Broadcaster David Dimbleby was officially unveiled as the Chair of the Board of Trustees at the Towner last week – and declared his first job will be to put up directional signposts for the gallery across town.
“I’ve been coming here for years and I still get lost every time! I just end up going round Meads in circles,” joked the TV presenter and journalist.
“Signposts need to go up to tell people where the Towner is. I’ll even make them myself if I have to.”
That was just one of the ways in which David plans to draw more people to the gallery when he adopts his new role on April 1, 2014 – the same day the Towner becomes an independent charitable trust.
“In the last 10 years, I’ve been making films about art and there’s some things I’ve learnt through that which I think the Towner does.
“There shouldn’t be barriers between art and the public. It should be made easy and accessible and not demanding.
“As Chair, I will try and hopefully make it a place people feel welcome and invited, and to encourage that in every way possible. I sometimes think young adults don’t think they’ll understand or enjoy contemporary art but we hope to change their perception.
“Eastbourne’s had a reputation in the past of being God’s waiting room but now it’s changing. Young people are coming here, families are coming here – Eastbourne deserves a place like the Towner that will demonstrate its not a dusty old seaside town but actually a thriving community of people.
“We should tap into the younger people as well because they will be the ones bringing up their children here.”
David, who made headlines earlier this month for getting his first tattoo – a scorpion on his shoulder – at the age of 75, had close links with the Towner before agreeing to become their Chair. He demolished the first bricks when the Towner was rebuilding and cut the ribbon on their grand reopening.
“It’s a great honour to be asked to do this role as I relish my connections with the Towner. To see it as it is now has been really exciting for me. The building is superb, the space is wonderful and the opportunity it offers to people who live here, and in the surrounding areas, is unrivalled.
“In the past, it has been run very effectively by the council but now they’re handing it over to a charitable trust. One of the first jobs I will have is to work closely with Emma [Morris, executive director of the Towner] to select a board of trustees.
“We will be looking for the right people; for example, someone from the field of the arts and someone with an extremely sharp eye for finance.
“We hope to justify the council’s decision in handing it over and I will try to be a Chair as ruthless as I am on Question Time!”
Councillor David Tutt, who also attended the official announcement at the Towner last Friday, was keen to stress the council will still support the gallery, despite handing it over.
He said, “Just to ensure there’s no misunderstanding, the financial commitment from the council will remain, we will still be supporting the Towner the way we always have.”
By changing to an independent charitable trust, the Towner will be in a much stronger position to securing funding for new projects, commission new work from leading artists and acquire new works for its impressive collection and executive director Emma Morris believes having Mr Dimbleby as a Chair will add to the draw.
She said, “As we move to a charity on April 1, we will make such a splash having David as a Chair, building up a board of trustees that have all the right skills and expertise that we need to continue to grow on the success of Towner. I’m absolutely delighted he agreed.”