In the latest edition of Overseas, Director-General Diana Owen talks life, career, and the future of ROSL.
I was born and brought up in India where my father was a tea planter in Assam following service with the Gurkhas in Burma. I was born on Monabarie Tea Estate, now the largest tea producing estate in the world and went to school in south India near Ootacamund before coming to boarding school in England. From Winchester (High School for Girls) I went to Leeds University to study International History and Politics and dreaming of a career as a foreign correspondent for the BBC having grown up listening to Tully Sahib on the World Service. I studied for a PhD under Professor David Dilks and it was a real delight to receive a letter from him on my first day in my new office here at Over-Seas House. It’s intriguing how the world goes round and how my interest in international relations has led me here to ROSL.
The ROSL attraction
After completing my PhD I worked for a few years in educational publishing and in 1988 joined the National Trust as a Property Manager in Yorkshire and then at Petworth in West Sussex. Having the chance to live and work in these amazing places, bringing them to life and telling their hidden stories, was a real joy. At Petworth, I wrote the Guide to the Servants’ Quarters based on primary research with former staff and in the archives and opened up the extraordinary range of buildings that served the family and the estate with the help of Lord and Lady Egremont. I went on to be Area Manager for Hampshire, the Isle of Wight and London and then for West Sussex and south Surrey. In this role I became involved in the campaigns to create new National Parks for the New Forest and for the South Downs and in the construction of the Hindhead tunnel on the A3. Protecting, caring and sharing our cultural heritage and precious landscapes has remained an enduring passion. At Petworth I also started to work with contemporary artists in the interpretation of places including Dennis Creffield, High Buchanan, Andy Goldsworthy and Langlands and Bell.
In late 2007, I joined the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust as Director and then Chief Executive, an extraordinary charity that cares for 5 Shakespeare family homes in SuA as well as the world’s largest freely accessible Shakespeare archive, now designated by UNESCO on their Memory of the World register. Shakespeare is a truly global writer, translated into over 90 languages, taught to 50% of the world’s schoolchildren and performed in all parts of the world. I travelled extensively in this role and most frequently to North America and to China.
I think you can see from both my time at university and with the NT and SBT, that I have real interest in people and places and creating opportunities to bring people together to foster understanding and friendship. The problems in our world today – climate change, poverty, security - are global issues requiring global solutions; no country or nation is truly an island anymore, we are all inter-connected and culture can truly bridge boundaries that might otherwise exist between peoples.
The founders of the NT and the SBT in the 19th century and of ROSL in the early 20th century were all responding to the issues of their day and were driven by powerful visions and supported by public participation...
...Read the full article in the latest edition on page 18 of the latest edition of Overseas, available online here.