Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew announces Susan Raikes as Director of Wakehurst

Susan Raikes has been appointed as Director of Wakehurst, Kew’s wild botanic garden in Sussex and will join in June. She leaves her position as Director of Learning at the Science Museum Group, where she served as a member of the Group Executive for the past six years. Prior to this, Susan worked as Head of Learning and National Partnerships at the British Museum for a decade. Notably, Susan was the 2012/2013 Arts Council England Museums Fellow on the Clore Cultural Leadership Programme and is also a curator and author. 

With a proven track record and passion for leading teams that ignite curiosity and inspire the next generation, Susan’s tenure at the Science Museum Group has included development of Technicians: The David Sainsbury Gallery at the Science Museum and the international award-winning Wonderlab+ website, as well as leading on SMG’s commitment to be Open for All, underscoring her commitment to accessible and excellent learning for everyone. This experience will help Wakehurst deliver its ambitious goals to engage the wider public in the beauty and scientific value of the Wakehurst site, meet visitor and member targets, as well as plan for future developments in the landscape.

Wakehurst, Kew’s wild botanic garden in the Sussex High Weald, features ancient and beautiful landscapes across 535 acres. Its diverse collection of plants from Britain and across the globe thrive with a tapestry of innovative gardens, temperate woodlands, meadows and wetlands. Wakehurst is also a centre for UK biodiversity and global conservation, seed research and ecosystem science. At its heart is Kew’s Millennium Seed Bank, the world’s largest store of seeds from wild plant species. 

Expressing her enthusiasm for the role, Susan says: “I am delighted to be joining Wakehurst at this pivotal moment in its evolution, when advancing our scientific understanding of plants and landscapes has never been more important. Wakehurst was a favourite destination for day trips during my childhood in West Sussex and I can’t wait to have the opportunity to share it with new generations of visitors.” 

Richard Barley, Director of Gardens at RBG Kew says: “We are excited to announce that Susan is joining and bringing her expertise to Wakehurst, I look forward to working with her and building on the outstanding work of the Wakehurst leadership team who continue to build its strength as a multi-layered biodiverse research centre, a rich landscape visitor attraction and as a hub for cultural and family events.”

Lorraine Lecourtois assumed the interim directorship in October 2023 following the departure of Ed Ikin. She will return to her position of Head of Public Programmes continuing her work to establish RBG Kew as the world leader for education and engagement in nature through designing and executing inspirational experiences and exhibitions to drive public engagement.

Two new independent members of Wakehurst Advisory’s Committee have also been announced, Dr Lucy Sutherland, Director of National Botanic Garden Wales, and Esme Ward, Director of Manchester Museum.  The purpose of the Wakehurst Advisory Committee is to help drive, challenge and support the ambition, innovation and excellence in all aspects of Wakehurst and its role within RBG Kew. 


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