Be­hind the scenes of the Es­tab­lish­ment

What’s it like to edit To­day, run Wimbledon or present the Ti­tanic dis­as­ter sen­si­tively? Emma Hughes talks to 12 peo­ple who head up a great Bri­tish in­sti­tu­tions

Country Life Every Week - - Another Country - www.fort­nu­mand­ma­

Tris­tram Hunt, direc­tor of the V&A

When Tris­tram hunt’s mother took him to the V&A for the first time, as an 11-year-old boy, there was one exhibit in par­tic­u­lar that caught his eye. ‘Of course, I re­mem­ber be­ing mes­merised by Tipu’s Tiger,’ he says. The life-sized wooden au­tom­a­ton, which shows a fear­some beast maul­ing a man, has be­come part of the scenery for him since he took over as direc­tor ear­lier this year, but if the tus­sle it de­picts ever re­minds him of his for­mer life in Par­lia­ment (he was the Labour MP for Stokeon-trent), he’s much too diplo­matic to say so.

‘I think what I bring from my time as an MP is a strong sense of the need for pub­lic in­sti­tu­tions to serve peo­ple,’ he ex­plains. ‘That’s why one of my first ini­tia­tives is to fo­cus on the state of de­sign ed­u­ca­tion in our schools. It’s some­thing the V&A is uniquely placed to sup­port and can make a real dif­fer­ence, par­tic­u­larly in dis­ad­van­taged ar­eas.’

As a his­to­rian, writer and broad­caster (he lec­tures at Queen Mary Univer­sity of Lon­don), he’s mak­ing the role his own, but he ad­mits to feel­ing daunted by its scope from time to time. ‘There’s al­ways a sense, as you pass the pho­to­graphs of pre­vi­ous direc­tors, of whether you can suc­ceed in an in­cred­i­bly de­mand­ing role. You have a huge amount to try to be­gin to un­der­stand.’

Am­bi­tious new sites and gal­leries in Dundee, China and Strat­ford are in the works and ex­hi­bi­tion Road has just had a land­mark makeover.

The job has al­ready sup­plied some pinch-me mo­ments: ‘The high points have ob­vi­ously in­cluded things such as open­ing the Pink Floyd ex­hi­bi­tion (un­til Oc­to­ber 1) and host­ing Kofi An­nan at the Prix Pictet pho­tog­ra­phy awards, but, re­ally, the joy of this job is hav­ing time to talk with cu­ra­tors about their col­lec­tions.’

‘There’s al­ways a sense of whether you can suc­ceed in an in­cred­i­bly de­mand­ing role’

David Pickard, direc­tor of The Proms

Last year, David Pickard lis­tened to ev­ery sin­gle Prom. ‘I’d never known an ex­pe­ri­ence like it,’ he re­mem­bers. ‘You’re on a roller­coaster work­ing here; some­thing hap­pens and you have no time to re­flect be­cause you’re onto the next thing straight away.’ Al­though he’d over­seen the pro­gramme, there were still sur­prises, such as when Daniel Baren­boim and Martha Arg­erich sat down at the piano for a ‘beau­ti­ful and mov­ing’ duet.

That cen­tral Proms ten­sion be­tween the planned and the serendip­i­tous is fa­mil­iar to him. ‘It’s like when you’re mu­sic-mak­ing. There are sched­ules to be ad­hered to and ev­ery­thing sort of has to run to time, but it’s also got to have the flex­i­bil­ity for the mo­ments of im­pro­vi­sa­tion and in­spi­ra­tion that hap­pen dur­ing a con­cert.’

Af­ter study­ing mu­sic at Cam­bridge, Mr Pickard knew that he wanted to work in the Arts ‘not as a per­former, but as some­body who helped to cre­ate in­ter­est­ing things’. Jobs at the helm of the Orches­tra of the Age of En­light­en­ment and Glyn­de­bourne fol­lowed, be­fore he suc­ceeded Roger Wright at the Royal Al­bert Hall last year. ‘We’re very lucky that ev­ery­body wants to per­form at the Proms,’ he says. ‘The more chal­leng­ing bit is mak­ing sure that the au­di­ence is still there.’

