Anand Bhatt is a cultural leader and producer originally from Leicester. He founded the Desi Masti studio space in Leicester which became a leading South Asian dance organisation in the Midlands, and expanded operations further across 14 UK locations.
In 2007, Anand was dancing in a Kathak show alongside dancer Aakash Odedra. The pair became firm friends and business partners, founding the Aakash Odedra Company which went on to be the fastest growing contemporary dance company of the 2010s in the UK.
Anand became Artistic Director at Dance City and Chief Executive in 2020 and was awarded a British Empire Medal in the 2021 Queen’s New Year’s Honours list for services to Dance and Community. Anand serves on the board of Dance Consortium and People Dancing, and North East Culture Partnership.
Sally is passionate about developing the arts and culture in North East England, and has held various roles in the sector over the past two decades. County Durham born and bred; Sally is hugely proud of the outstanding cultural offer we have here in the region. Her current role is Assistant Director – Partnerships & Communications at Beamish, the UK’s largest open air museum.
Previously, Sally was the Arts Manager at Durham County Council and was instrumental in driving the vibrant arts festivals culture the county enjoys today. She is a board member of arts organisation The Forge, and a director of Visit County Durham.
Vix Leaney is an Economic Development Officer and Project Manager for Creative Central NCL. Vix has over 15 years’ experience working in both senior strategic and delivery focused roles in the cultural and creative sector in the North East, working for the destination and inward investment agency NewcastleGateshead Initiative and also in a freelance capacity as a producer.
Vix also brings recent experience working for a national Climate Change charity embedding climate co-benefits into local authority policy.
Vix has a particular interest in cross sector partnership working and co-design and a passion for the creative sector which she hopes to continue to see flourish and thrive in the North East.
Adam leads the section of the Community Foundation’s team which oversees brand development, PR and events, public engagement, funding and support programmes and initiatives and works with national and regional funding partners to ensure more resources reach groups in the North East. He joined the Community Foundation in 2004, working on business partnerships supporting culture and creative talent. Subsequently he led a partnership programme with the Garfield Weston and Esmee Fairbairn Foundations before taking on the lead external relations role in 2018 which became Community Relations in 2021. Adam is a trustee of 360 Giving and has held trustee roles with New Writing North, AV Festival and Tech for Life. He has been an advisor to White Box Projects and Northumberlandia.
Keith Merrin is the Director of Tyne & Wear Archives & Museums (TWAM) overseeing its nine museums which include 3 of the top 5 most visited free attractions in the North East (Great North Museum, Discovery and Laing Art Gallery) as well as two sites on the Hadrian’s Wall UNESCO World Heritage site. Together these venues welcome over 1 million visitors each year.
TWAM also delivers a public archive service, innovative digital programmes and award-winning activities delivering health and wellbeing outcomes for communities through culture.
Keith is Co-Chair of Newcastle Gateshead Cultural Venues (NGCV), an executive committee member of the National Museum Directors Council (NMDC) and a board member of both the Virgin Money Foundation and North East Culture Partnership.
The Faculty of Arts and Creative Industries consists of two schools: Art and Design and Media and Communications, and covers subjects across film, media, journalism, performance, art, fashion, photography and design. As Dean, Arabella leads the Faculty, supporting the academic staff to engender an exciting, dynamic and relevant scholarly environment for its students that encourages curiosity and creativity. Arabella's subject area is photography and she supervises research students in this area.
Ruth is originally from Sunderland, leaving the region for university. After a period at the BBC in London and working on the launch of Classic FM she moved to New York with her husband, once again working for the BBC.
Whilst in the States Ruth studied Arts Management, taking up a position at Caramoor Center for Music and the Arts, New York. In 2002 she returned to the UK, and has worked at Sage Gateshead, The Bowes Museum and Durham Cathedral. She is qualified as a North East England and Cumbria Blue Badge Tourist Guide. Ruth now has a portfolio career that includes a part-time role as Partnership Manager for the North East Culture Partnership.
Dr. G. Hannabiell Sanders is an African & Latin hand percussionist, bass trombonist, composer, producer, and activist. She is a charismatic performer and teacher who is committed to using her music and knowledge in service to social justice to break stereotypes and bring diverse communities together. Hannabiell is the Artistic Director of Harambee Pasadia CIC, Ladies of Midnight Blue, and the Hannabiell & Midnight Blue.
Jane is national Director for Organisational Resilience and Environmental Sustainability and is Director of the North East Arts Council office. Arts Council England is the national development agency for the arts, museums and libraries in England. Its mission is ‘great art and culture for everyone’, and the organisation works to achieve this by championing, developing and investing in arts and cultural experiences that enrich people’s lives. Prior to her role at Arts Council, Jane worked as investment analyst and team manager for The Social Investment Business, a national organisation which invests in social enterprises. Before that she was manager of the Sponsors Club, based at the Tyne & Wear Community Foundation, encouraging North East businesses to sponsor the arts, which followed on from her role as general manager at Live Theatre in Newcastle.
Stephen Wiper is the Creative Darlington Manager for Darlington Borough Council. He thinks culture can help us to explore ideas, express ourselves, appreciate other perspectives, picture possibilities, and enjoy life more fully. Since studying Fine Art in Newcastle, Stephen has worked in this sector over three decades, in Yorkshire, Northumberland, Tyne and Wear and County Durham, from schools, arts centres, libraries, museums, government funded bodies and local authorities. He believes that people’s vision, pragmatism, idealism, and ingenuity, alongside our communities, surroundings, and heritage, generate opportunities to engage with culture that enrich many lives and that there’s so much to experience thanks to so many creative people.