Profile: Claire Hyde, Natural History Museum - A very natural progression/Claire Hyde gets back to her roots with a move into the world of science

At a time when books intended to make science accessible to the general public have been topping the best-sellers list, it seems appropriate that the Natural History Museum’s new PR head should be someone who has spent all her working life in the arts. In June, Claire Hyde leaves her role heading up PR at the Royal Festival Hall and Hayward Gallery after a decade at the South Bank complex to join the South Kensington museum famed for its dinosaur skeletons.

At a time when books intended to make science accessible to the

general public have been topping the best-sellers list, it seems

appropriate that the Natural History Museum’s new PR head should be

someone who has spent all her working life in the arts. In June, Claire

Hyde leaves her role heading up PR at the Royal Festival Hall and

Hayward Gallery after a decade at the South Bank complex to join the

South Kensington museum famed for its dinosaur skeletons.



But in exchanging Mozart for the mastodon and Mapplethorpe for the

woolly mammoth, Hyde doesn’t expect to be a fish out of water. Despite

her passion for the arts, she has always maintained an interest in the

natural world, enjoying canal boat trips and gardening in her spare

time. She even rooted a vegetable garden on the roof of the Royal

Festival Hall.



Her move comes, she says, at an important time for the presentation of

science in the UK with the Government showing commitment to making it

better understood and more attractive to youngsters. Having studied

psychology at LSE - something she says should be seen as the ’starting

point for everything’ she does - Hyde admits to having an analytical

mind.



’The thing I’m really interested in is how people work, what makes them

tick, how people learn,’ she says. ’I’m not that interested in inventing

building blocks of my own. I’m interested in why they exist.’



One of Hyde’s most notable achievements at the South Bank was to push

through the creation of a web site, one of the first in the UK which

allowed for on-line booking of arts events. Although she will not say so

herself, it was a goal achieved in the face of some apathy and

opposition.



Keith Clarke, editor of Classical Music, says Hyde was more

forward-thinking than most. ’She was the first person there who thought

it would be a good idea to have a web site. She had an uphill struggle

convincing anyone else, though,’ he says. ’She had to borrow money from

this budget and that budget to get it. Now the web site is going from

strength to strength.’



The web site has been only one of a great many issues Hyde has had to

tackle. Another was the controversial plan to redevelop the South Bank

Centre beneath a dazzling glass roof in a scheme envisaged by prominent

modernist architect Richard Rogers. Hyde had to fend off criticism of

the cost and nature of the proposals. In the end, the South Bank Centre

board had to retreat from the plans when it became clear sufficient

funding would not be forthcoming from the Arts Council.



On a more upbeat note, much recent PR activity has focused on the

increasing diversity of the South Bank programme, which sees jazz and

world music from the likes of Youssou N’Dour sitting alongside Bach and

Beethoven in the 800-odd events a year staged at the Festival Hall and

its ’little sisters’, the Queen Elizabeth Hall and Purcell Room. ’The

thing I like about the South Bank is that it’s a constant challenge,’

says Hyde. ’I like complexity. It feels as if at each level the

organisation is locked into doing something that is big but

practical.’



Hyde will have a lot to live up to in her new job. Jane Bevan, whom Hyde

will replace at the Natural History Museum, was hired in 1992 to bring a

’strategic PR’ dimension to the museum and scotch the misconception that

it was merely a place to take children. During her tenure, attendance

rose from about 1.4 million to about 1.83 million last year, propelling

it to fourth place in the UK leisure attractions league table.



Prior to joining the South Bank Centre, Hyde set up her own arts PR

consultancy with two partners, and before that, she spent a couple of

years straight after her degree involved in street theatre, as publicity

and booking agent for an ’a cappella’ act called Dancing with the Dog.

Her time in this capacity taught her about ’selling by encapsulating in

30 seconds what makes a group of people distinctive’.



But Hyde’s eight-strong team at the Natural History Museum need not

worry that its corridors will echo to the sound of their incoming boss

singing Wild Thing. ’I’m not,’ she assures, ’a frustrated

performer.’



HIGHLIGHTS

1989

Partner, Hyde Hare and Eaton

1991

Press and PR manager, Royal Festival Hall and Hayward Gallery

1999

PR head, Natural History Museum



Have you registered with us yet?

Register now to enjoy more articles and free email bulletins

Register
Already registered?
Sign in