He’s hop­ing to reach out to young peo­ple, is launch­ing an ac­ces­si­ble Prom for dis­abled peo­ple and is look­ing be­yond Lon­don: Hull, UK City of Cul­ture 2017, will host a Prom this year.

‘The fact that I’m in charge of some­thing that means so much to so many peo­ple—ev­ery day, that’s daunt­ing to me,’ he ad­mits, ‘but I’ve got what I think is prob­a­bly the best job in clas­si­cal mu­sic.’

The BBC Proms runs from July 14 to Septem­ber 9 ( proms; www.roy­alal­

‘I’ve got what I think is prob­a­bly the best job in clas­si­cal mu­sic

Sea­mus Buck­ley, clerk of the course at Good­wood Race­course

Sea­mus Buck­ley was work­ing as es­tates man­ager at Ep­som when he got the call from the West Sus­sex race­course in 1994. ‘I’ve never re­gret­ted say­ing yes for a minute,’ he says. ‘It’s been a joy and an ab­so­lute plea­sure to be in­volved—not just in the race­course, but also in the es­tate and ev­ery­thing that hap­pens here.’

As clerk of the course, Mr Buck­ley is in charge of mak­ing sure the turf is in per­fect con­di­tion for all meet­ings—‘it’s a fairly pow­er­ful po­si­tion, but I don’t want to be a big­head,’ he says mod­estly— and it’s an ex­traor­di­nar­ily com­plex en­deav­our. ‘A lot of the horses are trained on ar­ti­fi­cial, all-weather sur­faces now, which means we’ve got to mimic that on the turf and main­tain a lovely cush­ion of grass so they don’t dam­age them­selves,’ he ex­plains. ‘If we pro­duced firm ground here at Good­wood, we’d get very few runners, but, be­cause we’re 700ft above the sea, on chalk, it dries out and drains very quickly.’

The chal­lenges are con­stant and un­pre­dictable. ‘Your ir­ri­ga­tion sys­tem might break down, a ma­chine might go wrong, then you lose time—which is of the essence. If you’re pro­grammed to race on Au­gust 1, it’s no good hav­ing ev­ery­thing ready for Au­gust 2.’

At the end of this year, Mr Buck­ley will step down from his cur­rent role, but he’ll still be in­volved. ‘On a nice day, there’s nowhere like Good­wood. It’s not only one of the most pres­ti­gious race­courses in the coun­try, but one of the most beau­ti­ful.’

Glo­ri­ous Good­wood is on Au­gust 1–5 (www.good­

‘On a nice day, there’s nowhere like Good­wood’

‘There are a lot of un­pre­dicta­bles. We never have two days, or two years, that are the same’

Sarah Clarke, direc­tor of the Wimbledon Cham­pi­onships

Sarah Clarke’s re­la­tion­ship with the All Eng­land Lawn Ten­nis Club has shaped her life. ‘When I was fin­ish­ing at school, I came to Wimbledon one day to have a think about what I wanted to do,’ she re­mem­bers. She ap­plied for a hol­i­day job look­ing af­ter the ball boys and ball girls, which she kept up through­out her stud­ies. Af­ter grad­u­at­ing, she went to work else­where, ‘but, ev­ery year, I’d come back to Wimbledon for the Cham­pi­onships.’ She was per­suaded to go part-time in the press of­fice in 2002 and rose through the ranks, tak­ing over the top job in 2013.

Al­though the fort­night it­self presents the big­gest lo­gis­ti­cal chal­lenges (the tens of thou­sands of spec­ta­tors get through an av­er­age of 177,135 glasses of Pimm’s, 139,435 por­tions of straw­ber­ries and 133,800 scones), Miss Clarke is plate-spin­ning year-round. ‘There are a lot of un­pre­dicta­bles,’ she ad­mits. ‘We never have two days, or two years, that are the same. It can be a very com­plex jig­saw puz­zle.’

