Karen Nairstone


Karen Nairstone is founder and director of Design Event. Passionate about good design; she has 12 years experience in curating contemporary design and over 16 years experience in marketing and business development for both the public and private sector. She is a true ambassador of design talent from across the North of England, and has been a member of the RSA’s Design Directions judging panel, and is a guest speaker with the Design Trust.  Prior to setting up the Design Event Festival she founded the design store ‘Space’ in Newcastle upon Tyne.

Joanna Feeley

Steering Group

Joanna is founder of Trend Bible with over 15 years of experience as a trend forecaster and brand strategist for home interior, electronics and fashion companies. Prior to setting up Trend Bible, Joanna was head of trends at Tesco, and trend advisor to brands and retailers including Nokia and New Look. She is on the advisory board for Design Event and sits on the colour panel for Crown Paints. She is regularly cited by the Independent, Radio 4 and the Financial Times.

Rickard Whittingham

Steering Group

Rickard Whittingham has a background as a practicing furniture designer for both production and limited edition. He has 16 years of experience of lecturing, teaching and mentoring in various contexts from Higher education through to community based projects. Rickard is a director of a North East based Art and Design Community Project
 and has extensive experience of and enjoy exhibition design and build.

Mark Fenwick

Steering Group

Mark is Growth Manager for Growth Accelerator which helps companies in England with growth potential to achieve their ambitions offering access to finance specialist, business development and innovation coaches He is a specialist in access to finance for high growth companies, with a particular emphasis in the design of on line tools for company due diligence and analysis, company acceleration and company finance, and fund management for funds specialising in early stage Creative Tech companies.

Carol Bell

Steering Group

Carol Bell is head of culture and major events at Newcastle Gateshead Initiative

Jim Richardson

Steering Group

Jim Richardson is director and founder of Sumo design and has steered the development of the company into its current position as a leading independent design studio. Jim has worked with the directors and marketing teams of a broad range of organisations to help them to stand out in crowded markets. Jim has advised clients including the BBC, University of Cambridge, National Gallery, Newcastle University and the Science Museum Group.

Jim is a keen runner and having complete three marathons in 2013and in 2014 the Polar Circle Marathon.

Adrian Philpotts

Steering Group

Adrian is a Partner and Architect at Xsite architecture llp. He joined xsite architecture in 2006 having worked for architectural practices in London, Manchester and Newcastle gaining experience across design sectors from large transport and regeneration projects to small residential, bar and restaurant fit outs. Creative collaboration is a key theme to xsite’s practice whether that is on an individual project basis or through their programme of creative residencies run at their Foundry Lane Studios building.

Susan Bradley

Steering Group

Since her design studio was established in 2004 Susan Bradley’s designs have won international acclaim being exhibited in London, Milan, Cologne, Rotterdam, Paris and Tokyo, and featuring in leading design, style, architecture and interiors media worldwide. Susan creates original and innovative interior and exterior designs with a distinctive graphic quality. She is best known for her unique and award winning metal Outdoor WallpaperTM and further collections of intricately cut metal designs and products.

In addition to her own design collections Susan provides a consultancy and commissioning service for both private and commercial clients, working with architects, interior designers, retailers and museums to create bespoke designs both in the UK and around the world.

Alistair Robinson

Steering Group

Alistair Robinson has been Programme Director of Northern Gallery for Contemporary Art since 2002, working with a wide range of artists across diverse media, as well as designers, photographers, and architects. He has previously held posts at the Victoria & Albert Museum, National Museum of Photography and The Lowry. He has given Designer of the Year (2004), Daniel Brown his first public exhibition, 3D designer Mathias Bengtsson his first UK solo show and Max Lamb his first exhibition in a public gallery.

Kari Owers

Steering Group

Chief Executive of OPR, Kari Owers has been a communications strategist and consultant in the North East for almost 18 years, creating and implementing a wide range of high profile campaigns such as the launch of Galaxy Radio in the North East, the Time to Change NHS mental health awareness campaign, and Aspire and Young Enterprise One Day campaigns.

Kari is a member of the CIPR and and Entrepreneurs’ Forum and mentor and former Princes Trust mentor. Also supporting design and creative industries across the North, she has been a NEPA committee member and board director of a:design association, and is now a member of the steering group behind the annual Northern Design Festival.