At the bridge for museums

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A LEADING Sheffield industrialist is to help steer the organisation running the city’s museums and galleries, it was announced this week.

Former Master Cutler Gordon Bridge will take over from Sandra Newton as Museums Sheffield’s voluntary chair of trustees from November.

The appointment comes as the body starts to emerge from a round of cost-cutting in the wake of the Arts Council dropping a £1.4m-a-year grant over three years.

Although no premises have been closed, almost 40 jobs have gone from a workforce of 108 and it has been announced that there will be fewer touring exhibitions, the emphasis switching to displaying local collections and for longer.

Museums Sheffield, which runs Weston Park Museum and the Mappin, Graves and Millennium Galleries, is currently waiting to hear if some of the pain will be eased by the Arts Council in response to a grant bid for up to £500,000 a year up to March 2015.

Already there has been change at the top in the form of a new chief executive, Kim Streets, replacing Nick Dodd.

Mr Bridge joined the trustees in 2010 and now takes over the chair from Ms Newton, who is stepping down after three years.

She said: “The last three years have seen Museums Sheffield deliver the highest-quality experiences for the people of Sheffield and our visitors.

“The board and all the staff team have worked tirelessly to achieve this while all the time seeking to reach a more secure financial base. It has been a privilege to work with them. In active partnership with the city council, the museums will go forward with confidence and new energy under Gordon’s leadership.”

Mr Bridge said: “Sandra has helped to steer Museums Sheffield through difficult times with energy, enthusiasm, and commitment. I believe that museums and galleries play a vital role in the life of the city and it is my aim to champion that role to the best of my abilities.”

Sheffield born, he qualified as a chartered accountant but switched to manufacturing, working at three local companies – Tempered Spring as commercial director, Richardson Sheffield as managing director and AES Engineering as chief executive. He was Master Cutler in 2007/08.

His involvement in the life of the city and the region has stretched from the CBI and J G Graves Charitable Trust to the Council of the University of Sheffield, the United Learning Trust and chairing the governors at Park and Springs Academies.

Kim Streets said: “As with a lot of public sector organisations, there are challenging times ahead, but I feel we are getting to a position where we are beginning to stabilise. There are still people leaving but in the autumn we will begin planning for the future to make sure we make the best possible use of our resources.”

Services will be scrutinised to see if there are better ways of making them accessible to visitors and new ways of generating income will be explored.

One of the centrepieces of next year’s programme will be an exhibition about the centenary of Sheffield, at the Millennium Gallery, from February to October, involving Museums Sheffield, the Master Cutler and local businesses.