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Shakespeare Birthplace Trust Appoints New Chair

Penelope, Viscountess Cobham CBE New Chair of SBT

The charity dedicated to celebrating the life, works and times of one the world’s greatest writers has today (Thursday 2 May) announced the appointment of Penelope, Viscountess Cobham CBE as its new Chair of the Board of Trustees.

Lady Cobham, currently a Trustee of the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust, brings a wealth of expertise and a substantial track record in the cultural heritage sector.

With experience as a Special Adviser to the Culture Secretary, Lady Cobham worked as chairman of VisitEngland, the national tourist board, for 8 years, after serving as Deputy Chairman of VisitBritain. She chaired the Museum Prize Trust (The Museum of the Year Prize) and the Civic Trust. She has been a board member/trustee on a number of high-profile bodies including English Heritage, the V&A, Historic Royal Palaces, the Museums and Galleries Commission and Historic Houses (Association).

A passionate advocate for culture and heritage, Lady Cobham will become the first female chair of the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust and will lead the organisation as it explores its new multi-year programme of exhibitions and events, ‘The Women Who Made Shakespeare’.

Commenting on her appointment Lady Cobham said:

“I feel thrilled and energised by being asked to become chair at such a significant moment for the Trust as it develops its vision. With a lifelong passion for historic buildings, I look forward to working with my colleagues in supporting strong partnerships in Stratford-upon-Avon as well as promoting our national and international relationships. Growing Shakespeare Week and other learning programmes, together with focussing on our houses and collections will be priorities. Together with trustees and the executive team, I shall strive to bring William Shakespeare and all his works, literally and metaphorically, to an ever-wider audience”.

Lady Cobham’s appointment enables the Trust to continue developing its ambitious future as a globally impactful museum of Shakespeare and harnessing its world-class Designated collections to promote cross-cultural research and reinterpretations of Shakespeare in ways which foster connection, empathy and aspiration.

Ralph Bernard, Chair of the Trust’s Nominations and Remunerations Committee, said:

“At this pivotal moment in the Trust’s development, we’ve appointed a chair who has an in depth understanding of the Trust and a real empathy for our mission and values. Penny’s extraordinary knowledge and experience will be vital to the Board and the executive as we embrace a vibrant, change-making future for our organisation.”

Tim Cooke, CEO of the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust, said:

“Penny is a passionate advocate for the Trust and a powerful voice within the UK cultural sector more widely. Her appointment coincides with a wider governance review which will ensure that we establish the frameworks in which we can wholeheartedly embrace the unique cultural role of the Trust as a globally connected museum which powerfully engages with communities who might not otherwise encounter Shakespeare.”

Peter Knott, Midlands Area Director at Arts Council England said:

“We’re delighted to welcome Lady Cobham as the new Chair of the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust. Her in depth knowledge and passion for the Trust, alongside her vast experience in the culture, heritage and tourism sectors will be a huge asset to the organisation at this exciting time in their development.”