,615 over a three-year period. Director Ann Sumner is driving forward a new visioning process as the trust focuses on sustaining and developing key partnerships within the city, regionally, nationally and internationally, in order to deliver excellence in audience-focussed museum services, and meet the needs of Birmingham communities. Len Clark, along with the new Board will be seeking to appoint a Chairman of the trust in the near future.

Professor Sumner said, “We are delighted to welcome such a remarkable board of trustees to help develop Birmingham Museums. The board's breadth of experience and expertise will be instrumental in forging the future of the new trust. The assembled expertise covers the arts, science, culture, business and museums, and will be invaluable to us. I look forward to working with them all at this exciting time.”

Sir Nicholas Goodison, former chairman of the Art Fund (1986-2002) and the Courtauld Institute of Art (1982-2002), who recommended trusts as a progressive way forward for museums in a Treasury Report in 2004, said, “I am delighted that Birmingham has taken the step of forming a new Trust to run the museums services in the City. It is an enlightened step, full of promise for the future of these great collections and their audiences, and it is encouraging that a strong start has been made with the appointment of Trustees.”

Sir Albert Bore, leader of Birmingham City Council gives his support to the new trust, saying, “Our wonderful museums attract thousands of visitors to the city every year and it is great news that Birmingham Museums has managed to recruit such an expert panel to help drive the new trust. Culture enriches all of our lives and also plays a major role in the city economy.”


Len Clark; Interim Chairman

Len Clark is an experienced local politician with 35 years service and was an elected member of various significant public authorities including former West Midlands County Council (1977-1986); Severn Trent Water Authority (1977-1984), Birmingham City Council (1992-1996 and 2004-2011), West Midlands Passenger Transport Authority, and West Midlands Districts Superannuation Committee. Len has served as Chairman on various regional public service committees including Transport, Highways, and Adults and Children's Social Services. With a longstanding interest in the cultural development of the City and region, as Chairman of Thinktank, Birmingham's Science Museum (2004-2012), he has lead and supported major development initiatives including the Planetarium and the exciting new Science Garden, opened this year, the first in the UK. Appointed Chairman of the Trust Steering Committee by Birmingham City Council, tasked with establishing the Birmingham Museums Trust and securing charitable status, Len is currently Interim Chairman of the Birmingham Museums Trust. A lifelong Aston Villa supporter and a keen cricket fan, Len is Chairman of Old Hill Cricket Club, and a founder member of the Birmingham District League.

Councillor Muhammad Afzal

Cllr Afzal was first elected to the City Council in 1982 and has held many senior roles in Birmingham City Council as Chair of Committees and has particularly concentrated on Human Resources and appointment systems.

Graham Allen

Born and educated in Birmingham, Graham has over 20 years' experience working as a senior manager within Museums, from 1994 to 2004 he was Head of Birmingham Museums Service. Whilst Head of Birmingham Museums; he undertook the final stage of the development of Soho House and its opening, initiated the creation of Thinktank at Millennium Point, the redevelopment of Blakesley Hall ,the creation of the Museum's Collection Centre, the development of the Waterhall, and the initial stages of the redevelopment of Aston Hall. Graham was a Trustee of Thinktank Trust 2005 to 2012 and from 2010 has assisted and supported the creation of Birmingham Museums Trust.

Penelope, Viscountess Cobham

Lady Cobham has been Chairman of VisitEngland since 2009. She served on the boards of the English Tourist Board, English Heritage, the Countryside Commission and Historic Royal Palaces before moving to act as the Special Adviser on tourism and heritage in the newly created Department of National Heritage in 1992. Subsequently, she was appointed to the boards of the Victoria & Albert Museum, British Waterways and the London Docklands Development Corporation, where she led on tourism. She was Deputy Chairman of VisitBritain from 2005 to 2009 and was a board member for Thinktank Trust from 1999 to 2012.

Deborah de Haes

Debby is an independent management consultant who set up her own business six years ago after nearly ten years in a global management consultancy firm. She specialises in two key areas: NHS Trust Board Governance issues (behaviour and process), and Museums' skills evaluation and development. Her work is focused on helping organisations maintain and improve effectiveness in times of major transition. Debby is from Birmingham and studied History at Oxford. She worked in Birmingham for many years and is currently Chair of the Friends of Birmingham Museums. She is also a Bishops' Inspector for Theological Training in the Church of England, particularly in the areas of finance and governance.

Sir Mark Jones

Mark Jones is the Master of St Cross College, Oxford and was Director of the Victoria & Albert Museum from 2001 to 2011. His time there saw a ten year, £120 million programme of renewal of the museum and its displays which transformed two thirds of its vast building. From 1992 to 2001 he was Director of the National Museums of Scotland, overseeing the opening of the award-winning Museum of Scotland in 1998. He read philosophy, Politics and Economics at Worcester College, Oxford and studied for his MA at the Courtauld Institute of Art. He was Assistant Keeper of Coins and Medals, British Museum (1974 to 1990) and Keeper of Coins and Medals, British Museum (1990 to 1992). Mark serves on the boards of the Pilgrim Trust (since 2006), the National Trust (since 2005), Tullie House Museum and Art Gallery, and the Design Council (since 2011).

David Lewis

David Lewis graduated from London University in 1959 and qualified as a Chartered Surveyor in 1961. He formed his own firm of Chartered Surveyors in 1964 and has held a number of public company positions in the UK. He was Managing Director of Cavendish Land Company to 1973 and of Hampton Trust plc to 1987, and from 1989 to 1995 was Chairman of Molyneux Estates plc. He is Chairman of various privately controlled investment companies and his family interests include a wide-ranging collection of works of art of which a significant proportion is on loan to public bodies, museums and institutions in the UK and abroad. He was a founder Governor of the Harris City Technology College, Croydon 1990 to 2009. He is Deputy Chairman of the Board of the London Jewish Cultural Centre and he is also Co-chair of the Commission for Looted Art in Europe. He is a member of the Board of the Jewish Museum.

