Appointed General Manager of the Bait Al Zubair Foundation a few months ago, Paul Doubleday first arrived in Muscat in 2010 to assume the post of Director of the British Council. Paul's career, which will soon span a quarter century, has taken him to five different countries in the region (Sudan, Yemen, Pakistan, Jordan, Syria), as well as the South Caucasus. His working life has been marked by adventure and interesting projects in education and the arts.
After finishing his first degree, the young Paul Doubleday hopped on a plane to Sudan where he taught English as a volunteer. It was a modest start to a career in which he would head British Council Offices in four countries. Paul was awarded an OBE by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth for developing cultural relations between the arts sector in Oman and Syria, which included production of the first major children's exhibition at Tate Britain in 2007.
You were just finishing your term as Director of the British Council when you were offered the GM post at Bait Al Zubair Foundation. Please recount some highlights in your career that might be of interest to our readers.
I think many readers would have been excited to see an exhibition which we held in the atmospheric setting of a caravansari in Damascus in 2008. Titled Masterpieces in Ceramic, this amazing exhibition came from the renowned Victoria and Albert Museum in London.
There are many stories to tell about historic events in the region such as when British Council staff had to be evacuated because of imminent civil war or military coups, but what is most memorable for me are the creative activities. A highlight was when I was in Georgia producing a theatre piece called 'Do we look like Refugees?' which travelled to the Edinburgh Festival and won 3 gold star prizes.
The late Sarah White held your post for almost two decades and you were among her closest friends. In some ways, you must be carrying on her work. Tell us what you feel Sarah achieved and how you are building on that.
I am. Sarah's work lives on day by day in Bait al Zubair. Her hand is apparent in nearly everything that has been done in the Museum. You can almost hear her speak in some of the texts. Sarah helped shape an amazing museum and cultural space. Under the leadership of Mohammad Al Zubair, Sarah White and the Bait al Zubair team built a comprehensive collection of Omani heritage items and contemporary art, encouraging millions of visitors to learn about Oman's culture, its history and its future. That was an amazing feat.
I see Bait al Zubair's role moving into further cultural development work, such as assisting arts professionals to enhance their skills and networks. We will host more exhibitions, featuring both Omani and international artists, building on connections and providing new opportunities for people to present their creativity. We hope that in the future we will be known as an innovative cultural hub that promotes past, present and future creativity.
Bait Al Zubair is a multifaceted institution with two art galleries, a museum, an exhibition hall, and a historic house. What does Bait Al Zubair offer to the public that is special – and how do you envisage the institution's on-going relationship with Muscat's other museums and galleries?
What is special about Bait al Zubair is precisely that link to the past, present and future. It is not a place stuck in the past, but a unique space for people to explore the past in the dynamic context of the present and future. Our relationships are very good – it is all about networking, sharing and complementing one another.
No single organisation has a monopoly on culture, no one space surpasses another. Each space has its own character, each collection is special – and, taken together, they offer a rich and panoram
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