New Trustees and new Marketing & Development Director for Cheltenham Festivals

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Cheltenham Festivals has appointed six new Trustees. Following a strategic review in 2017, the charity has been undertaking a recruitment drive for new Board members to provide stronger support for its work with children and young people and oversight of its diversity and inclusion ambitions.

The new Trustees are: Sarah Cooksley; Beth Griffin; Beverley Grimster; Shamil Makhecha; Mark Philip-Sorensen and Dr Deborah Cogan Thacker.

The Board of Trustees provides strategic governance to the organisation. The current Chair, Dominic Collier, will step down at the end of the year on completion of his current three-year term, handing over to Diane Savory as Interim Chair until a new Chair is recruited.

Also joining the organisation is Bernadette Murphy as Director of Marketing & Development. She joins Cheltenham Festivals from New Zealand where she was Group Manager for Fundraising, Marketing and Communications for community agency Lifewise NZ. Bernadette’s cultural and education sector experience also includes roles with Manukau Symphony Orchestra and the University of Auckland.

Bernadette will join the Senior Management Board which provides day to day management of the organisation.

Dominic Collier said: “I am leaving Cheltenham Festivals in very good heart, following our most successful Literature Festival and indeed the strongest festival season ever, in the knowledge that an excellent team is in place to take the charity on to ever-greater things. Cheltenham Festivals produces innovative, world-class content across science and the arts. We put Education and outreach to our communities at the heart of everything we do. We aim to engage everyone in science and the arts through our four pillars of Talent Development, Unique Experiences, Year Round Outreach and Bringing the best of…. We work closely with fellow organisations in Cheltenham and the wider region to promote Culture for the benefit of everyone. Our new Board members and new Director of Marketing and Development join us to enhance our ability to fulfil these aims and to help us to achieve our ambitious 3-year plans.”

Cheltenham Festivals Trustee biographies

Sarah Cooksley – Trustee
Sarah Cooksley is an English teacher with 15 years’ experience, including four years as Subject
Leader. She is an advocate for enrichment and access to the arts for all with a specific focus on helping to provide cultural experiences for the local and wider community and developing and showcasing the talent of young people. Sarah’s personal skills centre on the ability to communicate effectively and motivate groups of people as well as a keen work ethic and a desire to improve the life chances of young people.

Beth Griffin – Trustee
Having lived her whole life in Cheltenham, Beth Griffin has been attending festivals since primary school. Beth is a local musician and spoken word artist performing across the country with her bands 5
Mics & BAAST. Beth is a workshop facilitator and teacher who is passionate about nurturing young talent and providing opportunities in the local area for young creatives to help shape a vision for the future where young people can get involved in creating a local sustainable cultural scene.

Beverley Grimster – Trustee
Beverley Grimster works with some of the most vulnerable groups in Gloucestershire through her work as a Service Delivery Manager for the Independence Trust. Beverley loves the Arts and Sciences and is a keen festival goer. Her ability to engage with all levels of society and in particular minority communities, is something she is keen to bring to the Board of Trustees. Day to day Beverley works with people who have no idea about the festivals, and feel that they are not for them. Beverley believes that inclusion is very important for the Festivals to grow and become part of the DNA of Gloucestershire, so that reaching out to groups from Gloucestershire and beyond continues to be a priority.

Shamil Makhecha – Trustee
Having been raised in Cheltenham, Shamil Makhecha knows each of the four festivals and is still drawn back to his ‘hometown’ as a Literature and Jazz lover. Shamil is currently the Director of a London based Race Equality organisation and Gender Equality Officer at a leading development organisation, so brings to the Board a national commitment to diversity and equal representation. Shamil is a senior leader with a passion for social justice with experience in advocacy and campaigning, programme management and youth engagement. Through all his work Shamil is proactive and driven by a desire for change.

Dr Deborah Cogan Thacker – Trustee
American by birth, Deborah Thacker has been a UK resident since 1975. She has been teaching literature in higher education for 25 years. Her research is focussed on the inter-relationship between publishing, marketing, education and children around reading, but she has published on many aspects of children’s literature. She teaches on an American programme in Bath, but is recently retired from the University of Gloucestershire, where, as Subject Leader in Humanities, she developed links between the Festivals and students. She has been involved with the Festival’s Reading Teachers= Reading Pupils project since its inception, as the field researcher for the Open University Evaluation team. She is on the Board of Governors of a small Gloucestershire primary school and is Chair of the Teaching and Learning Committee. She is also on the Board of MakeBelieve Arts, a small educational charity which delivers an innovative storytelling curriculum to schools around the world.

Mark Philip-Sorensen -Trustee
Mark is an experienced Non-Executive Director skilled in providing positive challenge, strategic oversight and lateral thinking to deliver transformational change within diverse businesses and company cultures, locally, nationally and internationally, whilst remaining connected to the values of collaboration, innovation and integrity. He has been both a life patron and a passionate supporter of the Cheltenham Festivals for many years and has been able to help with the expansion of education as an important component of the four Festivals. Philanthropic engagement is not new to him and he sees real benefits in using the best from the worlds of business and philanthropy to create something more powerful. Mark is also a Trustee of his family’s charitable Foundation. Mark lives near Cheltenham with his wife and three teenage boys and all members of the family are keen Festival goers.