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Hello from Darren Henley at Arts Council England

20th April 2015

Arts Council England have published the first blog from their new Chief Executive – Darren Henley

“It’s my first day at Arts Council England and I would like to use the first of my regular blogs to introduce myself.

On Friday, I left Classic FM after 22 extremely happy years. Alongside my day job, which has immersed me in the world of classical music for so long, I’ve also authored two reports on music and cultural education, a vital matter for the Arts Council and our sector. I’ve spent the months leading up to starting this role trying to experience as wide a range of arts and culture activities around the country as I possibly could.

In recent months I’ve seen lots of wonderful work around the country. Just some of my highlights include visiting the Hepworth Gallery in WakefieldYorkshire Sculpture Park, and the British Library for the announcement of the David Cohen Prize. I enjoyed the Cotton to Gold exhibition at Two Temple Place in London, celebrating the collections of Blackburn Museum and the Haworth Gallery in Accrington.

I’ve had the pleasure of visiting the Ikon Gallery in Birmingham, Nottingham ContemporaryLiverpool Central LibraryTate Liverpool, the Turner Contemporary in Margate, the Victoria & Albert Museum, and The Collection and Usher Gallery in Lincoln.

I’ve enjoyed performances by the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra, and Gecko’sMissing at Battersea Arts Centre just a week before fire tragically ravaged the Grand Hall there. I’ve also experienced a superb concert by the National Youth Orchestra, and seen young students from the Shakespeare Schools Festival in action.

I’ve seen Mischief Theatre’s Peter Pan Goes Wrong at the Marlowe Theatre in Canterbury, Adrian Mole: The Musical at The Curve in Leicester, How to Hold Your Breath at the Royal Court in London, and Closer at the Donmar Warehouse.

And I’ve watched performances by the National Youth Dance Company, the Richard Alston Dance Company and Northern Ballet Theatre, all at Sadler’s Wells; and by Birmingham Royal Ballet at the Coliseum.

It’s been fantastic to soak up such a variety of cultural activities in just a few short months. And it’s something I very much intend to continue doing. I know how much great work is being produced or exhibited each week around the country. Over the next few weeks, I want to take the opportunity to engage with people working across the cultural sector in each of our five geographical areas. And I’ll be spending the coming days touring all nine of our Arts Council offices. Today, I’m in our biggest office, in Manchester. I will be with the teams in Newcastle, Leeds, Brighton and London this week. Next week, I’ll be in Cambridge and Birmingham. And I’ll be in Bristol and Nottingham the week after that. I will report back on my journey around England in future blogs.

Before I get on with the job this morning, I want to take a moment to place on record my enormous thanks to our Deputy Chief Executive Althea Efunshile, who has been looking after the organisation since Alan Davey’s departure. As ever, she has done a brilliant job and I am looking forward to working closely with her and the rest of our Executive Board over the coming years. I am also very grateful to our National Chair, Sir Peter Bazalgette, and our Area Chairs Joe Docherty, Jon Cook, Peter Phillips, Sheila Healy and Veronica Wadley, all of whom have spent time with me sharing their enormous insight into arts and culture in their own particular patch.

It’s a real privilege for me to lead Arts Council England. I don’t underestimate the challenges that we and the arts and culture sector will face in the future, but I have already been hugely impressed by genuine passion and expertise, both within our team here, and in the organisations we fund.

I am very excited about what we can achieve. I am looking forward to hearing your ideas and thoughts about what we create together, and how we can do it even better.

Arts and culture make a tremendous contribution to this country’s way of life. Rest assured – I will do everything I can to help get that message across to everyone who needs to know it.