Master, directors & staff of the Guild
The Guild, as a charity, is run by a volunteer Board of Directors drawn from the Guild's Companionship. They serve terms of three years and each new term is endorsed by Companions at the AGM. In addition, in 2021 the Board created a new post, Young Companion's Representative to the Board, which is a fixed 2-year post for a Companion under the age of 35, the holder of which attends Board meetings.
Currently, the Guild's day to day business is managed by two part-time paid staff posts, Administrator and Communications & Memberships Officer. You can read more about each Director below.
Current Master of the Guild
Peter Burman, Director for Craft and for International Relations
Mark Cleaver, Director for Land Management & Environmental Matters
Mark Frost, Director for Ruskin Studies and Legacies
Nichola Johnson, Director for the Ruskin Collection
Peter Miller, Director of Publications
Jenny Robbins, Treasurer & Director for Properties
Arjun Jain, Young Companions Representative to the Board (2021-3)
Members of Staff
Membership & Communications
The Guild's Board
(in alphabetical order)
Dr Peter Burman, MBE, FSE
Director for Craftspeople & Craftsmanship; International Relationships - North America; Italy, especially Venice; Japan; India. Thus far ...
Became a Companion in 1996; became a Director in 2018
It has been enormously enjoyable and intellectually stimulating to me that I have been able to play a lively part in three very Ruskinian organisations which have had long and distinguished histories: Guild of St George (1871); Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings (1877); Art Workers' Guild (1884). I have also been a founder trustee of a number of late 20thC organisations approaching similar challenges in new ways such as the York Consortium for Conservation and Craftsmanship and SAVE Britain's Heritage. I have found that having effective communications both within an organisation and public facing is absolutely crucial to success. My professional roles as an architectural historian and architectural conservator have all been highly congenial to me: (i) as a schoolboy I loved to explore village churches on my bicycle and, amazingly, this blossomed into my first career, with the Council for the Care of Churches (CCC) and the Cathedrals Fabric Commission for England (CFCE). I was a member of the Wells Cathedral West Front Committee for all of its 12 years and Chair of the St Paul's Fabric Committee for 20 years. I wrote a book on St Paul's Cathedral but otherwise most of my published work has been around the architect Philip Webb (1831-1915), with whom I feel a great affinity; he was one of the closest friends of William Morris, as is shown by so much of their respective surviving correspondence. (ii) My second career was in universities, first as Director of the Centre for Conservation Studies at the University of York, and later as Professor of Cultural Heritage Management at the Brandenburg Technical University at Cottbus, attached to the Centre for World Heritage Studies. I also had a semester on the Wall Paintings Conservation Course at ICCROM, in Rome, and a semester as Visiting Professor in the History of Art Department at the University of Canterbury, Christchurch, New Zealand. (iii) In between my academic roles I had a spell as Director of Conservation at the National Trust for Scotland during which I spoke, in and out of season, of the way in which Ruskin's ideas about stewardship and authenticity lay behind the international National Trust 'Movement'.
I live in a beautiful village called Falkland in Fife where I am a Community Councillor and a trustee of the heritage assets, buildings and landscape, of the Falkland Estate which we run on Ruskinian lines somewhat parallel to Ruskin Land. I am also a trustee and Archivist at a major country house open to the public, Hopetoun House. It would be odd if I did not mention another great passion of mine which is music, I play the piano (at one time the organ) and the recorders. Where would I most like to be, with my partner Ross who is also a Companion, other than in my turret study at our c.1600 home in Falkland - Venice, with Sicily a close second and Orkney a third!
