By Tony Dawber

A WOMAN who has spent a decade in charge of the prestigious Victoria and Albert Museum of Childhood in London is to become the new chief executive of Lakeland Arts.

And Rhian Harris said she was delighted to take up the position at a time when the organisation was entering a new and vibrant era.

“The opening of Windermere Jetty and the development of Abbot Hall present unique opportunities to transform Lakeland Arts and build on its reputation as one of the most important arts organisations in the North,” she said.

“I’m committed to making Lakeland Arts matter more to a wider range of people, developing deeper connections with our audiences and stakeholders and to creating programmes that respond to their needs.”

Ms Harris, who is 50 and has two children, takes over from Gordon Watson, who is retiring after eight years at the helm.

Originally from Wales, she is a graduate of the University of Essex and holds a Masters in Museum and Gallery Management.

She previously worked at the Wellcome Trust and the Foundling Museum and is credited with transforming the V&A Museum of Childhood, which is situated in Bethnal Green in London’s East End, more than doubling visitor numbers and embedding the museum in the local community.

Lakeland Arts has a portfolio of galleries and museums in the Lake District including Abbot Hall Art Gallery , Kendal’s Museum of Lakeland Life & Industry, Blackwell: The Arts & Crafts House in Bowness and the soon-to-open Windermere Jetty Museum of Boats, Steam and Stories.

“Rhian joins us at an extremely important time for Lakeland Arts,” said the organisation’s chair of trustees Martin Ainscough.

“She brings strong leadership, an enthusiasm for our collections and an energy and ambition to take Lakeland Arts venues to a wider audience."