Released: Friday 8th January 2016 at 10:58
Sunderland’s growing reputation in the cultural and creative industries has been boosted by the appointment of Keith Merrin as Director of National Glass Centre, who will join in March.
Sunderland’s growing reputation in the cultural and creative industries has been boosted by the appointment of two senior arts executives.
Keith Merrin, Chief Executive of Museums and Archives Northumberland, has been appointed as Director of National Glass Centre and Rebecca Ball, Director of The Cultural Spring, moves into the new role of Bid Director for Sunderland’s campaign to be named UK City of Culture 2021.
The two directors will work together to help implement Sunderland’s cultural strategy that puts arts, culture and creative industries at the heart of the city’s future.
Mr Merrin, who has grown Woodhorn Museum in Northumberland into one of the North’s most successful visitor attractions, will take up his new post in March. As well as bringing the famous Tower Poppies to Woodhorn, he is also responsible for setting up the community arts project ‘Bait’ – part of the multi-million pound Creative People and Places programme financed by Arts Council England.
Ms Ball has also been successful in the Creative People and Places programme as Director of The Cultural Spring, which works with communities in Sunderland and South Tyneside on projects including The Great North Passion and the Dominic Wilcox Inventors programme.
Both directors will work with the University of Sunderland which runs National Glass Centre and is a partner in The Cultural Spring along with Sunderland’s Music Arts and Culture Trust (MAC) and the Customs House in South Shields.
The appointments were welcomed by the Dean of Arts Design and Media at the University, Graeme Thompson: “Sunderland is fortunate to have secured the services of two such experienced cultural leaders. Keith and Rebecca will play important roles in the continuing development of Sunderland as a cultural destination and creative powerhouse.
“This signals a step change in the development of Sunderland’s cultural assets.”
Keith Merrin said: “It’s an exciting time to be coming to Sunderland. National Glass Centre is going from strength to strength and the city itself is setting out ambitious plans to place arts and culture at the centre of its economic regeneration.”
Rebecca Ball commented: “There is so much energy and ambition in Sunderland. As well as existing assets such as the Empire Theatre and National Glass Centre, there’s the exciting development of a new cultural quarter around the old Fire Station. The City of Culture bid is going to be an opportunity for Sunderland to establish itself as a national centre for arts, heritage and culture.”
Paul Callaghan, of the MAC Trust, said: “We are delighted to have Keith and Rebecca playing such key roles in Sunderland’s cultural renaissance. Both bring great vision, experience and drive to their respective posts.”
Councillor John Kelly, Sunderland City Council’s Portfolio Holder for Public Health, Wellness and Culture, said: "The appointment of two very experienced and enthusiastic individuals to these key posts demonstrates both our city’s ambition and our commitment to culture here in Sunderland. I’d like to welcome Keith in his new role at National Glass Centre. The centre celebrates both our cultural and industrial heritage and is something we, as a city are rightly proud of.”
Welcoming Rebecca to her new role, Councillor Mel Speding, Chair of the city’s Cultural Partnership, added: "Planning has already begun and with our Sunderland Cultural Strategy, we already have a strong platform from which to progress. With Rebecca’s appointment we can now begin to focus, refine and deliver on those plans as we build up towards being the UK City of Culture 2021.
“In their new roles I am sure that both Rebecca and Keith will be showcasing our city and raising our cultural profile even higher on both national and international stages.”
The City of Culture bid is being supported by Sunderland City Council, the MAC Trust and the University of Sunderland.
Keith Merrin is the Chief Executive of the Woodhorn Charitable Trust which runs four museums in Northumberland and the Northumberland Archives and delivers heritage, arts and cultural education and outreach work with people throughout Northumberland, the North East of England and online. He has recently overseen record visitor numbers at Woodhorn Museum and developed and secured over £3million in funding for the South East Northumberland arts project – bait. Formerly Director of Bede’s World he spearheaded the successful campaign to have Bede’s Wearmouth-Jarrow monastery nominated as a World Heritage Site and was Creative Director for Newcastle Gateshead Initiative. Keith is a 2004/5 Fellow of the Clore Leadership Programme and a board member of the North East Culture Partnership. He was born in Sunderland and grew up in South Tyneside.
Rebecca Ballbegan her career in dance working for The Place Theatre in London, CUE Arts Management and South East Dance where she led Community and Education projects. She has worked at Arts Council England in a number of roles, becoming Director of Arts for the South East region in 2010. She has an MA in Cultural Policy, and is a Fellow of the Clore Cultural Leadership Programme through which she spent time at National Theatre Wales and with Ambassador Theatre Group. Since 2014 Rebecca has worked as Director of The Cultural Spring – a £2 million Arts Council England funded programme working in Sunderland and South Tyneside to increase opportunities for arts participation in the area.
National Glass Centre
Glass making is a key element in the history of Sunderland, bringing together its religious, social and industrial heritage. Ever since Benedict Biscop brought the first glaziers over from Gaul in 674 AD, Sunderland has had a rich glassmaking heritage.
Glass making has played an important part in the industrial landscape of the city, with factories such as Pyrex and Hartley Woods providing employment and economic stability.
Since the decline of these important industries, National Glass Centre at The University of Sunderland has been dedicated to continuing the legacy of glass making, supporting and nurturing new glassmaking talent with degree and PhD students studying at the largest Glass and Ceramics Department in Europe.
The centre’s rich and varied exhibition, learning and participation programmes aims to foster enthusiasm and understanding of glass. National Glass Centre attracts 210,000 visitors each year and was built on former Thompsons Ship yard; it boasts a working Hot Glass Studio, where visitors can watch free, daily demonstrations and many internationally renowned glass artists have exhibited in the Centre’s galleries and completed residencies in the Hot Glass Studio.
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