Moving northwards has always been a great adventure for me, being a Midlander. At the University of York I was delighted to find that it was only 100 miles' drive through delectable dale landscapes to Brantwood and so I took to going there regularly, joining the committee of the Friends, hanging on to Howard Hull's lightest word, giving talks, spending two nights in the room where Ruskin died, engaging with artists and craftspeople there, learning to enjoy Ruskin's writing and taking his ideas into my teaching about conservation. But I also learned about the compassionate side of Ruskin including his support for wholesome public housing, his championing of ordinary men and women, of meaningful work, of wholesome food, his passionate defence of beautiful landscape in the Lake District and elsewhere. The more of Ruskin I read and pondered the more I began to see that he was a prophet for our time as well as his time, and a prophet who tried to do something. One Saturday I went to a poetry reading by Clive Wilmer (we had been the same college together) at Brantwood and he said: 'Why don't you join the Guild?' So I did.
Director for Land Management & Environmental Matters
Became a Companion in 2010; joined the Board in 2021.
I am a Professional environmentalist and social entrepreneur. My interests lie in the natural environment and I have wealth of experience in the UK environmental sector gained from working in local authorities and charities on ground-breaking and award-winning projects in conservation, farming, energy, and community. My awareness of Ruskin came about through my role as the Farm Manager for the Wyre Community Land Trust in its formative period and I found resonance with the Guild’s values and aspirations.
We live in very interesting times for the planet and society. As someone passionate about the environment I am looking forward to working with the Board and Companions to be bold, creative and innovative in meeting the challenges posed by the Climate and Ecological Emergency.
I bring to this role, not only my professional expertise, but an intimate knowledge of Ruskin Land and its role within the landscape and communities of the Wyre Forest.
Dr Rachel Dickinson
Master of the Guild
Became a Companion in 2011; joined the Board in 2014; elected Master 2019.
Ruskin’s vision for what the Guild — a group of individuals passionate about fighting for true wealth and against what Ruskin calls ‘illth’ — can accomplish resonates. I want to be part of that change for the better.
I am a Reader in Interdisciplinary Studies/English at Manchester Metropolitan University. My current research fuses my home discipline in English literature with skills as a textiles practitioner and experience gained by volunteering in the Guild to consider how Ruskin’s use of clothing and cloth merges with other fields to frame transdisciplinary models which can address pressing concerns in our time. Ruskin offers potentially transformative inspiration. Just as he looked to Gothic and medieval models to frame solutions to nineteenth century aesthetic, economic, environmental and social problems, so we can use his ideas to frame responses to our own problems.
Dr Mark Frost
Director for Ruskin Studies and Legacies
Became a Companion in 2010; joined the Board in 2021
A Victorian scholar who has worked on Ruskin, science, and environment since 1998, I am Senior Lecturer in English Literature at University of Portsmouth. As the author of The Lost Companions and John Ruskin's Guild of St George: a Revisionary History I have helped to reinvigorate studies of the early history of the Guild. I have worked on steering groups at Ruskin Land, and have an abiding love for the Wyre Forest and for Sheffield, where I led the campaign to restore the grave of the Guild’s first curator, Henry Swan. My remit as Director is to connect the Guild’s present-day activities to its long, complex, and fascinating history, and to find ways to re-imagine Ruskin’s legacies in contemporary contexts – with a particular eye on his commitment to education, environment, and culture. I would like to connect with Guild companions to promote wider engagement with Ruskin’s remarkable life and career. I am also committed to the work of creating cultural activities, events, and collaborations in Ruskin Land.
I joined the Guild because of my fascination with the Guild's roots, but also in order to assist the Guild during the most encouraging, active, and positive period in its long history. In all things, to follow Ruskin’s core principles of co-operation, sympathy, and the appreciation (and protection) of beauty.
Director for the Ruskin Collection
Became a Companion in 2012; joined the Board 2018.
I am a former academic and museum curator. Currently, I am Visiting Professor in Curation at Norwich University of the Arts, trustee of Brantwood and a member of the board of the Clore Cultural Leadership programme.
My first (student) exhibition was on 'Ruskin and Luxury' and I've long been particularly interested in 'introducing' Ruskin to students of the fine and decorative arts and to graduates developing careers in the heritage sector. Another long-standing interest is in Utopian communities, and I'm also a singer, lurcher-lover and VW camper van owner who would love to have the courage to live properly 'in the margins'!
