MRL 3 2016-2017


The 2016-2017 programme concluded in March 2017. MRL received some outstanding reviews:

I cannot praise the Programme highly enough. I've gone from having a slightly wafty ambition to do something 'more' to knowing exactly what I want to do, and recognising that I have the strength and the determination to get me there. I am more confident in every area of my working and personal life, and have put the skills and learning from the last year into practice, with immediate and sustainable results.

This is one participant's view of a journey which began the previous May:

workshop 1, The Retreat, may 11, 12 & 13, Malham Tarn, North Yorkshire

The art and science of leadership

The Programme starts with a 360° examination of leadership, in the beautiful setting of the Centre for Management, High Trenhouse, which is just north of Skipton.  We return to High Trenhouse at the end of the MRL each year.  The 2016-2017 group enjoyed the workshop:

I had very high expectations of the workshop, course leaders and the venue and all lived up to those expectations. The element that exceeded my expectations was my fellow MRL'ers - I really loved the way we all got on and the honesty and integrity with which everyone approached the exercises we undertook. I expected the group to be great, but thought people might be more reserved or take longer to bond.

I found each of the facilitators very inspiring, in very different ways. Each segment of the residential gave the opportunity to learn skills which have helped build very successful careers, and I fully intend to make the most of their experiences. I found the 'tutors' friendly, encouraging and helpful, without being patronising, which made the learning enjoyable. There was a lot of laughing, and actually I would say that while it was extremely intensive it was also a lot of fun.

At the risk of sounding twee, I found it all very inspiring and came away full of ideas to implement at work and in my personal life. People are already commenting about how fired up I seem, and my team are reaping the benefits of the motivational work already! I found the dealing with difficult people section led by Arnie extremely valuable, and have already begun to apply this both in and out of work. I would like some more on this please. I also found all of the discussions on reframing and currency fascinating - and in fact have made the reframing my long term goal in the take home tasks that Arnie set. One of my best bits was the group feedback session and top tips - sharing with peers felt valuable and created a real sense of closeness. I very much enjoy giving praise and compliments anyway, and to share how someone had made you feel, and to see their reaction to it was really special.




The second workshop looks at the joys and difficulties of running a social enterprise to create surpluses for reinvestment rather than profits for distribution.  This is Tom Baker, on the right, talking about Loaf, the cooperative he started in Stirchley, Birmingham, because of his love of good food.  The group splits into two and the other half work in the fish and chip shop at the Black Country Living Museum.

I was reminded of the phrase - leadership at every level. With regards to the skill set and motivation of the team at Hobbs, it was refreshing to see how enthusiastic they remained, alert to the possibility of change and reinvention, given that the process they undertake on a daily basis is pretty rigorous and fairly formulaic. Readjusting process to ensure efficiencies all the time.

By far the best bit for me was how on message they all were. Everyone at the museum were so much behind the Vision and Mission. They all loved and cared about it as a whole as well as taking lots of pride in their part. I could go on about this for ages. I was totally inspired and want to learn how to emulate it.

* every single thing that Andrew said. I have it printed out and stuck on my wall, and I'm trying to incorporate little changes in my day-to-day leadership. * I am seeing more clearly areas that I find easier, and areas that challenge me. * I need to make time to ensure I am physically well. I hadn't realised how fatigued my body was before Workshop 1, and I made some specific changes before workshop 2. I know it made a difference to my ability to engage and be present. * Use my support systems. "Stronger together" is very powerful for me.


leadership in business and politics

David Smith,  Economics Editor of the Sunday Times used his recent book: Something Will Turn Up: Britain's Economy, Past, Present and Future,  to offer fascinating insights into the good bad and ugly aspects of leadership in the post-war British economy. He looked at case studies, Jim Callaghan, Margaret Thatcher, John Major and David Cameron.  In the afternoon Stephen Feber Programme Director and Andrew Lovett Director and CEO at the Black Country Living Museum, looked in depth at the value and use of numerical and financial information in  leading cultural organisations.

I really enjoyed hearing about the current political climate from someone who is embedded in that world. He was an engaging and entertaining speaker, and gave a real insight into the political machinations at the highest level.

