Our Mission is to deliver cultural activities that transform people’s understanding of the heritage, landscapes and places they live in, building their confidence and ability to influence policy and decision-making.

Northern Heartlands is one of sixteen Great Place Schemes in the UK funded by Heritage Lottery Fund and Arts Council England. We are using a ‘cultural landscape’ approach, recognising that landscape and places are shaped by what has happened in the past, what is happening now and what may happen in the future. Our landscapes tell an ever-changing story.

Our Great Place is in County Durham and includes the catchment of two rivers – the Tees and the Wear – extending from their sources in the North Pennines to the lowland arc through which they flow. The area includes the market towns of Barnard Castle, Bishop Auckland, Shildon, Crook, Tow Law and Willington and the communities of part of the former Durham coalfield, together with the isolated hill farms and villages of the rural upper Dales.

Management and Governance:
Our accountable body is Visit County Durham
We have an Advisory Board made up of key partners all of whom supported the original application to the Heritage Lottery Fund and Arts Council England.

Advisory Board Members:
Chair: Graham Young

Sue Berresford, Jacqui Cameron (Opera North), Gary Charlton (Natural England), Debbie Connell (Durham County Council), Jim Cokill (Durham Wildlife Trust), Annie Dolphin (Active Durham), Michelle Gorman (Visit County Durham), Rev. Alec Harding, Tony Harrington (The Forge), Stephen Howell (Durham County Council), Trish Pemberton (Wear Rivers Trust), Maggie Roe (Newcastle University), Jane Shaw (People into Enterprise), Diane Spark (UTASS), Margaret Vaughan (County Durham Community Foundation), and Chris Woodley-Stewart (North Pennines AONB).


The Northern Heartlands team work from an office in Barnard Castle but travel throughout our area and beyond (see the map below). We are dedicated, and focused on listening and talking to communities in the area to ensure that they are at the heart of all we do.

Jill Cole


Jill is well known in theatre and arts communities in the North East and nationally. Most recently Jill has been working with Arts Council England as a Relationship Manager (Theatre) and has worked for many years on a freelance basis with a wide variety of arts organisations. With her first-hand knowledge of operational and organisational dynamics within the culture sector, and a strong track record in community initiatives Jill will manage the team to deliver this exciting and ambitious Great Place Scheme initiative.


Graham Young


Graham was Chair of the Heart of Teesdale Landscape Partnership and late in 2016, worked with a steering group to take the learning from the Heart of Teesdale and conceive Northern Heartlands.

He was one of the people who established the Fair Trade movement in the UK and internationally. He was founding Director of Traidcraft Exchange and for 10 years was Chair of the Fairtrade Foundation which awards the Fairtrade Mark. He is on the Board of the international NGO Practical Action, a global innovator, inspiring people to discover and adopt ingenious, practical ways to free themselves from poverty and disadvantage.


Emily Diamand

Head of Learning and Influence

Emily has been a researcher, campaigner and consultant to NGOs working on issues related to agriculture and the environment, with experience of local through to international activism. She is also an award-winning writer, creative writing tutor, the 2015-18 Royal Literary Fund Fellow at Leeds University, and a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts.


Tariq Imam

Community Facilitator

Tariq is one of two Northern Heartlands’ Community Facilitators. Tariq’s previous programme management roles at The Sage Gateshead and East Durham Creates provided him with experience of developing a wide range of partnerships within local communities and organisations. As a community music practitioner, he engaged the most challenging and disaffected groups and communities, focusing on young people’s personal and social development, creating meaningful progression routes and building capacity within organisations.


Anna Collins

Community Facilitator

Anna is a one of two Northern Heartlands’ Community Facilitators, she has worked in Volunteer Casting at Eleven Arches which is producing Kynren, the open air live show at Bishop Auckland, where the cast and crew is made up of 1,500 volunteers. She has worked with the local job centre engaging with special needs organisations, dance schools and theatre groups. Anna studied Building Surveying at Northumbria University. She was inspired by vernacular architecture and is frustrated by the amount of historical redundant buildings which scatter the region.


Jayne Bradley


Jayne has over twenty years’ managerial and administrative experience in the corporate and charity sectors and is the first point of contact at Northern Heartlands.  She has strong family ties to Teesdale and has recently returned to live in the area after several years living in the south east.  Jayne and her terrier, Stan, enjoy exploring the Northern Heartlands area and discovering all it has to offer.


Ewan Allinson


Ewan Allinson is a sculptor, philosopher, activist and dry-stone waller. Ewan served as vice-chair of the award winning HLF Heart of Teesdale Landscape Partnership (HoT LP) from 2011-2016. As part of the HoT LP project Ewan designed and managed the delivery of the Artists, Farmers and Philosophers symposium that has prompted national debate about grassroots expertise . Moreover, his report on Heart of Teesdale’s legacy plans became the basis for the successful £1.8million Northern Heartlands bid for HLF’s Great Place Scheme that aims to boost community engagement with policy through a series of arts and discussion activities.