26 July 2019: The Reading Agency has appointed Karen Napier as its new Chief Executive Officer.
Napier is an experienced leader in the arts, cultural and education sectors. She has spent the last few years as Chief Executive at Wac Arts, whose mission is to empower young people to change their worlds through the arts. Her previous appointments include Executive Director of the Swarovski Foundation, Director of Development at the Southbank Centre leading the £111 million transformation of the Royal Festival Hall, and the first Associate Dean of Advancement at London Business School.
She has also held several non-executive roles. She chaired Greenbelt Festival for many years and was a founding trustee of Hofesh Shechter Company. She is currently studying for a Master's degree in Philanthropic Studies at Canterbury, University of Kent and has recently taken up the role as Trustee of Kiln Theatre. She takes over as CEO from Sue Wilkinson MBE who is retiring this month having led The Reading Agency since January 2014.
Napier says: "I am really delighted to be joining The Reading Agency. There has never been a more needed or important time in our society for the kind of work that is at the heart of the charity's mission. Sue Wilkinson has been an incredible leader over the last few years. I am grateful for her generosity of spirit and support as she hands on the baton and I wish her a wonderful, well deserved and exciting retirement. There is a real opportunity over the coming years to deepen the impact of The Reading Agency and to widen its engagement even further. I am very much looking forward to working with colleagues, Arts Council England and all the fantastic and committed partners across the country, as we continue to build a nation of lifelong readers together."
Matthew Littleford, Chair of The Reading Agency's Board of Trustees says: "I am absolutely delighted that Karen is joining us at The Reading Agency. She has drive, enthusiasm, passion and vision and is a skilled and ambitious leader. The Trustees are really looking forward to working with her and, together, taking our brilliant organisation through the next stage of its development."
Reading has been important to Napier's life since childhood. She says:
"As an only child growing up in Yorkshire I loved getting lost in books such as Anne of Green Gables by Lucy Maud Montgomery. Although so much of my reading currently is based around my MA academic text books which I love, David Walliams' The Boy in the Dress is a real favourite and captures the same wonderful childhood experiences of not being able to close the pages and put the book down. I read it with my daughter when it first came out and have recently read again and loved it even more with my seven-year-old son! It's everything reading should be about! Tracy Chevalier's Girl with a Pearl Earing is another all time favourite for its beautiful and evocative writing - another book I just couldn't put down!"
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