David was a wonderful speaker, I really enjoyed the opportunity to meet a professional from another sector who had witnessed at first hand different issues of leadership and over a period of time. His depth of knowledge and considerate inquiry into our own thoughts and observations was well appreciated. This is the kind of experience that marks the MRL programme as a high quality, unique proposition for cultural professionals. The atmosphere was so relaxed and personal - loved it, thank you so much.

When I started MRL I didn't really get how vital number knowledge is. That's changed, and I've set myself to learning the details of as many areas as possible. I'm good with my own numbers and budgets, but I'm pushing myself to learn more about others now. I found seeing BCLM from Andrew's perspective fascinating, and made me think further about the direction my organisation is moving in. I also very much appreciated having my thoughts on setting realistic targets reaffirmed. I cannot see how setting targets which we'll never meet is good for moral - surely setting realistic targets which you can then exceed is better for everyone?

WORKSHOP 4, september 09


The Overseas Study Visit (OSV) is a highlight of the MRL year.  This image is from Sophie Branscombe's visit to the institution Art Site country's and experiences experiences in Japan.

Others visited:

  • Pinotecca Brera in Milan

  • Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, Boston (ISGM)

  • Minneapolis Institute of Art, Minnesota (MIA)

  • Royal Ontario Museum, Toronto

  • Workers Museum Copenhagen Institute Works

  • Copenhagen Medical Museum

  • Copenhagen Design Museum

  • Copenhagen Christiana

  • Copenhagen Danish Architecture Centre, Copenhagen

  • Museum of Art, Architecture and Design

  • Brooklyn Museum, Museum Hack

  • Bronx Museum of the Arts

  • Museum of Modern Art

  • National Museum of Denmark, Copenhagen.

  • Sporvejsmuseet Skjoldenaesholm (National Tramway Museum of Denmark at Skjoldenaesholm)

  • Viking Ship Museum, Roskilde

  • Turmaden des Capita Agriturismo Binissues Agricultural Museum

  • Göteborgs stadsmuseum National Museum of World Cultures

  • Uffizi Gallery, Florence

  • Benesse Art Site Naoshima

The 4th workshop gives everyone a chance to present their experiences and reflect:

Wonderful, fantastic, inspirational and a privilege, thank you very much MRL and ACE!

This (reflecting on the relationship between country's culture and its institutions) was one of the most fascinating aspects of my visit. One element was the whole philanthropic side of things.... which has a clear effect upon the museums' set-up. Just as interesting was the struggle the museums are having around relevance - trying to reach out to more diverse audiences when the buildings and collections are rooted in crimes against the very communities they are trying to reach. I had several discussions about this with staff in a range of roles, from front-of-house to chief exec and the documentation managers and have begun working on what I learned into two of my current programmes of work.

Both professionally and personally the OSV was an enriching, stimulating and very useful experience for me. The museum professionals I met were all very generous with their time and open with their expertise and advice and I've made several connections I'll be building on in future. I went back to work feeling as if I'd had an amazing, if exhausting, time.

It was incredibly valuable to get the opportunity to meet with senior museum professionals and discover how their different takes on what resilience means to their institution and context.

I have never had a comparable experience. I would like to do this again.

For my own personal development, less so for my professional development.

It was an amazing week and I learned so much about resilience, the international sector and myself.

I enjoy travelling alone and it was good to have a sense of purpose for this trip. I visited both my organisations at different times of the day and not just for the pre-arranged meetings.

Loved it. Nice to do something non Holocaust, and nice to be talked to like as a museum professional with a museum professional.

WORKSHOP 5, october 07


Workshop 5 took a wide ranging look at governance, boards and the relationship between the CEO, trustees or committee members and the strategy and tactics required to run a successful organisation. This year Michael Day CEO at Historic Royal Palaces and recruitment consultant Liz Amos, reflected on their experiences and shared their wisdom.

