Arts and culture leader takes the helm at Sheffield’s industrial museums

Helen Featherstone, the new director of Sheffield Industrial Museums Trust.
Helen Featherstone, the new director of Sheffield Industrial Museums Trust.

An arts and culture chief brought up in Sheffield has been named as the new boss of the city’s heritage museums.

Helen Featherstone is leaving her national role at Arts Council England to become director of the Sheffield Industrial Museums Trust, which runs several sites including Kelham Island Museum.

She officially starts the job next month, succeeding chief executive John Hamshere, who has retired after 23 years - and one of her key aims will be to attract visitors from further afield.

Helen lives in Sheffield, attended Dobcroft and Silverdale Schools, and studied for an MA in cultural policy and management at Sheffield Hallam University.

She began her career here working for drama groups including Dead Earnest and Vincent Dance Theatre - most recently she has held the position of senior manager for engagement and audiences with the Arts Council.

Helen, who is also a trustee of Ignite Imaginations, a Sheffield-based charity that runs art classes, said she was joining the museums at a ‘transformative point in time’.

“I look forward to working with the team to further make the work of the industrial museums relevant, useful and meaningful to people and local communities, and connect it to current innovation which is happening in the city today.”

In addition to attracting a wider range of visitors, Helen has pledged to build on the museums’ successes using different art forms, bringing the collections and sites to life in novel ways.

As well as Kelham Island - home to the River Don Engine, the most powerful working steam engine remaining in Europe - the trust looks after Abbeydale Industrial Hamlet and the Shepherd Wheel on the Porter Brook.

Alex Pettifer, chair of SIMT’s board of trustees, said: “I’m delighted that Helen will be joining Sheffield Industrial Museums Trust as director. With her widely respected creativity and commitment to innovation shown through her portfolio of roles, we are certain Helen has the skills and passion to re-imagine our vision and lead us into the next era to determine the new face of SIMT.”