She thinks of her­self as ‘just one of many tem­po­rary cus­to­di­ans’ and feels ‘ex­cep­tion­ally priv­i­leged’. ‘At some point be­fore the tour­na­ment, I’ll come into work at 5am and walk around the grounds and lis­ten. It’s like this sleep­ing gi­ant, grad­u­ally be­ing wo­ken up. You know that some­thing re­ally spe­cial is just around the cor­ner.’

The pub­lic bal­lot for Wimbledon 2018 (on July 2–15) opens as soon as this year’s tour­na­ment is over (

‘I think of Twit­ter and In­sta­gram as the mod­ern-day shop floor. Ul­ti­mately, we’re here to make peo­ple smile

Ewan Ven­ters, chief ex­ec­u­tive of Fort­num & Ma­son

‘There’s noth­ing quite like it,’ says Ewan Ven­ters. ‘Just walk­ing into the store and be­ing greeted by the red car­pets and chan­de­liers—it slows life down. In a crazy world in which ev­ery­thing’s in­stant, there’s a sense that pres­sures are sus­pended while you’re in here.’

Fort­nums has been in busi­ness for 310 years, but when Mr Ven­ters was head­hunted from Sel­fridges in 2012, it was in need of fresh­en­ing up —trade in the once-bustling Foun­tain restau­rant had slowed. To­day, the pic­ture looks very dif­fer­ent: last Christ­mas, the com­pany posted profit growth of more than 25% for the third year in a row, there are out­posts in St Pan­cras and Heathrow Ter­mi­nal 5 and the Foun­tain’s re­place­ment, 45 Jermyn Street, is a genuine des­ti­na­tion restau­rant.

None of this has been in­no­va­tion for in­no­va­tion’s sake, how­ever. ‘It’s a very spe­cial thing to come into some­thing that’s been loved and cher­ished by the same fam­ily for so many decades,’ Mr Ven­ters says.

His se­cret weapon? So­cial me­dia. ‘I think of Twit­ter and In­sta­gram as the mod­ern-day shop floor. You’re chat­ting to cus­tomers, get­ting to know prod­ucts—you’re in­ter­act­ing. Ul­ti­mately, we’re here to make peo­ple smile.’

‘I would hope for ev­ery­one to feel a bit en­light­ened at the end of it

‘It’s still my favourite sport and I have a deep, deep love for it

Sarah Sands, editor of To­day

‘There’s a story that the sig­nal for the nu­clear sub­marines to open the sealed or­ders from the Prime Min­is­ter is when To­day hasn’t been on air for three days,’ re­veals Sarah Sands. ‘I checked it out with the Navy and it’s at least partly true.’ She laughs: ‘You can see why I might be wor­ried about my lack of tech­ni­cal ra­dio ex­pe­ri­ence.’ Mrs Sands edited the Sun­day

Tele­graph and then the Lon­don Evening Stan­dard—where she’s been suc­ceeded by Ge­orge Os­borne —be­fore start­ing in April at Ra­dio 4’s flag­ship news pro­gramme (6am– 9am Mon­day–fri­day, 7am–9am Satur­days). ‘I felt this was a dream job. It’s an hon­our for an out­sider from news­pa­pers to be put in charge. The let­ters of con­grat­u­la­tions that flooded in con­firmed my pride— and my fam­ily took the plung­ing salary on the chin.’

To­day, which re­cently notched up 7.45 mil­lion weekly lis­ten­ers, cel­e­brates its 60th birth­day this year—and John Humphrys, its long­est-serv­ing pre­sen­ter, had thought it un­likely he’d cover an­other elec­tion —un­til last month’s. How will she en­sure the ‘an­chor in the na­tion’s day’ holds fast? ‘It must set the agenda, but it’s also a con­ver­sa­tion, so I want to make sure it’s the one that the coun­try wishes to be part of. I would hope for ev­ery­one to feel a bit en­light­ened at the end of it.’