HRP clearly had a strong leader with a clear sense of purpose, and the skills and charisma to take his staff along with him. Trying something new, and taking a risk is better than stagnating, and surely as a sector we must continue to evolve and grow in order to survive? Resilience is the buzz word eh? I am envious of people who work somewhere that has such a strong ethos of innovation and opportunity. Entrepreneurs lead the world.

An inspirational story (Poppies at the Tower), and a fascinating one. Hearing Michael say he made the call to pull out of the project when the extent of the challenges became clear, but was persuaded to continue by senior team members, was great. A strong leader will listen to what their team say, and having the team stick their necks out to rally behind the project meant they had more invested in committing to its success, and was therefore more likely to succeed. I loved the story of how a misunderstanding over who was calling meant the artist got the chance to pitch his idea. It was illuminating hearing Michael talk about why they were able to make the project happen despite the litany of disasters it was struck with, and acknowledging that the size of their organisation in terms of staff resource and turnover meant that they were able to direct the required resource to making the project happen when it really needed it.

I found Liz's session incredibly useful. Her insights into the processes organisations go through with her guidance, while recruiting, were comforting in that so much of it was people-centric and common sense, she and her colleagues do a lot of legwork which I was pleased to hear - she demystified the head-hunting process which I had previously been rather suspicious and/or sceptical of. I also found it fascinating how other people in our cohort responded to the session.

Going through the process (recruitment with 'head hunters') de-mystified it and it was great to learn more about the nuts and bolts of what happens.

WORKSHOP 6, NOvember 11

Civility, love, purpose, Passion

We met at the Jewish Museum, London to hear from international museum consultant Elaine Heumann Gurian and Master of Emmanuel College, Cambridge and former Director General of the National Trust, Fiona Reynolds. Elaine spent the morning talking about the civic and cultural purpose of museums. We were privileged to able to bear direct witness to this by participating in the museum's moving two-minute silence at 11 a.m. in which the Abigail Morris, the museum's Director recited Kaddish, the traditional prayer for the dead.  

Fiona Reynolds took us through her transformation of the Trust - a fascinating journey of organisational change built on continuity of values. Fiona was eloquent about her love for the Trust and all it stood for.

At the end of the day, it being a Friday, Abigail shared parts of the Shabbat ceremony with the group:

Thank you Abigail for being a great host

Great venue, I really enjoyed seeing the learning space, and the curator's intro to the ceramics exhibition, as well as Abigail's whistle-stop tour of the building and permanent collection. It was great to be hosted by one of the cohort - really inspirational.

Powerful, inspiring, creative, driven, strong. AUTHENTIC

Both (Elaine and Fiona) friendly and emotive people..... shows you can be powerful and determined leaders, without being 'a bastard' or ruthless - you can make difficult decisions and still care. Some 'leaders' don't realise this.

WORKSHOP 7, December 9

Networks Networks

Workshop 7 was held at the Museum of Science and Industry in Manchester (MOSI) and we were hosted by Director Sally MacDonald.  We had asked Sally to talk about her professional journey from Croydon to Manchester via the Petrie museum, London University. Sally, explained thoughtfully and candidly how she had gone about developing her career and the key role that the Women Leaders in Museums network had played in her rise to a Directorship.

The practical exercise focused on the Air and Space Hall and its future use.  After being on the periphery of the city for many years MOSI finds itself adjacent to a large scale urban regeneration project. How should the building (which MOSI doesn't own) be developed? Commercially? Culturally? Both?


workshop 8, January 13, 2017

Art and Politics

Workshop 8 was held at the Royal Academy and Westminster

Workshop 9, February 10, 2017

enterprise in action

Each year we run a day long workshop looking at the practical dilemmas of leading an organisation facing the challenge of continuous development.  This year we were again at Bletchley Park - hosted by Iain Standen.  We were also delighted to welcome Darren Henley from Arts Council England who are the major funders of the MRL programme. Iain on the left, Darren on the right and Nick Winterbotham and Stephen Feber - the Programme's Directors enjoying coffee before the workshop began. And, behind them Mark Reeves from the Black Country Living Museum and Jo Turner also from BCLM.  Mark looks after the food and drink operations at the Museum and Jo is our administrator.