Board of Trustees

Beamish Unlimited

Meet Beamish’s Board of Trustees. The Board is made up of volunteers who give their expertise, experience and their valuable time to the museum.

Cllr John-Paul Stephenson, Chair

Photograph of Cllr John Paul Stephenson

John-Paul has been a lecturer in Higher Education for around 20 years in various universities and colleges across the region, where he teaches interdisciplinary social sciences. He has served as an A-Level and Undergraduate Examiner, an Academic Conduct Officer, and as a management consultant.

Raised in South Moor in Stanley, John-Paul moved to Newcastle to be with his partner. First elected as a ward councillor in 2016, he was promoted to the Cabinet on Newcastle City Council in 2019, where he is currently the portfolio holder for Public Health & Culture. John-Paul is also the Vice-Chair of the Tyne and Wear Archives and Museums Strategic Board. He has a particular interest in tackling health inequalities and the importance of mental wellbeing.

John-Paul has been a trustee at Beamish since 2017 and says it is “a particular honour to serve as Chair throughout this exciting time as more of the Remaking Beamish project comes to fruition”. He added: “It’s my pledge to serve my tenure with integrity and respect for our amazing staff and volunteers who make the museum a world-class visitor experience.”

Cllr Alison Batey, Vice Chair

Photograph of Cllr Alison Batey

Alison has lived in the area for over 33 years, is married with three children. She has historic family links to the museum and welcomes the opportunity of joining the Board of Trustees having been elected as Vice Chair.

She has been a County Councillor covering Pelton Division since 2013 and an Urpeth Parish Councillor since 2011, both of which include the location of the museum. She has previously been Vice Chair and Chair of Economy and Enterprise, Vice Chair of Corporate Overview and Scrutiny Management Board and currently sits on the Licensing Committee within the Council. She is also a Board Member for Durham and Darlington Combined Fire Authority and is the Board Equality and Diversity Lead.

Having previously had a 25 year career as a civil servant, her work has covered many disciplines within central government, including at Government Office for the North East. This work included neighbourhood renewal and regeneration, emergency planning, rural issues, planning and European funding. She also turned a hobby into a floristry and wedding co-ordination business, however, council commitments mean that she can no longer dedicate as much time to this as she would like to.

Alan Ashburner

Photograph of Alan Ashburner

Alan is retired from a career in domestic banking, is married and child free, and lives in the Tyne Valley.

He has been a member of and volunteer for the Friends of Beamish for over 35 years and still remembers with affection “the winter weekends with the glowing bottom of the single stove in the Blue Bell garage which was our workshop at Foulbridge”. Alan has been Friends Treasurer (which he describes as a “busman’s holiday”) since 1991 and Friends Representative, previously on the Joint Management Committee and now Board of Trustees for many years.

Outside Beamish, he is a member of Lions Clubs International, using his time “to try and make things better for my local and wider community”. A native of “the original Cumberland”, he has lived this side of the Pennines for 55 years.

Mike Barker

Photograph of Mike Barker

Co-opted trustee since 2014. Mike is the Strategic Director, Corporate Services & Governance, at Gateshead Council. He is also the Borough Solicitor.

Having qualified as a solicitor with Durham County Council in 1995, Mike joined Gateshead Council in 2000 as Major Projects Solicitor, working on the Council’s major capital projects, including the Gateshead Millennium Bridge, BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art and Sage Gateshead. He was Head of Commercial & Development Law at the Council from 2004, advising the council’s planning, property, highways and economic development functions, before being appointed Strategic Director, Legal & Corporate Services in 2008, incorporating the role of Solicitor to Northumbria Police Authority.

Mike was Chief Executive to Northumbria Police Authority, and then to the Police & Crime Commissioner, April 2012 to June 2013, and Acting Chief Executive of the Council June 2016 to February 2017. Mike is also a council-appointed trustee of Sage Gateshead and a director of the Learning for Life charity.

A regular visitor to Beamish from childhood, Mike is delighted to now support the museum as a Board member and help promote its wonderful work in celebrating the history and heritage of the North East.

Cllr Ruth R Berkley

Photograph of Cllr Ruth Berkley

Ruth was born and continues to live in South Shields. She was educated in South Shields and went to Northumbria and Newcastle Universities.

As a former trade union officer with UNISON, her area of expertise was equality and diversity, regional public sector policy, media and women’s campaigning, development and training. She was also a senior steward with UNITE, the union.

For seven years, Ruth was Chair of Women’s Health in South Tyneside, prior to becoming Chair of HealthNet South Tyneside. In both positions she has advocated on behalf of the VCSE (Voluntary, Community and Social Enterprise) sector. She is committed to the NHS and its staff along with campaigning for the health and wellbeing of all residents in the borough. Ruth continues to volunteer with charities across the borough.

In May 2021 she was elected as a councillor for Horsley Hill Ward.

On a personal note Ruth is a painter of watercolours and a keen supporter of the arts, especially creative arts and music. She said: “I consider the arts as an integral component of health and wellbeing for our communities and on an individual basis.”

Cllr Angela Douglas

Photograph of Cllr Angela Douglas

Angela was first elected as a local councillor to represent the Bridges Ward, Gateshead, in 2006. “It is vitally important that people have a voice on local issues, and I am proud to represent my local community,” she says.