As for the tone: ‘I re­mem­ber the bril­liant Mar­garet Ruther­ford-type women who launched it. They said voices had to be vig­or­ous and cheerful. Just so.’

Martin Slum­bers, chief ex­ec­u­tive of The R&A and sec­re­tary of The Royal and An­cient Golf Club of St An­drews

‘I now be­lieve the peo­ple who told me that, if you work in the game, you don’t get much time to play it,’ laughs Martin Slum­bers, ‘but it’s still my favourite sport and I have a deep, deep love for it.’ Af­ter 30 years as an in­vest­ment banker in Lon­don and Hong Kong, in 2015, he de­cided ‘to leave the traf­fic be­hind and move up here to Fife. I felt it was a fan­tas­tic op­por­tu­nity to put some­thing back into the game’.

He ad­mits to some nerves. ‘I knew how the City worked. Learn­ing how a com­pletely new en­vi­ron­ment op­er­ated was the thing I was most ap­pre­hen­sive about. And there’s been very lit­tle that’s hap­pened in golf since it started that the R&A hasn’t been at the cen­tre of. The ques­tion I asked my­self was “How can I take it for­wards in the world?”.’

Broad­en­ing the game’s reach is at the heart of his strat­egy. He’s set the tar­get of a quar­ter of the Open spec­ta­tors be­ing un­der 25 and, last year, he set up a camp­ing vil­lage at Royal Troon for the next gen­er­a­tion of golf fans—young peo­ple who bought a ticket got a tent and a pitch for free. ‘Com­ing to the Open is one of sum­mer’s great things to do as a fam­ily,’ he smiles, ‘and we want to see more peo­ple play­ing golf in 100 years’ time than do to­day.’

The Open re­turns to the Royal and An­cient in 2020 on July 12–19 (

Steve Hugh­son, chief ex­ec­u­tive of the Royal Welsh Show

For Steve Hugh­son, the wheel has come full cir­cle. ‘I was born in Builth Wells in 1963, the same year the Royal Welsh found its home on the per­ma­nent site there,’ he ex­plains. ‘And I com­peted as a lad in the Young Farmers’ move­ment. When I started here in 2013, I ac­tu­ally shared my 50th birth­day with the show. It just seemed so right.’

What was he do­ing in be­tween? Not what you might ex­pect. For 30 years, Mr Hugh­son was a po­lice of­fi­cer, first in the Met and then as the chief su­per­in­ten­dent of Dyfed­powys Po­lice, the Royal Welsh’s lo­cal force. He was com­ing to the end of his time there when a friend showed him the job description for his cur­rent role. ‘It felt like it had been writ­ten for me,’ he re­mem­bers.

To­day, he’s in charge of Bri­tain’s largest agri­cul­tural ex­trav­a­ganza, which sees 240,000 peo­ple pass­ing through the gates of the show­ground over the four days to view 7,000 an­i­mals and 1,000 trade stands, su­per­vised by some 1,000 stew­ards. ‘It’s a real team ef­fort,’ he says mod­estly. ‘You do need a bit of re­as­sur­ance that you’re go­ing in the right di­rec­tion and I get that quite of­ten.’

Among his pri­or­i­ties are a com­mit­ment to keep­ing farm­ing front and cen­tre (‘it’s even more rel­e­vant now than ever, with new trade deals on the horizon’) and mak­ing the show more tech­no­log­i­cally friendly (‘we’ve in­stalled a 4G phone mast on site be­cause peo­ple used to say they couldn’t get a sig­nal. You don’t hear that any­more’).

