At the start of 2019 I decided to apply for a Leadership course funded by the Arts Council England. Museum Resilient Leadership (MRL) has been now running since 2015, and each year 15 people are selected from across England to take part in the year long course. I knew that coming into my first Directorship that the finding my feet would be a challenge so MRL looked like a great way to support my learning, build my resilience and though me, the resilience of the whole of the Museum.
So, that’s how I found myself in the mini bus full of museum professionals heading up into the Yorkshire Dales in the pouring rain! I was delighted to be accepted onto the course, and then reality hit home. I’d agreed to two residential courses, one day training per month and an overseas study visit, and suddenly that seemed overwhelming. The preparation for the first residential did nothing to calm my nerves, as there were presentations to get ready, resources to read and a huge list of participants to meet.
However, I shouldn’t have been worried: It’s easy to forget that an inspiring, sharing and creative group of people work in Museums and Heritage when you are caught up in the pressures of your own museum. The people I met were wonderful. Three days of nonstop thinking and learning followed. Practical tasks (a bit like The Apprentice!), presentations on topics such as making decisions, difficult conversations, budgets, planning and leading people. A lot of hard work made much easier by lovely people and great food. Two long walks around the Dales set a structure to the weekend, and a chance to talk and think with my fellow attendees.
I came back to the Museum with a new network of people to call on for help, a mentor to support me over the upcoming year, and a long list of things I want to do for the Museum.
The second session was a day all about income and finance at the Black Country Living Museum, which will be closely followed by a session in Manchester about role of Museums and their leaders in the city. After that, I will be taking part in a funded overseas trip, where I will be visiting museums in Copenhagen and talking to their Directors about how they have built resilience though building their audience.
There is so much more to come, days on governance, income generation, leadership in the arts, site development as well as meeting former MRL graduates and meetings with my Mentor.
I feel very lucky to have this opportunity, and I can already see the positive impact it is having on us here at the London Museum of Water & Steam as I bring my learning back and put it into action. I am so excited for what the next year will bring.