HAPPY TO HELP: Shelagh Avery, interim executive director of The Witham, who has taken charge until September when Gaye Kirby, right, takes over
HAPPY TO HELP: Shelagh Avery, interim executive director of The Witham, who has taken charge until September when Gaye Kirby, right, takes over

THE temporary boss of The Witham, in Barnard Castle, says she hopes to continue her involvement at the arts complex once her three-month stint comes to an end.

Shelagh Avery was appointed interim executive director of The Witham in mid-May, a post she will hold until early September when Gaye Kirby takes over on a permanent basis.

Ms Kirby, who is currently head of development strategy at Durham Cathedral, was unveiled as The Witham's new director last week.

In the meantime, Ms Avery, from Mickleton, heads the team.

Ms Avery’s background is in human resources and business management. Having most recently worked in the oil and gas sector in Houston, Texas, she moved full time to the dale in April having owned a home here for the past five years.

Originally from Newcastle, she was asked by one of The Witham’s trustees if she would help out during the period between former director Katy Taylor’s departure and Ms Kirby’s arrival.

Ms Avery said her role at The Witham during the summer was not just a case of holding the fort.

“(As interim executive director) I have the full remit and full accountability. It is a fantastic opportunity,” she said.

“I absolutely love it. It’s a brilliant opportunity for me to get to know The Witham and Barnard Castle and the community.”

Northallerton Heating

Ms Avery added: “Really, what The Witham needs to have in place is a stronger volunteer strategy in order to support the place.

“It is always going to be short of cash. Volunteers have the opportunity to support what I believe to be a fantastic resource.”

Come September, Ms Avery said she hoped to be involved and continue to have a role at the centre. I will certainly continue in a voluntary capacity supporting Gaye and the board in whatever way I can contribute.

“They have an open offer to support them.”

Ms Kirby joins The Witham with almost 20 years’ management and fundraising experience, including time with The Halle Orchestra, in Manchester, where she managed the transition of the fundraising strategy from crisis appeal to a long-term development programme.

In her current role at Durham Cathedral, she leads a team which has developed and overseen the historic landmark’s strategic plan for renovation.

Ms Avery said: “I am so pleased that Gaye is joining The Witham to help it continue to thrive.

“It’s an exciting time here, with the staff team and our wonderful volunteers all working hard to ensure visitors continue to enjoy the fantastic events, delicious food and warm welcome they deserve.

“We look forward to welcoming Gaye to The Witham community as we move to another exciting chapter.”