Professor Alice Roberts

Alice Roberts is Professor of Public Engagement in Science at the
University of Birmingham. Alice studied medicine and anatomy (MB BCh BSc) at Cardiff University, qualifying in 1997. She worked as a junior doctor in South Wales, before becoming a lecturer at Bristol University, where she taught anatomy on the medical course for over ten years. She has a PhD in palaeopathology (the study of disease in ancient human remains). Alice’s television debut came as a human bone specialist on Channel 4's Time Team, in 2001. She went on to become a science presenter for various projects on BBC2. As well as being part of the original presenting team on BBC2’s Coast, she has fronted several series and programmes, including Don’t Die Young, and The Incredible Human Journey. She is a member of the Advisory Board of the Cheltenham Festival of Science and the Patron of the Association of Science and Discovery Centres.

Jan Teo

Jan Teo is a Director at Deutsche Bank and Chief Operating Officer for Service Centre operations in Europe and is based in Birmingham. Jan studied history at Cambridge University, and has twenty years commercial experience in a wide variety of operational and transformational roles having formerly held senior leadership positions at companies such as Legal and General, Barclays Bank, RAC Motoring Services, and Lex Transfleet. Jan's career allows her to draw on extensive experience in leading large volumes of people through times of significant change and growth. Jan has worked with Fierce Earth, at the Birmingham Hippodrome, and champions the benefits of true diversity in arts businesses. She has also been mentoring sixth form students from Aston Manor School.

Ann Sumner: Director from 1 May 2012

Professor Ann Sumner, Director of the Birmingham Museums Trust, was educated at the Courtauld Institute, University of London, and undertook her PhD at Newnham College, Cambridge. She began her career at the National Portrait Gallery, London and has held curatorial positions at the Whitworth Art Gallery, University of Manchester, Dulwich Picture Gallery, Harewood House Trust, the Holburne Museum, University of Bath and the National Museum Wales, where she was Head of Fine Art for eight years until her appointment as Director of the Barber Institute of Fine Arts, University of Birmingham in 2007. In 2012, she became the first Director of the Birmingham Museums Trust. She is a member of the Leverhulme Art Awards Panel, the Ironbridge Academic and Curatorial Committee, a Trustee of the Methodist Arts Collection, and a member of the Advisory Committee of Aberystwyth University. Her particular interests include seventeenth-century Dutch and Flemish art, British portraiture and miniatures, and French Impressionist painting.

For more information on Birmingham Museums and the events and activities at all venues, visit


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Notes to Editor

1. Birmingham Museums has been established to govern and manage the museum sites and collections owned by Birmingham City Council and Thinktank, Birmingham's Science Museum. The new independent organisation is focused on sustaining and developing key partnerships within the city and beyond, in order to deliver high quality, audience focussed museum services, and meet the needs of Birmingham communities as well as its wider audiences.

2. The establishment of Birmingham Museums means that visitors to all venues can take advantage of even more educational and entertaining events and activities, ranging from arts and crafts to history and culture from around the world. Venues include Aston Hall, Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery, Blakesley Hall, Museum Collections Centre, Museum of the Jewellery Quarter, Sarehole Mill, Soho House, Thinktank and Weoley Castle.

3. Birmingham Museums Trust is seeking to acquire Sir Joshua Reynolds' iconic portrait of Dr John Ash, which is currently on loan to Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery. John Ash (1723 - 98) was an eminent physician who built up a successful medical practice from his house in Temple Row in Birmingham. Ash was a co-founder of the Birmingham General Hospital, and the portrait commissioned by the governors of the Hospital in honour of his services to the people of Birmingham. The portrait has been valued at £900,000 and Birmingham Museums Trust has been offered first refusal to purchase by the Queen Elizabeth Birmingham Hospitals Charity. In addition to the £675,000 from the Heritage Lottery Fund Birmingham Museums has raised £185,000 through grants from organisations including The Art Fund, the Museum Development Trust and the Friends of Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery.

4. Arts Council England on Monday 2 April 2012 published details of the final award amounts for its Renaissance major partner museums and the final transitional funding budget for museums exiting the old Renaissance programme. In the West Midlands Birmingham Museums Trust (Birmingham City Council and Thinktank) will receive £5,091,615, and Ironbridge Gorge Museum Trust will receive £2,434,227 over three years. They are among 16 Major partner museums in England to receive awards. For more information visit

5. There is a wide range of new exhibitions and events at Birmingham Museum venues throughout summer 2012. These include;

  • Thinktank Science Garden now open. This new outdoor discovery space is packed with giant exhibits and fun activities for the whole family.
  • Signposts to Middle-Earth Exhibition now open at Sarehole Mill. Visitors can explore the connections of J.R.R. Tolkien with the area around Sarehole Mill and find out how they inspired the Lord of the Rings trilogy.
  • Curious Visitors now open at Aston until 9 September 2012. Visitors are invited to take a fresh look at Aston Hall’s beautiful interiors with contemporary sculpture, paintings and photography alongside 400 year old pieces.
  • Pharaoh: King of Egypt Exhibition is now open at Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery until 14 October 2012. Visitors can explore the UK's largest ever exhibition of ancient Egyptian artefacts on loan from the British Museum.

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