Alistair Burtenshaw, Director of Charleston to join Watts Gallery as Director

 Wednesday 19th April 2017

Alistair Burtenshaw, Director of Charleston to join Watts Gallery as Director

Alistair Burtenshaw, Director of The Charleston Trust which runs Charleston, and its renowned programme of festivals, creative workshops, events and prizes will step down as Director on 3rd September to take up his new role at Watts Gallery Trust.

Alistair Burtenshaw said:

“It has been a privilege to lead The Charleston Trust during such a momentous period in its history. I am delighted that recent years have seen increased national and international interest in the art and ideas of the Bloomsbury Group, whose values continue to speak to us so vividly.  That my time at Charleston has included vital restoration of the house, two new international prizes, greatly increased artistic programming, expanded learning and community engagement work, the cataloguing, digitising, conservation and interpretation of 8,000 works on paper, a new international literary festival with our partners in Charleston, South Carolina and a desperately needed new access road and car park is a source of pleasure.  That Charleston’s centenary year in 2016 saw a new centenary garden, construction of our new galleries and collection and research studio and the restoration of our grade II listed barns as a 200-seat performance space and expanded café, due for completion later this year, gives me great faith in Charleston’s ability to remain a source of creative inspiration for generations to come. None of this could have been achieved with out the superb team of staff, trustees, volunteers and supporters, whom I thank wholeheartedly”.


Chair of the Trustees, Michael Farthing said:

“Alistair Burtenshaw has been an outstanding Director of Charleston. His vision and leadership have helped Charleston to thrive artistically, engage new audiences and play an increasing role in our national cultural discourse.  Alistair leaves Charleston, recently named number 13 in Britain’s Top 25 Small Museums by The Times, in great shape for the opening of our beautifully conceived new galleries and historic barns in early 2018.  I would like to take this opportunity to thank Alistair for his superb work over the last four years and wish him every success at The Watts Gallery. The Trustees will recruit a new Director over the summer and believe there is an exciting opportunity for Alistair’s successor to continue his work and lead Charleston as it prepares to open its expanded new facilities in the coming months”.






Formerly Director of The London Book Fair and Chair of Booktrust, Alistair has led the Charleston Trust’s £9.3 million Centenary Project to renovate the Grade II listed barns at Charleston and construct new galleries by architect Jamie Fobert since becoming Director in March 2013. During this time Alistair has overseen the Heritage Lottery Fund-backed scheme which includes a project to catalogue, conserve, digitise and interpret the 8,000 works on paper that make up the Angelica Garnett Gift; developed the reach of its artistic programmes and strengthened and increased its learning and community engagement work. Alistair has also led a significant development in the Trust’s renowned Charleston Festival and Small Wonder international short story festival, as well as being instrumental in the foundation of the new Charleston-to-Charleston Literary Festival in Charleston South Carolina, its Charleston-EFG John Maynard Keynes Prize, most recently awarded to Professor Stephen Hawking, and Charleston Lifetime’s Excellence Award in Short Fiction, awarded in 2016 to Ali Smith as well as a new British Council International Writer in Residence programme. During his time as Director, Charleston has loaned works to an extensive range of high profile exhibitions in the UK and overseas, including ‘Vanessa Bell 1879-1961’ at Dulwich Picture Gallery, ‘Sussex Modernism” at Two Temple Place and ‘Queer British Art’ at Tate Britain, all currently on in London. Alistair is also Chair of the Trustees of Arvon, the UK’s leading creative writing charity.

About Charleston

Located in the glorious South Downs in East Sussex, Charleston was, from 1916, the home of Bloomsbury group artists Vanessa Bell (sister of Virginia Woolf) and Duncan Grant. Pioneers of early 20thcentury British art, Bell and Grant created a hub of artistic and intellectual activity. Home also to art critic Clive Bell, frequent guests included John Maynard Keynes, Virginia Woolf, Roger Fry, Lytton Strachey, T.S. Eliot and E.M. Forster. Charleston is now open to the public and provides the stunning setting for the Charleston Festival and the international short story festival Small Wonder.

About Charleston’s Festivals

Charleston has always been a place of dissent and debate, as well as creativity and conviviality. The Festival, now in its 28th year, has always tried to reflect these values. The Charleston Festival 2017 will take place at Charleston, near Lewes in Sussex, between 19th and 29th May 2017.  In 2015, The Charleston Trust launched the Charleston-EFG John Maynard Keynes Prizes, presented annually at the Charleston Festival to honour recipients whose work is in the spirit of Keynes’ life and legacy. Previous recipients include Professor Amartya Sen and Sir Tim Berners-Lee. This year’s recipient is Professor Stephen Hawking. The full festival programme can be viewed at:

Charleston also runs a dedicated short story festival, Small Wonder, each September, which launched a new award to mark its 10th Anniversary in 2013: The Charleston-Chichester Award for a Lifetime’s Excellence in Short Fiction. The recipients have been William Trevor, Edna O’Brien, Jane Gardam and Ali Smith. Small Wonder 2017 runs from 27th September to 1st October:

In January 2017, The Charleston Trust and Charleston Library Society in Charleston, South Carolina, launched a new literary festival, Charleston-to-Charleston with events with screenwriters and novelists Julian Fellowes and William Nicholson. The festival takes place on 3rd to 5th November 2017 in Charleston, South Carolina.

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