Shetland Arts appoints new general manager

A new general manager has been appointed by Shetland Arts to re­place departed director Gwilym Gibbons.

Graeme Howell will take over the reins after impressing the arts development agency bosses with his experience of managing major capital projects.

New Shetland Arts general manager David Howell.
New Shetland Arts general manager Graeme Howell.

Mr Howell is based in Birming­ham and is employed as centres co-ordinator by an organisation called Access to Music, where he is re­sponsible for the operation and financial performance of nine fac­ilities, which employ a total of 140 people.

He has also been director of Colston Hall, Bristol, the largest concert hall in the south-west of England.

Mr Howell told The Shetland Times he was looking forward to the prospect of moving to the isles “some time before Christmas” once all the details were con­firmed.

He said: “It is an exciting oppor­tunity and a good moment to be coming in and taking over the organisation and thinking about what its future looks like.

“The really exciting thing is it is a different kind of challenge. It will be a challenge in all sorts of ways but it will be an exciting one.”

Asked whether he was aware of the well-publicised controversy over the Mareel project, Mr Howell said: “I’m coming up to do a job looking forward. What has gone before does not really impact at all. It is about making sure the organisation is delivering what it needs to deliver for the communities of Shetland.”

Mr Howell is one of the senior management team in Access to Music, a national private organisation giving tuition to “A-level equivalent” standard.

He said he had been involved in capital projects and had worked on commercial ventures ranging from festivals to 2,000-seat venues.

“I have been involved in the cultural business, funded and private sector, for the last 20 years,” he said.

Shetland Arts chairman Danus Skene said he was pleased to be able to make the announcement and that Mr Howell was an outstanding candidate.

Mr Skene said: “We are delighted to be making this appointment. Graeme has wide and successful experience as a venue manager.

“His arrival will signal the start of a new phase in the stabilisation and development of SADA [Shetland Arts Development Agency] and its venues – Mareel, Bonhoga and the Garrison.”

A starting date for Mr Howell was still under negotiation, Mr Skene said.

The news of the appointment comes six months after Mr Gibbons announced he was quitting his role as Shetland Arts’ first director, following eight years in the job – a period which included overseeing the difficult gestation of the cinema and arts venue, Mareel.

Shetland Arts advertised two jobs in July: a part-time artistic director’s role, with a salary of £25,415.50, and the £50,831-a-year general manager’s post.

However, Mr Howell’s appointment was not announced until this week after Shetland Arts took a “cautious” approach with regard to funding.

Earlier this week Mr Skene spoke of his frustration at the delay, which was partly due to the fact that one of Shetland Arts funders, Creative Scotland, is not expected to announce its next round of funding until the end of this month.

The part-time artistic director’s role had not yet been filled, Mr Skene also confirmed yesterday.


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