On Thursday 14 May I was due to be presenting at the M&H Show live. I was hoping to be wearing one of those natty microphone headsets which remind me of my days working in event security, and I was looking forward to meeting with so many people from across the museum and heritage sector.
In fact, this was to be my first public talk in my new role as Director, Museums and Collections Development/ Birmingham for Arts Council England. It’s week five for me now, and things have turned out a little differently than I thought when originally offered the job in December 2019.
A little background about me first. This is my second time around at Arts Council England, having been Relationship Manager, Museums in the East Midlands from 2011, and been seconded to work on the Arts Council’s input to the Mendoza Review of Museums from 2015/17 and I’m delighted to be back.
In 2017 I took up a role at the National Trust, as a Consultancy Manager in the Midlands. As a leader for the internal consultancy, my role was to lead on access, inclusion and contemporary art commissioning across the region as well as be the direct business development partner for three of the properties (Kedleston Hall, Sudbury Hall & the Museum of Childhood and Hardwick Hall). I was lucky to be involved in a number of fascinating projects, not the least the Year of Listening at Kedleston Hall, and the Children’s Country House project at Sudbury Hall and the Museums of Childhood.
My role at Arts Council extends beyond the national Museums and Cultural Property team, to being a Director in the Midlands Area team. Both of those teams are working hard to respond to the current situation as we administer our Emergency Funding and support the sector through these challenging times.
Once these funds are allocated Arts Council will move into a new phase of planning for the longer-term: to help our sector to find stability where possible, to reopen as and when it’s safe to do so, and ultimately to reset, as we consider how to realise the ambitions laid out in our new strategy, ‘Let’s Create.’
The post Covid-19 world will be very different to the world in which we launched our strategy and all of us will need to find new ways of operating within it. ‘Let’s Create’s’ fundamental commitment to creativity, culture and the collective power of communities will be more important then, than ever before.
I hope very much to meet many of you virtually over the months to come, and in person when we can.
Liz Johnson, Director, Museums & Collections Development/ Birmingham, Arts Council England