Simon Thurley

Running English Heritage involves juggling so many conflicting agendas that it can seem like a graveyard for ambition

by Andrew Davidson

Simon Thurley is not, you suspect, a man who lacks drive. An expert in royal palaces, former head of the Museum of London, he has been chief executive of English Heritage - the government-backed body that regulates and maintains many of our most precious ancient monuments - since 2002, and he's still only 41.

Slim, floppy-haired, poshly spoken, with that slightly camp acuity that a passion for aesthetics gives many straight men, he talks so fluidly about his chosen subjects - buildings, costs, management, government, himself - that you can imagine the panel that interviewed him for the English Heritage job might just have given him the post on the strength of his confidence alone.

Added to which, he is clearly one of life's great organisers - his opinions, his books and his endless collections of minerals, rocks, bones and whatnot that he categorises and labels at weekends to fill his spare time. The top slot at English Heritage, a quango that needs an organising touch as well as a big character to lead it, might seem the perfect fit for Thurley. For starters, everything he does seems to be laid out and displayed with precision - he cares about the appearance of things. 'It's one of the things I care about most,' he grins.

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