‘How­ever, the real highlight is to watch peo­ple en­joy­ing them­selves and chil­dren with ice creams look­ing in won­der at things they only nor­mally see on TV. It’s more than a show—it’s a way of life and it means so much to so many peo­ple. In­clud­ing me.’

The Royal Welsh Show is on July 24–27 (

‘It’s a way of life and it means so much to so many peo­ple. In­clud­ing me

‘Our aim has al­ways been to get more peo­ple grow­ing and make this coun­try greener

Sue Biggs, di­rec­tor­gen­eral of the RHS

‘In some ways, it was a slightly strange move,’ ad­mits Sue Biggs. ‘I’m not a trained hor­ti­cul­tur­al­ist and I’ve never run a char­ity, but, in oth­ers, it made com­plete sense.’ She’d spent 25 years at lux­ury-travel spe­cial­ist Kuoni when she spot­ted the ad­vert for the job in the Sun­day Times. ‘I’d been a mem­ber for 20 years and I re­alised that our client base was very sim­i­lar—so many peo­ple have a pas­sion for both travel and gar­den­ing.’

Her own took root when she was seven. ‘My mum bought me a packet of seeds and I thought to my­self “What a mis­er­able present”.’ How­ever, she planted them and the Vir­ginia stocks that duly ap­peared made some­thing click into place for her. Still, the idea of that lit­tle girl one day walk­ing The Queen around the Chelsea Flower Show ‘never ceases to amaze me—it’s such a treat and an hon­our’.

This sum­mer saw the cur­tain go­ing up on the first-ever RHS show at Chatsworth, with Hamp­ton Court and Tat­ton Park this month. ‘My friends al­ways tell me “You’re so lucky, spend­ing your life at flower shows” and they’re right, of course,’ says Miss Biggs.

‘You do need stamina, but our aim has al­ways been to get more peo­ple grow­ing and make this coun­try a greener, more beau­ti­ful place. That can’t be a bad thing to go to work for ev­ery day.’

The Hamp­ton Court Flower Show runs un­til July 9 and Tat­ton Park Flower Show on July 19–23 (www.

‘As well as the ship, we’re ex­plor­ing the city and the peo­ple who made her

‘It’s im­pos­si­ble to be any­thing other than ex­hil­a­rated here

Tim Hus­bands, chief ex­ec­u­tive of Ti­tanic Belfast

In 2012, on the cen­te­nary of the sail­ing of RMS Ti­tanic, a dif­fer­ent —and hap­pier—sort of launch took place: Belfast’s sleek, multi-mil­lion­pound cen­tre ded­i­cated to the ves­sel opened its doors. More than 100,000 tick­ets had been pre-sold. ‘The world’s eyes were on us,’ says Tim Hus­bands, who mas­ter­minded it. Could he meet ex­pec­ta­tions? Yes—and then some: since then, the cen­tre has wel­comed 3.5 mil­lion vis­i­tors from 145 coun­tries (in­clud­ing The Queen as part of her Di­a­mond Ju­bilee tour). It’s proved a game-changer for Belfast it­self, which now boasts a hand­some Ti­tanic Quar­ter.

Ti­tanic Belfast has been praised for its sen­si­tive, thought­ful ap­proach to com­mem­o­rat­ing the dis­as­ter. To stop it feel­ing sen­sa­tion­al­ist, Mr Hus­bands wanted to put the telling of or­di­nary hu­man sto­ries at the fore­front (this comes nat­u­rally to him: he’s a film buff). ‘And it has a lot to do with au­then­tic­ity,’ he ex­plains. ‘Peo­ple can trace the story of the ship from de­sign all the way through to its tragic end, on the ex­act spot where she was built and launched. As well as the ship, we’re ex­plor­ing the city and the peo­ple who made her.’

Last year, Ti­tanic Belfast was named Europe’s lead­ing visitor at­trac­tion at the World Travel Awards (beat­ing the Eif­fel Tower and the Colos­seum). What does Mr Hus­bands think tipped the scales? ‘Al­though the ship it­self lies un­der 13,000ft of wa­ter, the story still cap­tures minds and hearts through­out the world. It’s en­dur­ing.’


