Industry News

Beamish Museum appoints Chair and Trustees to Board

Publication Date: 10th Feb 2023

Beamish, The Living Museum of the North has announced the appointment of a Chair and trustees to its board.

Chris Loughran has been appointed as Chair and will take up his role on 1st March, along with 10 new board members in the voluntary roles. The new trustees are David Alexander, Mauricio Armellini, Daniel Jackson, Stephen King, Rachael Lennon, Dr Elouise Leonard-Cross, Conan McKinley, Bridget Stratford and Ian Thomas. The museum’s host local authority, Durham County Council, will retain one nomination to the board, who will be Councillor Elizabeth Scott.

Beamish has warmly thanked current board members for their unfaltering hard work and dedication to the award-winning open air museum, which is expanding with the exciting Remaking Beamish development and is recovering strongly from the impact of the pandemic.

Rhiannon Hiles, Chief Executive of Beamish Museum, said: “We would like to take this opportunity to extend our thanks to current Chair John-Paul Stephenson and board of trustees who have overseen and supported the museum up to now. Their knowledge, expertise and guidance as we navigated our way through the pandemic and towards a brighter future for Beamish and its people has been fantastic.

“As Beamish has developed over the past decade, we have been looking forwards and outwards, and have taken steps to modernise and refresh our governance, reflecting best practice in the cultural sector and our status as an independent museum that is also a charity. Our incoming board has been recruited in line with the areas of skills and expertise the museum needs as it continues to develop, reflecting the full range of its ever-expanding operations including commercial development and overnight stays. This element of the governance review was started before the pandemic, and it’s great to see it reach a conclusion. We are very much looking forward to welcoming our incoming trustee team and working together on the ongoing development planning for the museum.”

The museum welcomed a record 803,000 visitors in 2019/20 pre-pandemic, and is delighted to be growing back strongly following the pandemic. The Remaking Beamish development – the biggest in the museum’s history – is nearing completion, including The 1950s Town, Farm and expansion of the Georgian area including overnight accommodation. The museum was named the 11th most visited paid-for attraction in the country by VisitEngland in 2021.

New Chair Chris grew up in County Durham and has a background in senior leadership, operations and policy. He is Co-Founder and Director of Symbio Impact Ltd, a sustainable financing and strategy consultancy. Chris is also a Senior Advisor at The HALO Trust, a leading international NGO (non-governmental organisation) and an Honorary Fellow at Manchester University.

A specialist in international development and foreign policy, he is an accomplished spokesperson, representing multiple organisations at the United Nations. He has led policy and influence for leading British NGOs and worked in the Ministry of Defence in Whitehall. Chris is Vice-Chair of Welsh mental health charity Platfform and a Director of the Association of British Orchestras. He holds degrees from Oxford and the University of London. Chris splits his time between Newcastle and Manchester with his husband James, and their mini-Dachshund Bob. Outside of work he spends his time cooking, gardening and enjoying music and the outdoors.

Chris said: “I’m thrilled to be taking up the role of Chair at such an exciting time for the museum. As a native North Easterner, I’ve had a long-standing connection with Beamish, going back to grandad helping to move Rowley Station to the museum on his low loader in the 1970s. Beamish is a core part of the social fabric and identity of the North East and it’s a privilege to be in a position to work with Rhiannon, the staff and volunteers as we start to think about the longer term future for the museum.

“We’ve got some brilliant new trustees and are looking forward to exploring how we build on Remaking Beamish and the success of the museum to date. We’ll be exploring the ways Beamish can give even more back to the region, help our communities and the wider North East thrive for decades to come.”

The museum plans to recruit a further four trustees to its board, and this process will begin in due course. Beamish, which was founded in 1970, is a charity with around 400 staff and 500 volunteers.