Beamish is a unique living, working museum and visitor attraction that uses its collections to connect people from all walks of life, telling the story of everyday life in the North East of England through time. Welcoming over 800,000 visitors annually, it is an iconic organisation in the North East of England and has a national and international reputation, delivering significant economic and social benefits for communities in the North East and tourists, and boosting the region’s visitor economy.

Context.

Forward-thinking, innovative and entrepreneurial, the museum had taken steps to modernise and refresh its governance. Following a comprehensive governance review, they were looking ahead to appoint a brand new board of trustees, one that was aligned to best practice in the cultural sector and included a greater diversity of knowledge, skills and expertise which would enable Beamish to build on its success to date and ensure it continues to grow, develop and thrive.

This was an exciting time in Beamish’s evolution as they moved towards the completion of the flagship project ‘Remaking Beamish’ – the biggest development in Beamish’s history including over 25 new exhibits and attractions and moving forward into living memory in the form of a 1950s town and farm. They were also creating new ways to experience the heritage of the region such as self-catering accommodation and expanding their commercial development and partnership work.

After a competitive pitch process, Peridot Partners were selected to undertake a search exercise to recruit this new board, comprising of Chair and up to 13 Trustees.

Brief

Beamish was looking to take the opportunity to completely refresh their board and introduce a much broader and diverse range of backgrounds, skillsets and knowledge. Diversity was a key part of the brief and Peridot Partners was commissioned as our track record demonstrated our ability to attract and engage individuals from diverse backgrounds and with a range of protected characteristics. Beamish was also looking to engage people who were forward thinking, open-minded, collegiate, and entrepreneurial.

For the board roles, specific areas of expertise required included:

  • Legal
  • Accounting / Financial
  • Environmental sustainability
  • Communications
  • Equality, diversity and inclusion
  • Governance
  • Commercial – including retail, food & beverage and overnight stays
  • Capital development
  • Collections and visitor engagement
  • Business networks and fundraising
  • Arts Council England Investment Principles areas (specifically, champions for Inclusivity & Relevance, Environmental Responsibility, Ambition & Quality, and Dynamism).

It was important that the incoming Chair had experience in chairing a complex organisation, and ideally bring experience of governance change. They were looking for someone who had keen commercial acumen and had been developmental in their roles. The candidates also needed to bring an ability to represent the museum and be an effective ambassadors with key stakeholders at a local, regional, national and international level.

Following a competitive process, Beamish Museum commissioned Peridot Partners to lead on a search project to put in place an entirely new board – a chair, and up to 13 trustees. Philippa Fabry was the lead at Peridot and she and the team delivered an outstanding result for the museum. Our new board is made up of a team of diverse, high-calibre individuals, and brings the broad base of skills and expertise that we initially specified. We were impressed by the extent of Peridot’s networks and the level of insight and rigour they brought to the process. It was an extensive, complex process and the team were highly organised throughout – with extremely fast response times. Philippa was an absolute pleasure to work with and we would recommend her and Peridot Partners unreservedly for a board recruitment project.

Sally Dixon, Assistant Director Partnerships & Communications, Beamish

Outcome

Over a six-week search period, Peridot Partners approached over 400 candidates, across the north-east region, nationally and internationally. Our focus was to find candidates with strong ties to the north-east across a diverse range of professional sectors – arts/museums/visitor attractions, commercial and public sectors, education and charity. Our search also engaged with diverse communities in the region, including with LGBTQ+, disability, carers, global majority communities.

We ran a comprehensive and engaging selection process which ensured we appointed the Chair first so they could be involved in the selection stages of board members.

The new Board is:

Chair: This candidate grew up in County Durham with a background in senior leadership, operations and policy. They are Co-Founder and Director of Symbio Impact Ltd, a sustainable financing and strategy consultancy, and 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, they are an accomplished spokesperson, representing multiple organisations at the United Nations. They have led policy and influence for leading British NGOs and worked in the Ministry of Defence in Whitehall. They are Vice-Chair of Welsh mental health charity Platfform and a Director of the Association of British Orchestras.

Candidate 1: A qualified accountant with 20 years’ experience at a senior level in further education, they’re also an experienced trustee and an advocate of lifelong learning and providing opportunities for all in our communities.

Candidate 2: Previously Chief Economist at the North East LEP and Principal Economist at the Department for Work and Pensions and the current Agent for the North East for The Bank of England, they have been a member of the Government Economic Service since 2008.

Candidate 3: Brings a passion for the heritage of the North East of England, a personal connection to Beamish Museum, and an effective track record as a senior leader in local government, NHS and the voluntary sector.

Candidate 4: An experienced and award-winning executive and non-executive director in large sector-leading organisations and is a Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Marketing and a member of the Institute of Directors.

Candidate 5: A heritage practitioner, curator and writer, they sit on the Collections Management Group for Queer Britain, founded the Queer Heritage and Collections Network, and was the first National Specialist for Inclusive Histories at the National Trust.

Candidate 6: An Occupational Psychologist and Head of People Strategy & Experience for Northumbrian Water Limited. An ambassador and advocate for the North East as a brilliant place to live, learn and work, they chaired the North East CIPD Branch for 10 years, is Chair of the North East Common Purpose Advisory Group, holds NED roles in education, is an Enterprise Advisor for the North East of England Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) and Mentor.

Candidate 7: The Director of Asset Management at Your Housing Group, a provider of 29,000 homes predominantly in the North West. With extensive knowledge and 25 years’ experience in construction and the social housing sector, 10 years at Director level, they are a well-recognised strategic leader in this field.

Candidate 8: The Cabinet Portfolio Holder for Economy and Partnerships, this candidate is also an active board member of six other boards with the North East at their core.

Candidate 9: A qualified Psychological Wellbeing Practitioner, working in Blaydon and Wrekenton. At 26, this candidate brings a fresh perspective and age diversity and is the founder and Co-ordinator of a special project called North East Solidarity and Teaching (N.E.S.T) which supports refugees and asylum seekers of all ages with education.

Candidate 10: Having worked in Destination Management for almost 20 years, this candidate brings expertise in supporting the development and innovation of the North East visitor economy. They sit on the VisitEngland Research Advisory Group and represents Newcastle Gateshead Initiative on the North East Tourism Alliance, co-ordinating and overseeing the research carried out on behalf of the destination, as well as the activity and projects which support tourism businesses in the region.

 

We have since worked with Beamish to recruit a Director – People and Culture, and a Chief Operating Officer.


Our dedicated Arts, Heritage and Culture team are available to assist you with the recruitment of your board or executive team. Contact Rebekah Abbott at rebekah@peridotpartners.co.uk or call her on 07538 270749.