Ian Reed, the newly-crowned York Ambassador at the Visit York Tourism Awards last week, has headed a period of change for the Yorkshire Air Museum as it has had to transform into a business.

Mr Reed, a civil engineer who spent most of his career with the regional water board, except for a spell at the Home Office designing and building nuclear control centres, has also been a face on the political scene of the region, a district councillor for Malton for 12 years from his early 20s and mayor of the town for two years.

A trustee in the Yorkshire Air Museum since 1993, Mr Reed saw museums change and it was in 1999 when he read that more than 100 museums and private collections close every year, despite the enthusiasm of their supporters, that he realised something had to change.

He said: “The Yorkshire Air Museum was an amateur hobbyist organisation and some of our younger trustees realised that if we didn’t take hold of it it would just disappear. Enthusiasm wasn’t enough to maintain a museum and we realised in 1999 that the Yorkshire Air Museum would probably fail, because it simply wasn’t business orientated.”

They set about changing the culture from a volunteer-based organisation to professional business and now the museum is visited by 100,000 people a year.

Last week, it held a conference for 800 participants from the Independent Care Group, as it works with local partners Saville AV, CGC Events and Coopers Marquees to create a conference centre bigger than Harrogate, including being able to cater for 2,000 people black-tie.

Mr Reed said winning Tourism and Hospitality Business Of The Year at The Press Business Awards 2008 signalled a step change for the organisation and it was suddenly taken seriously, he said.

The museum continues to win awards, taking Best Documentary at the Imperial War Museum Film Awards in March with ‘De Lourds Souvenirs’, a film telling the story of the French airmen who courageously fought with the RAF in the war from the Elvington base. The French-language film has helped to raise awareness of the museum in France, establishing strong links with the country, and attracting many French visitors to the museum, which also co-ordinated the French in York event, which brought many French dignitaries to the city.

Mr Reed said: “It is suddenly really started to come together.”

What job would you like to have other than your own and why?

I have already done a lot of things across Britain in my life, but to actually tell the story of these 56,000 airmen who died to maintain our democracy and freedom is a great honour.

Greatest achievement

Having two great kids – Tom, 17, who’s doing his A-levels and Catherine, 19, who’s a helicopter pilot.

Biggest mistake

Being too English and not pushing hard enough.

What makes you most angry?

Man’s inhumanity to man.

What do you need to make life complete?

Recognition that York is the greatest place in the world.

Why do you make a difference?

That’s a question for other people, not me.


He came and he went.