Mark Richards, Director & Interim CEO: Peterborough (He/Him)
I trained as a painter, studying Fine Art in Winchester and Canterbury. I later did an MA in European Cultural Planning, which has been invaluable in my place-based work. Over my career, I have worked in art centres, further and higher education, within local government and independently as a practising artist. I started working at Metal in 2013, after nearly 10 years at Arts Council England in the East region. Joining Metal at that time was a fantastic opportunity to open up a new space in Peterborough. I live in the city, and am firmly committed to developing its cultural infrastructure, and re-positioning as a fantastic place for creatives to work. My favourite film is ‘Le Quattro Volte’ by Michelangelo Frammartino. It’s a remarkable docudrama set in a rural Italian village, about reincarnation and the cycle of life through daily rituals.
Andrea Cunningham, Director: Southend (She/Her)
Hello! I am Andrea Cunningham and I joined Metal in 2019 after a career rummaging around in London’s museums and galleries. Originally from Stepney in east London, I moved to Leigh-on-Sea in 2006 for a bit of fresh air. What’s brilliant about working for Metal is the variety of people we collaborate with – because we are a multi-arts organisation – in any one day you can speak to poets, painters, musicians, dancers, makers, trouble makers and everything in-between. It makes anything possible. A book I frequently carp on about is ‘The Intellectual Life of the British Working Class’ by Jonathan Rose – one day I will actually have to read finish it!
Jenny Porter, Interim Director: Liverpool (She/Her)
Hi I’m Jen. I’ve been at Metal for ages, since 2007. I am the Interim Director in Liverpool and was around when Edge Hill Station was still just a train station. I have loads of good memories over the years. I have supported some large-scale events including the Liverpool Beach Huts along the Liverpool Waterfront in 2016, commissioning John Cooper Clarke for the Liverpool Biennial in 2012 and curating the Liverpool Art Prize 2010-2014. I love supporting artists and thrive off the creative conversations we have. I’m a cinephile and in my spare time if I’m not watching films I’m making art.
Simone Kelly, Marketing & Communications Manager: Cross-Site (She/Her)
Simone Kelly here! I joined Metal back in the turbulence of 2020 after graduating from University of Leeds with an MA in Corporate Communications, Marketing and Public Relations. Leeds is my hometown, but my family roots are firmly in the Caribbean. I’ve always had a huge passion for the arts, and when I’m not working on Metal’s socials, I’m running my own as a spoken word artist, writer, and anti-racist advocate. I write the blog ‘Ethereal Truth’ and here my writing explores the intersectionality particularly of race, feminism and more recently, class. You can usually find me performing my angry poetry about the world to anyone that will listen or looking after my plants. A book I encourage everyone to read to view the world from a different perspective is ‘A Small Place’ by Jamaica Kincaid. You won’t be disappointed!
Liam Harris, Finance Manager: Cross-Site (He/Him)
Hi I’m Liam! The Finance Manager at Metal. I started in April 2022 having joined from an education background, making my way up from apprentice to Finance Manager in my previous workplace. I have lived and worked in the Southend area my whole life, and have a passion for sports. I love going out for dinner and socialising, you will probably see me at the Toby Carvery on a Sunday!
Ruth Campbell, Senior Project Manager: Peterborough (She/Her)
I first started working at Metal back in 2013 working on a website (Idea1) that promoted arts and culture in Peterborough, as well as being Peterborough’s Administrator. I joined after completing a BA Fine Arts at Central St Martins and MA Photography at London College Communication. I’m born and raised in Peterborough. I’ve hugely enjoyed and am proud to see Metal bring lots of exciting opportunities and a wide variety of arts to the city that I grew up in. There’s too many memories to choose a favourite but Harvest Festival and the meal with Lucy and Jorge Orta in 2015 holds a special place in my heart. Or Stone Henge Heritage, a weird and wonderful sunrise performance with participants dressed as standing stones, a surreal yet unforgettable memory! I love watching anything by Wes Anderson, their films always inspire me to go out and photograph again.