Alex Beard, chief ex­ec­u­tive of the Royal Opera House

Alex Beard’s of­fice, which looks out onto Covent Gar­den, must be one of Lon­don’s most en­vied. ‘I don’t get to spend much time in here, to be hon­est,’ he con­fides. He ar­rives be­fore 8am many days and is in the au­di­ence four or more nights a week. ‘It can be ex­haust­ing, but I’m spend­ing the time watch­ing some of the world’s great­est artists ex­press­ing emo­tions that are at the heart of what makes us tick. It’s def­i­nitely not a tough life—it’s im­pos­si­ble to be any­thing other than ex­hil­a­rated here.’

Be­fore he ar­rived in 2013, he was deputy direc­tor of Tate. The dif­fer­ence, as he puts it, be­tween ‘be­ing num­ber one and num­ber two’, is vast. ‘The buck stops with you. I was up for it, but you never quite know how that’s go­ing to play out. And the level of in­ten­sity here is ex­tra­or­di­nary, but ev­ery­one who’s in­volved has a shared be­lief that opera and bal­let make life bet­ter.’

He’s de­lighted that 450 cine­mas across Bri­tain now broad­cast Royal Opera House (ROH) per­for­mances at spe­cial screen­ings and is look­ing for­ward to next sea­son, which will fea­ture a new Swan Lake (‘al­ways a mo­men­tous event for any bal­let com­pany’). His favourite sound in the au­di­to­rium? ‘A school group com­ing in for the first time,’ he says, with­out hes­i­ta­tion. ‘Thirty kids col­lec­tively gasp and the ap­plause from them af­ter they’ve heard their first opera —they’re to­tally trans­ported by it. It’s sheer magic.’

The ROH is cur­rently stag­ing ‘Tu­ran­dot’ (un­til July 16, www.

Jim Hawkins, head master of Har­row School

‘I’ll never for­get see­ing the whole school to­gether like that,’ says Jim Hawkins, re­mem­ber­ing ad­dress­ing a packed Speech Room at Har­row on his first day in Septem­ber 2011. He was very con­scious of the weight of 445 years of his­tory: ‘I felt the need to keep calm and take my time over what was to be said. Even now, I still get that sense of ex­hil­a­ra­tion on the first day of each new term.’

Pre­vi­ously head­mas­ter of Nor­wich School (a post he took up aged only 36), Mr Hawkins sees his role as be­ing both to cher­ish Har­row’s tra­di­tions and to en­sure it re­mains an ‘out­ward­look­ing place’. ‘The word “stew­ard­ship” springs to mind,’ he says. ‘One must be re­spect­ful of what has worked well in the past, but also avoid com­pla­cency and con­tin­u­ally look for ways to im­prove.’

Phi­lan­thropy is es­pe­cially im­por­tant to him: on his watch, Har­row has forged more than 25 dif­fer­ent ed­u­ca­tional part­ner­ships with State schools, plus a bur­geon­ing char­i­ta­ble and com­mu­nity-ser­vice pro­gramme. He re­cently in­vited pupils from a lo­cal pri­mary to speak to the boys on the ad­van­tages of work­ing to­gether. ‘It must have been a daunt­ing prospect for them, but they de­liv­ered their speeches with such con­fi­dence.’

Other high­lights in­clude Churchill Songs, in which the whole school, plus par­ents, old boys and staff, gather in the Royal Al­bert Hall to cel­e­brate the school’s tra­di­tions, cul­mi­nat­ing in the singing of Forty

Years On. The last, in 2012, was a sell­out and this year’s prom­ises to be as well. ‘It’s an un­for­get­table evening—the at­mos­phere is very spe­cial in­deed.’


‘I still get that sense of ex­hil­a­ra­tion on the first day of each new term

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