Meet the team making Leeds 2023 happen!

Our team

Kully Thiarai

Creative Director

Mark Hollander

Executive Director (will take up post early 2020)

Jennifer Gridley

Executive Assistant

Our board

Ruth has a wealth of experience across the media and cultural landscape and helped to shape Leeds City Region’s successful bid to be the home of Channel 4’s new National HQ.

A journalist and documentary maker by background, Ruth runs mentoring networks that help develop next generation talent for the creative industries and is also the Director of the Creative Cities Convention and a trustee of Leeds Playhouse.

Ruth Pitt


Sharon is the seventh and longest-standing Artistic Director of Phoenix Dance Theatre. Trained at the London School of Contemporary Dance, she was one of the first female Principal Dancers invited to join the all-male award-winning Phoenix Dance Theatre (formerly Phoenix Dance Company). Since then she has been named ‘Yorkshire Woman of the Year’ in 2016 and in of July 2019 she was awarded an Honorary Doctorate by Leeds Beckett University for her contribution to the arts. Sharon was the Chair of the former Leeds 2023 Independent Steering Group.

Sharon Watson


As owner and Creative Director of Thompson Brand Partners for 35 years, Ian worked for organisations like Morrisons,, Paul Smith, London 2012 and The Tour de France.

He moved on from his business in late 2018 to develop his interest in film making and is currently working on a documentary series about male dancing and his love of Northern Soul.

Ian Thompson


Barbara was Chief Executive of the Yorkshire Museums Council for 16 years. A Past President of the UK Museums Association, she was awarded an OBE in 2000 for services to museums.

Consultancy work followed for UNESCO and others in Eastern Europe, Central Asia and the Southern Caucasus, especially in change management and governance.

Barbara Woroncow OBE


Councillor Judith Blake was elected as the first ever female Leader of Leeds City Council in May 2015.  Councillor Blake is the Chair of the Core Cities Group. The Group represents the Councils of England’s eight largest city economies outside London, along with Glasgow and Cardiff. She is also Chair of the Local Government Association’s Children & Young People’s Board.

Councillor Blake was the deputy chair of the former Leeds 2023 Independent Steering Group.

Councillor Judith Blake


Born and raised in Chapeltown, Sanchez has represented Leeds in many capacities.

A former professional football player, Sanchez has played for both Leeds City Boys and Leeds United. Recently, Sanchez has moved on to work in the media and hosts his own show “Backstage” on Wednesdays on BBC Radio Leeds .Sanchez has been involved in Leeds 2023 since the beginning as a member of the young people’s group Think Leeds 2023.

Sanchez Payne


Frank Finlay has been Professor of German at the University of Leeds since 1999. He is recognised as a distinguished scholar in his field, with teaching and research interests in German literature and culture. He is Director of the University’s Cultural Institute which he set up to promote collaborations between academics, students, and the arts and culture and creative industries sectors. He takes up a new University role as Dean of Cultural Engagement in January 2020. Frank is Chair of the Board of Trustees for a number of arts organisations and is a keen amateur musician.

Frank was a former member of the Leeds 2023 Independent Steering Group.

Frank Finlay


Born and raised in Bramley, Jamie is an ex professional rugby league player who has  represented the city through the Leeds Rhinos for over 20 years.  Jamie played his entire professional career with the Rhinos winning six Super League Grand Finals, three World Club Challenges, three League Leaders’ Shields and one Challenge Cup Final.

Jamie is dedicated to inspiring more Leeds communities, he a trustee of Leeds Rhino’s Foundation and Red Ladder Theatre Company.

Jamie Jones Buchanan


Sharon is a chartered accountant who has lived, studied and worked in Leeds for 27 years.

She was a member of the Community Engagement Group for Leeds 2023 before becoming a trustee. In her spare time, Sharon is a viola player, performing with orchestras and chamber groups.

Sharon Gladish


Councillor Dan Cohen, born in Alwoodley and elected to represent the Alwoodley ward in May 2011, is a Conservative city councillor. As Shadow Cabinet Member for Leisure, Culture & Skills, Councillor Cohen plays an active role in supporting the city’s cultural ambitions.

With a long-term interest in education, he is keen see young people involved in ideas for the city’s cultural development. He is a school governor for several schools within Alwoodley, including the Jewish Free School. Being part of the Jewish community himself, he frequently delivers talks to classes about celebrating difference and what it means to be both part of the Jewish community and the councillor community. Councillor Cohen was a member of the former Leeds 2023 Independent Steering Group.

Councillor Dan Cohen


Sue Hoyle OBE is a consultant and adviser, specialising in arts and leadership. She is a Cultural Fellow of King’s College London and Lay Commissioner for the Judicial Appointments Commission.

Previous roles have included Director of Clore Leadership, Executive Director of The Place and Deputy Secretary General of Arts Council England

Sue Hoyle OBE


Keith Arrowsmith is a solicitor providing charity law and governance advice. He qualified in 1995, and has since then been helping not for profit organisations and individuals who are active in the cultural, creative, heritage, educational and media sectors.

He is the Head of Legal for Counterculture Partnership. He provides guidance and assistance on governance, intellectual property, business law, contracts, website regulations and charity law.

Keith is a Governance Associate for the Clore Leadership Programme. Has been an Independent Advisory Board member for Screen Yorkshire, Company Secretary for the Children’s Media Conference, and a board member of Creative and Cultural Industries.

Keith was recommended in the independent publication Legal 500 in 2019 and 2020.

Keith Arrowsmith

Company Secretary