Paige Ockendon, Senior Project Manager: Southend (She/Her)
Every day’s a school day at Metal! Since joining the team in 2016, I’ve been part of a mermaid parade behind the Disco Turtle, helped bring 5000 young people together for their first festival experience and have been turned upside down by Charmaine Childs of Strong Lady Productions during a residency meeting. I graduated with a Fine Art degree from Nottingham Trent University, and I am happy to be studying/making again with help from TOMA (The Other MA). Through working with Metal and developing as an artist, I like to help people to find creative confidence and connect people, be it through shared experiences, laughter, common ground or a surprise. I have a spidey sense for Jammie Wagon Wheels, and one of my comfort shows is ‘Spaced’. Brian’s not been in residence with us yet…
Thea Behrman, Senior Project Manager: Southend (She/Her)
Hello! My name is Thea Behrman and I joined Metal in September 2019 as a Senior Project Manager for Estuary festival. Since then I have worked on special projects including the NetPark Wellbeing Project and initiating the Academy for Live Events Production. I am currently developing a cultural strategy for the South Essex Estuary Park, connecting with strategic partners and artist networks to grow opportunities for creativity across the region. My background is within curation, production, arts management and community engagement. The thing I love most about working at Metal is the forging of spectacular and memorable cultural programmes – often with the capacity to connect with human experiences in surprising and unexpected ways. One of my favourite moments was visiting all the pubs in South Essex to install Ruth Ewan’s ‘Mirrors for Princes’ artworks for Estuary festival!
Stef Bradley, Interim Senior Project Manager: Liverpool (She/Her)
I joined Metal in October 2019 after three years coordinating public engagement and learning programmes at National Museums Liverpool. I originally trained to be a teacher, working within formal education for a number of years before going down the art mines of the cultural sector. I have an MA in Art, Aesthetics and Cultural Institutions from University of Liverpool and a PGCE from University of Nottingham. I’m passionate about film and DIY culture and have coordinated DIY cinema events as a programmer for community cinema projects Liverpool Small Cinema and Empty Spaces Cinema. I love drawing, comics and I host a regular science fiction book club in Liverpool. I have lived in this city for 19 years and greatly admire the spirit of our neighbourhoods where people make amazing things happen, sometimes just through sheer force of will, imagination and solidarity. You can usually find me in the cinema. A book I often recommend is ‘Shy Radicals: The Antisystemic Politics of the Militant Introvert’ by Hamja Ahsan, a refreshing and hilarious reimagining of the world for introverts.
Sarah Steenhorst, Project Manager: Peterborough (She/Her)
Hi my name is Sarah, I started as a Project Manager in Peterborough in 2021 during the height of the pandemic. Receiving a warm welcome from the team, I have enjoyed being involved with several projects, from Peterborough Pride to the Cultural Strategy. I am from the Netherlands, but I am based in Cambridge after moving there in 2012 when I received a scholarship to study my MA in Arts Management (Anglia Ruskin University). I also studied Fine Arts in Rotterdam (Willem De Kooning Academie) where I developed my socially engaged arts practice, which I continue to work on in the UK, while also learning how to Hula Hoop and watching movies like Baby Teeth (great soundtrack!) or cringy series on Netflix.
Hannah Clarke, Project Manager: Southend (She/Her)
Hi! I’m Hannah, I joined the team back in January 2019. After completing my degree in Art History and Visual Culture at Exeter University, I was eager to return to my hometown. I’m born and bred in Westcliff-on-Sea, and feel so proud to be a part of the local creative scene in Essex through my work at Metal. In a past life, I was a chef at a local vegan restaurant, so my favourite projects involve Metal’s tradition of bringing people and artists around the dining table, where inspiring discussions emerge with each bite of food. With my background in hospitality, I love to work with and around people striving to support, champion and share creative activity to a wide range of communities. When I’m not in an excel spreadsheet, I’m (attempting) paddleboarding, eating chip shop chips (extra vinegar please) and rewatching ‘Fleabag’ or ‘The Office’.
