The Downton Abbey bus driver who's TikTok famous is Beamish Museum's 'tourism star'

Ian Bean from Beamish Museum has been named Durham Tourism Superstar. Credit: Durham County Council

A museum engager who has devoted almost 40 years to ensuring visitors have an unforgettable experience has been crowned Durham Tourism Superstar 2023.

Ian Bean, an engager at Beamish, The Living Museum of the North, secured the most public votes in the annual competition, which is organised by Visit County Durham.

Mr Bean first volunteered at Beamish Museum 37 years ago, when he was 20 years old, and has gone on to embrace many different roles at the popular attraction.

Ian Bean receiving his award from Duncan Peake, Chair of Visit County Durham. Credit: Durham County Council

From riding penny farthings, restoring vintage vehicles and taking part in Suffragette rallies, to helping to deliver sessions for people living with dementia, marshalling events and playing the street organ – he is a man of many talents who always goes above and beyond for visitors and his colleagues.

He even appeared in the Downton Abbey film, driving the vintage bus he restored, and has clocked up more than 300,000 views on the social media platform TikTok as Penny Farthing Guy. 

Mr Bean said: “I’m elated and stunned to have won Durham Tourism Superstar. Thank you very much to everyone who voted for me, it’s absolutely fantastic."It’s an honour to be nominated in the first place and to be shortlisted down to five and then to win is overwhelming. This represents the quality of people working in the tourism industry in Durham and, in our case, Beamish Museum.

"Working at Beamish is great, it doesn’t really feel like work, if you do something you enjoy you never work a day in your life.

"It would be an honour to promote Durham and its unique and stunning attractions at the national Tourism Superstar award and to tell people how wonderful Durham is, which I’d certainly do to the best of my ability.”

After volunteering as a Friend of Beamish for decades, along with his wife and two children, Mr Bean is now an engager in the museum’s 1900s town. Dressed in his smart Edwardian outfit, he is friendly, welcoming and always happy to share his knowledge with visitors.

Life at Beamish Museum in County Durham. Credit: PA

Rhiannon Hiles, chief executive of Beamish Museum, said: “Congratulations to our very own Durham Tourism Superstar 2023, Ian Bean.

"Ian truly has the greatest passion for the county and shows the greatest commitment and love of placing visitors first. Ian is dedicated to providing visitors with the very best experience and has been an active volunteer and staff member at Beamish for many years, being well known for taking part in events and activities, particularly with his trusty penny farthing bicycle"

He will now go forward as Visit County Durham’s nomination for the Visit England and Mirror Travel national Tourism Superstar contest.

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