As a Cabinet Member at Gateshead Council, she holds the portfolio for Culture, Sport & Leisure. Angela has been a member of the Beamish Board for four years. Over the years, she has acquired skills and a lot of experience through her community involvement. Bringing these to the Board she feels greatly enhances and complements the variety of different skills brought to the Board by other members. She said: “It is important to have well-rounded views and skill sets for effective governance”

Angela also sits as Vice-Chair on the Tyne and Wear Archives and Museums Strategic Board. She chairs the Northumbria Police and Crime Panel and also chairs the Gateshead Community Safety Board. Angela has been a school governor for over 15 years and also sits on various bodies representing the council.

Cllr Dominic Haney

Photograph of Cllr Dominic Haney

Dominic joined the Board of Trustees at Beamish Museum as a local authority appointee following his election to Durham County Council. He serves as a county councillor for Consett, Moorside and The Grove.

Dominic’s background is in finance, having worked in risk and intelligence at HMRC. He is a member of Beamish’s Finance, Audit and Risk subcommittee.

As well as bringing his professional experience to Beamish Museum, Dominic is passionate about culture and County Durham’s proud industrial heritage, which the museum helps preserve and promote.

Cllr Joanne Howey

Cllr Joanne Howey

Joanne is a widow and a mum of four children who is passionate about history, County Durham and showing of our wonderful area to the world. She is also extremely passionate about families making as many memories together in ways they can afford.

Joanne’s daily employment is running a constituency office for an MP, as well as being one of the new County Councillors in County Durham. She said: “I feel honoured to be in a position to be able to assist people.”

Gillian Miller

Photograph of Gillian Miller

Gillian has been an independent trustee on Beamish’s Board since 2014. She was born and raised in Sunderland, where she still lives now. In the course of her 30+ year working career Gillian has worked in local government, including a stint as Head of Economic Development at North Tyneside Council. Since 2001, Gillian has held a number of senior leadership positions in education, including 13 years as a Civil Servant in the Department for Education and then as Regional Director of the Association of Colleges.

Most recently, Gillian has been employed by New College Durham co-ordinating the involvement of colleges across the North East region in a project which aims to increase the number of young people from disadvantaged areas progressing to higher education.

In her spare time Gillian particularly enjoys spending time with her horse, Shelby. Together, Gillian and Shelby take part in a variety of equestrian events sports including show jumping when Gillian is feeling particularly brave.

Marie Nixon

Marie Nixon is the Theatre Director at the Sunderland Empire, a beautiful, 2,000 seat theatre in the heart of Sunderland’s culture quarter and Riverside regeneration area.

Marie has worked in the arts, culture and charities for nearly 30 years in a range of roles, starting out as a musician and moving on to roles in artist management in the commercial music industry, at Arts Council England, with the University of Sunderland and latterly at Ambassador Theatre Group who operate the Empire on behalf of Sunderland City Council.

As well as being proud to be a trustee at Beamish, Marie is also on the board of the MAC Trust and a Director of We Make Culture CIC. Marie’s claim to fame is that she has been on Top of the Pops. She lives with her family and dog, a cockerpoo called Rocky, in Gateshead and is a songwriter and performer in the band The Cornshed Sisters.


John Pennie

Photograph of John Pennie

John is a retired solicitor who is now a director of various businesses and several trusts and charities. He is fascinated by the industrial and agricultural revolutions and has been a great fan of Beamish since settling in the North East 35 years ago. He keeps his own herd of rare English Longhorn cattle on a farm built partly from stone borrowed from nearby Hadrian’s Wall.

Sarah Salter

Photograph of Sarah Salter

After a successful career in business, most recently as Group HR Director at Northumbrian Water, Sarah now enjoys a portfolio career as an executive coach, yoga teacher and non-executive director at Karbon Homes. With the support of Beamish colleagues, in 2013 Sarah established the Business Friends of Beamish to create collaborative opportunities with businesses that share her passion for the museum. She has been a member of the BML Board since 2014 and since 2018 she has been the Board Champion for Diversity and Inclusion, supporting Arts Council’s Creative Case focus.

Her favourite part of Beamish is the fabulous team of people who bring the museum to life for visitors every day, and the enthusiasm and commitment of all the Business Friends partners (and the cakes from Herron’s Bakery!) She lives in Chester-le-Street with her husband and border terrier, and bought the Beamish Monopoly game for Christmas in 2020.

Sarah Stewart OBE DL

Photograph of Sarah Stewart OBE DL

Recently retired from career in marketing and business development spanning private, public and third sectors, Sarah spent her early career with Procter & Gamble, Price Waterhouse and Sage Group plc. She became increasingly involved in regional development, combining executive roles including Director of Newcastle Science City, Regional Director of Work Wise North East and non-executive roles including Deputy Chair of both Port of Tyne and International Centre for Life.

Sarah was Chief Executive of NewcastleGateshead Initiative (NGI), a tourism and inward investment agency, from 2010 to 2019. During this time, NGI bid for and delivered series of major events, including the Great Exhibition of the North 2018 and World Transplant Games 2019. Whilst at NGI, she was also a member of the VisitEngland board and North Area Council of Arts Council.

Sarah is currently Chair of Governors at Gateshead College, alongside other non-exec roles with Newcastle Cathedral, Newcastle University and National Churches Trust. She was awarded OBE for services to the North East economy in 2016. Sarah was High Sheriff of Tyne & Wear in 2020-21 and appointed Deputy Lieutenant of Tyne & Wear 2020.

Sarah first became involved with Beamish in 2003, initially as trustee and then Chair of Beamish Development Trust (until 2012); Trustee and Board Member of Beamish Museum since 2009.