Can you tell us about yourself and your current role?
Well, I started with a history degree before doing a PGCE and qualifying as a history teacher. I taught for three and a half years but wanted to try something else. A job then came up in the National Archives, which used my skills as a teacher and consisted of providing resources to schools and teachers. I then worked my way up to Head of Education and Online, which included creating online resources for schools using archive material. Documents inevitably translate very well online, so this became a real growth area for us. I worked at the National Archives for ten years and at the outset I had expected to go back to teaching but ended up carving out a career in cultural heritage.
A job then came up in Parliament and I worked as Head of Public Engagement and Learning for seven years, working on a range of projects to improve public understanding of Parliament before moving onto the Science Museum Group as Director of Learning. I led science engagement work across the five national museums of SMG, and I was there for just under three years. The perfect job then came up as Director of Public Engagement here at Historic Royal Palaces and I’ve been here now for four and half years! My first love was history so it is my calling, but I’ve also loved science and politics!
Amazing! Well, you’ve touched upon my next question then which was has this always been a field you wanted to go into?
In reality I didn’t have a clue that these types of jobs existed, or what public engagement was, when I first started out. But I enjoyed communicating with the public ( students), which of course you do in teaching – albeit a captive public! The sector has evolved, and I’ve been involved with lots of different roles over the last 28 years. For me the consistent strand has been working in institutions and making them accessible to as wide a public as possible.
You’ve had quite a few different roles then! Can you narrow down any favourite experiences or exciting opportunities for you?
Well, it’ll be hard to narrow it down to just the one! Currently at Hampton Court, my office is in the front of the Palace overlooking the West Front which is surreal! I am also able to kayak to work, using the Thames to travel how the Tudors would have done, though definitely in less splendour.
Oh, wow that is quite an experience! Definitely not something everyone can say!
I’ve really been fortunate enough to be involved in many different things. At the National Archives, I oversaw one of the last reunions of First World War veterans, including Harry Patch, which was an incredible experience. Prince Charles came in to meet them and they also worked with school children including using video conferencing. It was incredible to comprehend they had been born at the end of the 19th century.
When I worked in Parliament, I created the TEDxHousesofParliament events. This was a whole new area - of event production,, but gave me the opportunity to curate events, meet and work with incredible speakers. I also set up Parliament Week, a national awareness week, which included filming BBC Question Time in Westminster Hall for the first time! Then with the Science Museum I ran TEDxLondon, where I got to work with Stephen Hawking and Al Murray on the same bill). I also adored the industrial heritage I got to walk past every day like Stephenson’s Rocket.
Now with Historic Royal Palaces, I continue to get to do some great things, In 2018 I led the follow up to the Poppies project. We lit 10,000 flames in the moat for 7 nights to mark the centenary of the end of WW1. Over 350,000 visitors came to see the display which was quite full on! Now we’re working on Superbloom which is a spectacular flower display in the Moat to celebrate the Platinum Jubilee which opens in June. We’ve transformed the Moat landscape and next week we are sowing 20 millions seeds. This has been a labour of love for the past three years, and a project we hung onto during the dark days of the pandemic which hit HRP very hard. We are an independently funded charity reliant on visitor income and we lost around £100m and it will take us many years to recover.