The chair of Nottingham Castle Trust, Ted Cantle, is to step down following the recruitment of new trustees to the board.
Fellow trustee Richard Tresidder is also leaving. Both men have served on the board since the charitable trust was established in 2018, and played a role in fundraising for the £30m redevelopment of the museum and heritage site.
The announcement comes after a year of turmoil at Nottingham Castle, which has been under fire for its handling of a serious incident that took place in August 2021, when local poet and curator Panya Banjoko says her grandchildren were racially abused by another child at the castle’s adventure playground.
A police investigation concluded that no criminal offence had been committed due to the age of the child involved, but recorded the event as a hate incident.
Banjoko has led a series of protests calling for a change in governance at the trust to ensure it is better equipped to deal with similar incidents and more representative of Nottingham’s diverse communities.
Some current and former staff have also criticised the trust's wider organisational culture, which they say has led to high staff turnover in the site's first year of opening.
The trust is being taken to an employment tribunal by its former CEO Sara Blair-Manning, who claims she was wrongfully dismissed in August 2021 after raising concerns about bullying and harassment. The trust strongly denies all allegations.
In a statement this week, Nottingham Castle Trust said: “Today (Monday 5 September 2022), professor Ted Cantle CBE has stepped down as chair of Nottingham Castle Trust following the successful recruitment of new trustees in July. The board wants to thank Ted in recognition of his commitment and contribution to the trust. Ted’s vision played an important part in securing essential funding for the £30million Castle Redevelopment Project.
“The trust board has been focusing on finding new trustees over the past year as part of its good governance and leadership succession planning. We are delighted to be able to announce that we have recruited new trustees following an extensive recruitment process led by independent charity governance specialists. Nottingham Castle Trust looks forward to welcoming and working with them all.
“As part of this process of planned change, trustee, Richard Tresidder has also stepped down. Alongside Ted, Richard played a fundamental role in securing the funding to regenerate the historic site so that Nottingham Castle can be enjoyed by tourists and residents for hundreds of years to come. Again, we thank him for his contribution to the trust.”
Banjoko said: “The opportunity for Nottingham Castle to become an inclusive museum is now a real possibility. The 12-month campaign against the castle should be seen as yet another sign for museums, that operate largely as a monoculture, to not only rethink their governance but to act accordingly and be representative of the community they serve.”
In a statement, a collective representing some current and former staff at the trust said: “We are pleased to see that Ted Cantle and Richard Tressider have finally stepped down from their roles as trustees of Nottingham Castle.”
The collective added: “The announcement is testament to the power of protest and the resilience of the people fighting for justice, but the fight isn't over. We hope that our former CEO gets the decision she seeks in court and that Panya Banjoko and her family are heartened to see their determination pay off to some extent.
“We also recognise that the serious and ongoing problems raised publicly by a huge number of our colleagues earlier this year will not be fixed overnight by these resignations alone. However, we hope it is a start.
“We wish to see Nottingham Castle as a genuinely anti-racist organisation. The measure of how serious leadership are will be how they treat those who speak up about anti-racism inside and outside our walls. We are looking out for drastic changes on this front beyond PR statements.
“We repeat our call for all trustees who were in position this time last year to follow suit and resign immediately, and for a new CEO to be selected via an interview process. We hope that one day Nottingham Castle can begin to represent the city and its communities and become the successful, historic landmark that all the people of our city deserve.”
Nottingham Castle Trust has disputed the claims about its organisational culture, and has said it is developing a detailed policy in response to the August 2021 incident.