David Barrie

photo copyright Mary Gibson

A former deck-hand, diplomat, arts administrator and campaigner, David Barrie has a degree in experimental psychology and philosophy from Oxford, loves insects (especially moths) and is an expert small boat sailor and navigator. By the age of twenty he had sailed across the Atlantic and competed in the Observer Two-Handed Round Britain race. He has since sailed all over the world.

During his years in the diplomatic service he was posted to the embassy in Dublin at the height of the Troubles in Northern Ireland. Later he was involved in the negotiations that led to the Anglo-Irish Agreement of 1985 that paved the way for the Good Friday Agreement.

In 1989 he became Director of The Japan Festival 1991 – the largest event of its kind ever held in the UK. Later, as Director of the Art Fund, he led the successful national campaign to restore free admission to the UK’s national museums and galleries.

After leaving the Art Fund he was chair of the campaigning organisation Make Justice Work (which sought to reduce the number of low-level offenders who are sent to prison) and was involved in efforts to reform drug policy in the UK.

His last book, Sextant, celebrated the role of celestial navigation in the exploration and mapping
of the world’s oceans. He is a Fellow of the Royal Institute of Navigation.

See David Barrie at

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