Jon Davies, Interim Project Manager: Liverpool (He/Him)
Hi, my name is Jon and I’ve been at Metal since October 2019. I moved to Liverpool from Croydon in 2007 for university, and stuck around after graduating doing arts production, music events and journalism. I was already going to events at Edge Hill Station and had been part of Different Trains as artist care for Steve Reich, so I was really pleased to have joined permanently! In my spare time I try to be involved in the music scene in Liverpool as best as I can, making my own music, collaborating with others, putting on a gig now and then, and hosting a radio show on Melodic Distraction. My favourite film is probably Happy As Lazzaro… but I can’t explain why without spoiling it.
Emma Mills, Mental Wellbeing Co-ordinator: Southend (She/Her)
Hi, I’m Emma Mills and I joined Metal in 2016 as a Southend Borough Council Mental Wellbeing Coordinator. I was born and raised in Southend before going to the Northeast to study fine art. After teaching Design Technology and Art in London, Botswana and Southend, I undertook an MA in Art Psychotherapy at Goldsmiths College in 2006. I am passionate about using art to help alleviate anxiety, depression, and social isolation. I still make my own art and am proud to be a founding member of TOMA (The Other MA). I love working within NetPark Wellbeing and watching our participants grow and make friends, often coming back as volunteers or moving on to education or work. My favourite song is ‘Do You Wanna Funk?’ by Sylvester because it reminds me that dancing is the answer.
Ian Wilson, Class Facilitator: Southend (He/Him)
Hi, I am Ian, I originally came as a volunteer for the Alzheimer’s Society and was impressed by what I saw and joined Metal in May 2016 as a full-time volunteer for NetPark Wellbeing. I have always lived in Southend-on-Sea and have 25 years of living with personal mental health concerns. As part of my recovery, I engaged with the therapeutic art classes being delivered at NetPark Wellbeing. I am now a paid member of the team and have won numerous awards for both my work as an individual and as part of the NetPark Wellbeing team. I am a philo-semite and enjoy learning/reading about Jewish culture. My favourite author is Franz Kafka, and my favourite singer is David Sylvian.
Steph Stevenson, Company Administrator, Southend (She/Her)
Hi! I’m Steph and I’ve been at Metal Southend for well over a decade. Born and bred in Basildon, I left my Essex roots to study business and administration up North. I then moved to London where, thanks to my partner, I gained a passion for the Arts. After working abroad for 4 years, marriage and offspring brought me back to Essex where I was bowled over with the art and culture the region has to offer. I was intrigued by Metal and volunteered on various projects including Village Green, and shortly after became part of the permanent team. I have loved working with such a variety of artists, musicians, theatre makers, and writers – not to mention the fantastic events and festivals we have produced. I have a soft spot for the Thames to Tama project; watching the faces of the school children coming into the converted storage unit to be confronted with 4,664 self-portraits, arranged into five huge murals depicting William Adams’ travels in Japan, was priceless!
Jack Wilkin, Administrator: Peterborough (Them/They or He/Him)
Hi there, I’m Jack! I first discovered Metal through my previous job back in 2018, and held on ever since. Before joining the team I was fortunate enough to take part in an early career artist residency before joining the team officially in December 2019 as Peterborough’s site Administrator. I’m originally from a small village just outside Cambridge, feeling most comfort and joy by taking part in school plays and making little shows with my school mates. This joy guided me to studying Drama and Creative Writing at De Montfort University Leicester, before returning to Cambridge and working as a LGBTQ+ youth worker. As a performance artist I make work in a style, described by my mum, as ‘standup monologues’. Being a youth worker and working with young people means I always have a library of ice breaker questions, my go to being if you were a biscuit what kind would you be? (Custard cream here, how about you?)
Adjowa Afful, Administrator: Southend (She/Her)
Hey, I’m Adjowa and I joined Metal at the end of Nov 2021. I lived in Southend until I got my place in Norwich University of the Arts in 2018 to study BA Fashion and recently graduated. A couple of my hobbies are learning about other cultures and making and drawing outfits. I have had an internship working behind the scenes on fashion photoshoots and volunteered backstage at Graduate Fashion Week. It’s hard to choose but my favourite memories so far are meeting all the creatives, the dinners/lunches and the sunsets from the Reception room doors. I have love for many artists like Zuhair Murad (Fashion), Jamie (JME) Adenuga (Music) and Connie Lim (Illustration)… plus so many more!