Sarah Weir obituary


Sarah Weir, who has died on the age of 65, from problems following a lung transplant, believed that artwork and design had been central to forging a extra vibrant and better-connected nation, in addition to enriching folks’s lives. Within the lead-up to the 2012 London Olympics, as head of arts and cultural technique on the Olympic Supply Authority, Sarah oversaw the mixing of artwork into the Olympic Park in east London, alongside advising on design, engineering and landscaping.

Decided to make sure that the humanities had been totally represented, regardless of not having been included within the unique bid, Sarah got down to persuade the quite a few stakeholders to relinquish a few of their funds in help of her inventive imaginative and prescient. Her work culminated in over 40 inventive commissions, together with Monica Bonvicini’s sculpture RUN for the Olympic Park and poetry from writers together with Carol Ann Duffy, Jo Shapcott, John Burnside, Caroline Chook and Lemn Sissay that was inscribed across the park. In 2011 Sarah based the Legacy Listing (now the Basis for Future London), a charity that encourages inventive connections between folks and the Olympic Park, with a give attention to arts and tradition, training and expertise.

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Monica Bonvicini’s RUN sculpture being put in in Stratford, east London, earlier than the 2012 Olympic Video games. {Photograph}: ODA/PA

In 2017, Sarah was appointed CEO for the Design Council. Fairly than merely a beauty enterprise tied to commercialism, packaging and elitism, Sarah argued that design is “a necessary self-discipline that enables us to create locations, services to enhance life for everybody”. She was struck by the shortage of variety inside the design and expertise industries, and helped develop mentoring schemes, and encourage concepts akin to Lauren Currie’s Upfront programme, which invitations younger ladies on to public platforms. As Sarah stated: “Those that have the expertise of sitting in entrance of an viewers are 30% extra prone to put themselves ahead sooner or later.” She propagated the message that “to make an affect, we’ve to be current”.

Born in Edinburgh, Sarah was the daughter of Marion (nee Miller) and David Weir, an egg-trader, and whereas she was a baby the household moved south. After her mother and father divorced, she was raised in Kent and Sussex by her mom and stepfather, Stephen Cox, a Lloyd’s underwriter.

Leaving St Agnes and St Michael convent college, East Grinstead, on the age of 16, Sarah labored in a collection of uninspiring jobs till she utilized to be a gofer for Aldgate Group insurance coverage brokers in London, the place she rose to be the primary feminine non-marine managing director in a Lloyd’s broking agency.

Nonetheless solely 31, and realising that she wanted new challenges, Sarah enrolled within the historical past of artwork programme at Birkbeck, College of London. For the following few years, she juggled her work within the Metropolis with part-time college examine within the night, and a dissertation on the pioneer Nineteenth-century photographer Julia Margaret Cameron.

On graduating, she exchanged her profession within the Metropolis for one in arts administration. Her ardour for amassing artwork caught the eye of the Purdy Hicks Gallery, who in 1994 engaged her to guide their transfer from premises within the West Finish to Bankside. This was adopted by a few years at Arts and Enterprise, an organisation that matched enterprise sponsorship with arts initiatives.

In 1997, she was appointed head of improvement on the Royal Academy of Arts. Sarah raised unprecedented sponsorship from Ernst & Younger for the blockbuster 1999 exhibition Monet within the Twentieth Century. It included 14 of Claude Monet’s Thames work, eight Venice ones, and 23 waterlily work, which had by no means earlier than been exhibited collectively.

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The Sultan’s Elephant in London in 2006. The large mechanical puppet operated by the French street-theatre group Royal de Luxe took half within the largest street-theatre occasion that had ever taken place within the metropolis. {Photograph}: Graeme Robertson/The Guardian

After a stint as joint CEO on the Almeida theatre, in 2003 Sarah was appointed govt director of Arts Council England, overseeing supply of all public funding of arts in London. For Sarah, a spotlight was the Artichoke organisation commissioning the French street-theatre group Royal de Luxe to carry The Sultan’s Elephant to London streets. Between 4 and 6 Might 2006, a 40ft-tall, 242-tonne mechanical elephant was on the coronary heart of the most important free street-theatre occasion that had ever taken place in London. It drew in individuals who had been often excluded from the humanities.

Different marginalised teams engaged Sarah’s curiosity. She was lively on the board of Stonewall, the charity dedicated to supporting LGBTQ folks worldwide. She served on the board of the Alzheimer’s Society and final April was made its honorary vice-president. She was appointed OBE in 2011; awarded a CBI First Girl award in 2013; made a fellow of Birkbeck in 2013; and awarded an honorary doctorate from the College of the Arts, London in 2019.

She was famend for her vigorous sense of mischief, her daring and shiny jewelry, a love of gardening, and a eager eye for recognizing one thing of magnificence even in essentially the most unpromising of environments.

In 2020, Sarah was recognized with idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis, which resulted in her present process a single lung transplant. In March final yr, her physique began rejecting the transplanted lung.

For 30 years, Sarah shared her life in north London and Suffolk with the historian Louise Disguise; they registered a civil partnership in 2006 and had been married in 2023. She is survived by Louise, and by two sisters, Diana and Harriet.


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