In conversation with Tim Parker
Tim Parker, who took the helm as our Chair in November 2014, shares what he likes about the National Trust and why he’s looking forward to his new role. As featured in the spring 2015 issue of our magazine.
What attracted you to the role of Chair?
I think one of the defining features of this country is the wonderful natural beauty of the countryside and the fabulousness of our historical heritage. For me, the National Trust embodies all of that. I’ve been a member for at least 25 years and a lot of the happiest Sundays spent by my family when our four children were young were at Trust properties.
Why do you care about the National Trust and its work?
For me, it’s vital that everybody gets an opportunity to see beautiful things and to get off their couch and into the countryside, but also to appreciate the historical background to our country. We take it for granted, but there are many countries that simply don’t have this wonderful array of historical buildings around them and a very interesting story to tell.
A lot of the things people can see at Trust properties were made in an era when you needed such a vast array of skills and people that they’re unique, and we have to look after that. That’s one of our jobs: to make sure that everybody in this country will have a chance in the future to look at the same things that we can see today.
What are you looking forward to most about being Chair?
I’ve run quite a few companies, which has given me a chance to interact with many different people. The fun thing for me is getting out and meeting people. I think you have to be in touch with people who are working across an organisation if you want to pick up ideas.
Do you have a favourite National Trust place?
I’m very fond of Uppark in West Sussex, which is near where I live. It has beautiful proportions and is in a wonderful location. It’s the Trust house with which I have the closest relationship. I also go to Harting Down in West Sussex a lot. I’ve had some very happy picnics up there on summer weekends.
One of the main focuses for the National Trust at the moment is to encourage people to enjoy the outdoors. Is that something that’s important to you?
The Trust already has many more visitors who stay outside buildings than go inside. I think there’s an important need to enthuse people about seeing the beauty of nature, but we shouldn’t forget that the Trust does two things. As well as getting people enthusiastic about the outdoors, we look after some of the country’s most precious objects and important buildings. I think the Trust has to do both jobs really well.
Do you think it’s doing that at the moment?
I think the Trust is a marvellous organisation and that we do many things really well. But if there was no room for improvement it would be a very boring place. We need to be unflinching in our own self-criticism when it comes to areas we think we can improve.
What do you think will be your biggest challenge in the role?
One of the challenges is to be inventive in terms of finding ways of financing all of the stuff that’s very important for us to do. We also need to confront successfully big issues like climate change, fracking and the planning challenge – there are a whole host of political questions which impinge on the Trust. My challenge is to make sure we can navigate these things and retain the confidence of our members and still do the job that we do for the nation as a whole.