A FOCUS on the outdoors will help kick-start a major shift in direction for the National Trust in the North East under the leadership of a new director.
Janet Bibby started working with the organisation this year after spending the last seven years as Chief Executive of the Coalfields Regeneration Trust.
Now she will lead the National Trust’s ambitious plans to bring people closer to nature through a range of outdoor experiences, including walking, rock climbing and canyoning.
Ms Bibby said: “I am very proud to be working for the National Trust in such a special part of the country. “Through a charitable organisation like this people can get outdoors, see vibrant places with stories to tell, but also know that these places are being taken care of for future generations.
“I think the Trust is very well-known for the built places we look after, but not so much for outdoor spaces, whether coast or countryside. We feel it’s time to change that in the hope to encourage more people to take advantage of what the outdoors can offer.”
Across the region the National Trust cares for 21 miles of coastline and nearly 12,000 hectares of land, as well as some of the most iconic properties, including Wallington, Cragside and Lindisfarne Castle.
Ms Bibby said: “Whilst focusing on the outdoors makes a lot of sense for the Trust, we will continue to look after our buildings and improve the experiences that we offer.
“Last year we challenged our attractions to bring one room to life and this year we will continue with that challenge. Our places have great stories to tell and we want to do that in the most exciting way.”
One attraction taking part in the Bringing Places to Life programme is Wallington, which celebrates the 200th anniversary of the William Bell Scott paintings in the Central Hall this year.
Throughout the year, re-enactments will bring each painting to life, starting with a Roman invasion on Sunday, May 1 and Monday, May 2.
In addition, nine artists will create contemporary responses to the Bell Scott paintings, which will be on display at Wallington, while a community arts project will ask people to let the Trust know what they think Bell Scott would paint if he were to create a scene that represented life in Northumberland today.
Ms Bibby also talked of the Trust’s ongoing programming of events, which aim to provide great days out.
She said: “The Trust offers a fantastic programme of events in the region for all ages from Easter egg hunts to hands-on conservation activities.
“We also aim, through our events, to tell the stories of the places in our care. For example, from April 5 at Cragside, the home of Victorian inventor Lord Armstrong, you can see ten Victorian inventions in The Palace of the Modern Magician, including a penny farthing, a Morse key and telegraph machine and a Kodak camera.”
Ms Bibby added: “My philosophy is that everyone deserves the opportunity to try something new, to get enjoyment from life and I know the National Trust can help with this.
“I hope that over the next year the Trust will become more relevant to people in the North East, providing an escape from the stresses of everyday life which we all need.”
For more information, visit www.nationaltrust.org.uk