Executive Board

The Executive Board is our strategic and executive decision-making body. It provides the executive link between our national and area offices.

It is responsible for developing the long-term strategy for the Arts Council and for ensuring delivery of our strategic framework Great art and culture for everyone. The role of the executive board is to:

  • oversee the development and implementation of corporate strategy
  • undertake high-level monitoring to ensure delivery of the Arts Council plan
  • make major recommendations to Council within delegated powers, and to approve further delegations as appropriate

Read our Executive Board terms of reference

Executive board is chaired by the Chief Executive, Darren Henley, and comprises the Deputy Chief Executive, the executive directors for art and culture, national strategy and our five areas, with directors for advocacy and communications and finance.  


Chief Executive
Arts Council England

Darren Henley is Chief Executive of the Arts Council.

He previously spent twenty-five years working in radio, leading Classic FM for fifteen years, first as Managing Editor and then as Managing Director. He was appointed an OBE in 2013 for services to music.

Darren has chaired or sat on a range of government advisory boards in the area of cultural education. His two independent government reviews into music education (2011) and cultural education (2012) resulted in the creation of England’s first National Plan for Music Education, new networks of Music Education Hubs and Heritage Schools, the Museums and Schools programme, the BFI Film Academy and the National Youth Dance Company.

He is the author or co-author of thirty books, including 'The Virtuous Circle: Why Creativity and Cultural Education Count'. It argues that an excellent cultural education is the right of everyone, bringing personal, social and commercial advantages that can only benefit the lives of all individuals in our society. In 2016, Darren's most recent most recent book was published. 'The Arts Dividend: Why Investment in Culture Pays' looks in depth at seven key benefits that art and culture bring to our lives.

Darren joined the Arts Council in 2015.


Deputy Chief Executive, Places & Engagement
Arts Council England

Laura leads the delivery of the Arts Council’s second strategic goal: that everyone has the opportunity to experience and to be inspired by the arts, museums and libraries. She also leads on the growing agenda around local government, devolution and place-making, as well as overall leadership of all five of the Arts Council’s area teams.

Before joining the Arts Council, Laura was Chief Executive of East Midlands Arts Board.  Until 2010, when she became Executive Director Midlands and South West, she held the post of Executive Director, East Midlands. During her time in the East Midlands Laura led a capital development programme, which transformed the region's cultural landscape, with a total investment of over £130 million creating six new arts and cultural facilities.

After postgraduate studies at Essex University Laura started her career in the arts in a number of theatre and community arts companies before moving into large outdoor events programming at the Garden Festival Wales. She went on to work for local authorities in Norfolk and London.

Laura joined the Arts Council in 2003.  


Deputy Chief Executive, Arts & Culture
Arts Council England

Simon leads the delivery of the Arts Council’s first strategic goal: ensuring excellence is thriving and celebrated in the arts, museums and libraries.

He was previously General Director of the Manchester International Festival and before that held roles as Executive Director at Lyric Hammersmith. He was also producer and founder of Gloria Theatre Company, and worked as Youth Arts Projects Coordinator for the Southbank Centre. He has also been Head of Education at Battersea Arts Centre and Co-Director of Pegasus Theatre in Oxford.

Simon joined the Arts Council in 2012.


Executive Director, Chief Financial Officer
Arts Council England

Liz is responsible for leading the Arts Council’s finance, human resources, IT and estates teams. She is also responsible for ensuring that the Arts Councils meets all of the financial obligations required the organisation as an Arm's Length Body distributing Grant in Aid, as a National Lottery distributor, and as a charity.

Liz has been a member of Executive Board since 2013, prior to which she was Director, Finance, since 2003. Liz qualified as a chartered accountant in 1998, working for Ernst & Young in their technology, communication and entertainment division from 1995 to 2000. She also has a degree in Music from Durham University.

Liz joined the Arts Council in 2000.


Executive Director Public Policy and Communication
Arts Council England

Mags leads the delivery of the Arts Council’s fourth strategic goal: ensuring the leadership and workforce in the arts, museums and libraries are diverse and appropriately skilled.

She is also responsible for work in areas of public policy including health and wellbeing, criminal justice and socio-economic disadvantage.

Mags leads on communication between the Arts Council and its broad range of stakeholders which includes the public, government and the cultural sector. She manages teams responsible for customer services, digital communication and marketing, internal communication, media relations and stakeholder engagement.

Mags began her career in television, working for Channel 4 and the BBC. She has led communication for English National Opera and the Equality and Human Rights Commission. She has also worked as a consultant for clients including the European Union/Equality Commission Northern Ireland and Channel 4 television.

Mags joined the Arts Council in 2012.


Chief Operating Officer
Arts Council England

Richard leads on the Arts Council’s investment, governance and planning functions.

He is also responsible for the Arts Council’s fifth goal: ensuring that every child and young person has the opportunity to experience the richness of the arts, museums and libraries

Before taking up his position on the Executive Board, Richard was Director of Policy and Research and led the Arts Council’s work on leadership and workforce in the arts and cultural sector.  In 2013, he was responsible for producing the Arts Council’s refreshed strategic framework ‘Great art and culture for everyone.

Richard began his career leading arts organisations and festivals across England, including as Programme Manager for Birmingham City Council on the UK City of Music in 1992.

Richard joined the Arts Council in 2000, and was director in the South East region before moving to the Arts Council’s head office in 2010.


Executive Director, Enterprise & Innovation
Arts Council England

Francis is responsible for the Arts Council’s third strategic goal: ensuring the arts, museums and libraries are resilient and environmentally sustainable.

Joining Executive Board in November 2016, Francis will help and work with cultural organisations in becoming more resilient and more adept at addressing the business challenges posed by the digital economy, through the use of new technology and different business models across all aspects of their operations.

Before joining Executive Board, Francis was the Arts Council’s Investment Director for ten years, and before this he ran the Stabilisation and Recovery Unit, investing £150 million into 90 arts organisations enabling them to become more resilient and better achieve their missions.

Prior to joining the Arts Council, Francis worked for 17 years at PricewaterhouseCoopers where in his later years he specialised in helping charities that faced insolvency. Francis is a trustee of the Tudor Trust, one of the leading private grant making charities in England.

Francis joined the Arts Council in 2000.

Image captions
Top left to bottom right: 1. Neon Dogs by Deepa Mann Kler, produced by Artichoke. Photo © Chris Hill / Artichoke. 2. Dot, Squiggle and Rest at Polka Theatre with Royal Opera House. Photo © Robert Workman / Polka Theatre. 3. Shailesh Bahoran and Sooraj Subramaniam of Shobana Jeyasingh Dance perform Material Men, commissioned by Southbank Centre. Photo © Chris Nash. 4. Newcastle City Library. Photo © Newcastle City Library / Mark Thurston / Steve Brock 5. David Glowacki's Hidden Fields. Photo © Paul Blakemore / Interactive Scientific Ltd 6. Reopening of Manchester Central Library, March 22nd 2014. Photo © Joel C. Fildes for Arts Council England 7. Reopening of Manchester Central Library, March 22nd 2014. Photo © Joel C. Fildes for Arts Council England.. 8. Jon Nash & Jim Crago, writers of Spice Box: a Barbican Theatre Plymouth production at The Elizabethan House. Photo © Gemma Ward Photographer / Barbican Theatre. 9. Hands. Photo © CP Photo Art / DigitalVision / Getty Images.