I became a Companion because I was flattered to be invited! More importantly, I was drawn to the Guild's increasing activity in community engagement and skills-development, particularly in the areas of the environment and social policy.
Director for Publications
Became a Companion in 1988; joined the Board in 2002.
I was born in London in 1947 but spent most of my young life in Blackpool. There, for a period of about three years, I lived with my grandparents. My grandfather was what used to be called a commercial artist and in 1955 he was called out of retirement to repaint the ceiling of the Tower Ballroom after it had been gutted by fire. One year later he had completed The Carnival of Venice, over 4000 square feet, earning himself the sobriquet of ‘Michelangelo Miller’.
In 1965, when I was 18, I came to then new University of York where after a modest engagement with History and English I obtained a summer job in Spelmans, my favourite bookshop in York. In fact I stayed and took it over in 1973, spending the next 44 years happily buying and selling second-hand and antiquarian books. I retired in 2012, handing it on to my business partner, Tony Fothergill.
My interest in Ruskin was developed by Julian Spalding in the 1980s, who at that time was Director of the Sheffield Art Galleries and a Director of the Guild. The Ruskin Collection was back in Sheffield by then and Julian had arranged for it to be housed in Norfolk Street with Janet Barnes as its first Curator. At that time the Guild was much smaller than it is today, but Julian’s enthusiasm encouraged me to join and I became a Companion in 1988. I became a Director in 2002 and since 2012 I have been Director of Publications.
It is encouraging to find that Ruskin’s generous ideas about society and the environment have become more and more relevant and this has resulted in the Guild being more active and having a larger number of Companions today than it has ever had the past 150 years.
Treasurer and Director for Properties
Became a Companion in 2014; joined the Board in 2015.
In 2007 I became a Director of the Wyre Community Land Trust, working to restore the orchards and meadows in the Wyre Forest. The project is now based at Ruskin Land and through this work I was introduced to the work of Ruskin. I became a Companion and subsequently a Director in 2014. I have responsibility for the Guild property portfolio both in Wyre and Westmill in Hertfordshire, and from 2021, as treasurer. I worked with the WCLT to deliver the Ruskin in Wyre project culminating in 2019.
Young Companions Representative to the Board (2021-23)
Became a Companion in 2016.
I should like to begin, if I may, by evoking the names of those, whom, for a rather considerable period of time, I have looked up to, namely Ludwig Wittgenstein, Leo Tolstoy, Mahātmā Gāndhī, of course John Ruskin, Ravīndranāth Ṭhākur, and John Keats. My education, although, involves a master’s in nuclear physics from the Indian Institute of Technology in Ruṙkī, and a withdrawn-from master’s in art and science from Central Saint Martins, of the University of the Arts London, I have been leading, for the last two years (as of 2018), a rather literary lifestyle, having self-published a book of verse on the subject of ‘visa restrictions’, a work of prose on the issue of ‘family relations’, and most recently a pamphlet upon the ‘necessity of a national language’; which publishing, and printing, I have done under the banner of the John Ruskin Manufactory (of which I am also proprietor), ‘an attempt to put into practice, sincerely and without compromise, the economic ideas of John Ruskin’. As initial projects, I have undertaken the construction of the manufactory’s physical premises in New Delhi, in accordance with Ruskin’s Seven Lamps; and most passionately perhaps, the promotion of the Hindustānī language in Hindustān.
I would like to relate ‘how’ I became a Companion rather than ‘why’. In 2016, while in England, I felt the need of visiting the village of Yasnaya Polyana in Russia once again, the birthplace of Leo Tolstoy, in the capacity of a temporary lumberman. The librarian there, one of the only two English-speakers I could find, led me to Dr Stuart Eagles’ -then Guild’s Secretary- ‘Ruskin and Tolstoy’, to whom, of course, I wrote at once to congratulate. I was invited eventually to Ruskin Land, in the Wyre Forest; where itself I applied for Companionship.