Birmingham Museums Trust announces appointment of joint CEOs

Birmingham Museums Trust, one of the UK’s largest independent museum trusts, has appointed Sara Wajid and Zak Mensah as joint CEOs.

The pair will formally join the charity in November, taking over from Dr Ellen McAdam who stepped down in June this year.

Mensah comes to Birmingham Museums Trust from a leadership role at Bristol Museums where, as head of transformation culture and creative Industries, he made a leading contribution to increasing income by 100% within three years as well as ambitious programmes focusing on continuous improvement and technology.

Wajid is currently head of engagement for the Museum of London’s new museum capital project; previous to that she was head of interpretation at Birmingham Museums Trust on a 15 month secondment where she produced the experimental exhibition ‘The Past is Now’ offering new perspectives on British Empire.

Sara Wajid said: “Being appointed as joint CEO to BMT is very special honour for me and it’s in part thanks to the experience I gained on the Arts Council ‘Changemakers’ programme at BMT in 2016. That’s what I call effective anti-racist succession planning. Zak and I were inspired to apply for this role together through our involvement in Museum Detox (an anti-racist museum collective). We hope it could be a useful blueprint for others considering their future in the sector, and that we won’t be in such a small cohort of people of colour leading museums for long.”

Mensah said: “Birmingham Museums Trust attracts over 1 million visitors a year to its world-class services in Birmingham and online that bring both local and world stories to the public. As a regional museum with a very diverse demographic, BMT is well placed to connect communities locally and use technology to drive audience engagement on a global scale.

“Sara and I aim to ensure BMT remains resilient and delivers services that are inclusive, allowing people to connect and learn.”

Niels de Vos, chair of Birmingham Museums Trust, said: “This appointment is a transformational moment for Birmingham Museums Trust and allows us to plan confidently for the future after what has been a very turbulent few months. Sara and Zak’s experience, proven past results and their openness to experiment and push boundaries is what made them standout candidates.

“The sector needs to diversify from the top if there is to be a real shift in how museums operate and how their collections are presented. Sara and Zak are trailblazers and they reflect the character of this city, young, futuristic and diverse. Their dynamic partnership will mark a very exciting new chapter for Birmingham Museums Trust and for the city.”

The announcement follows the news that Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery will be re-opening to the public on Wednesday 7 October, after a significant closure due to the coronavirus pandemic.