Open North Foundation


“Open North Foundation is a not for profit company dedicated to assisting the businesses and people of the North East to recover from the ravages of COVID-19. All who work for us do so free of charge in addition to their separate day jobs.

ONF has secured the support of leading North East businesses and organisations dedicated to helping to rebuild the economy of the North East.

ONF’s priority is raise the funds to enable ONF to support in a meaningful way as many businesses and organisations as funds allow. ONF is also looking for other individuals and organisations who support its aims to help grow the available funds to help ONF to deliver its goal.

The businesses and organisations which ONF will support will be those which deliver long-term positive economic impact and create meaningful long term employment to help lift the region’s economy.

If you would like to support ONF in its mission please complete the pledge form and help to speed us along this journey to bridging the gap…”

Richard Swart – Chairman
Colin Hewitt – Vice Chair

Open North Foundation


To provide financial assistance, technical support, business advice and consultancy to enterprises and individuals adversely affected by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Short term goal is to provide grant finance only.

Businesses supported should be those considered to have medium to long-term futures with job growth prospects. Exceptions may be considered.

Open North Foundation


Open North Foundation is a not for profit company dedicated to assisting the businesses and people of the North East to recover from the ravages of COVID-19.

Support business and social enterprises, including the funding of education and training for employees and potential employees.

Establish business and social enterprises / or develop existing business and social enterprises.

Develop the capacity and skills of individuals to realise further potential.

Open North Foundation



Richard Swart

Global Sales & Quality Director, Berger Group Europe. CEO Berger Closures Limited, Durham. Governor, Durham School.

Honorary Vice President & Non Executive Director, Chair of International Trade 2008-2018 North East England Chamber of Commerce (NEECC).

Board Chairman, North East Worldwide.

Awarded The Manufacturer UK Top 100 for 2016.

Colin Hewitt

Colin Hewitt
Vice Chair

Partner Ward Hadaway Solicitors


Claire Preston

Claire Preston was the inaugural Tees Business Woman in 2018 in recognition of her work leading Middlesbrough based Lexonik from a start-up business to an award winning international entity, as a Northern Powerhouse Export Champion and her passion for the growth and prosperity of North East businesses and communities. Currently Commercial Director of North Yorkshire Education Services and Chair of the Halo Project, Claire brings skills and experience from the private and charitable sectors and has a keen interest in the part that education and training play in personal and business growth and success.

David Foreman

Currently Area Business Manager for Barclays, covering the SME market in the region, as well as working on national projects linked to Industry Policy for the bank.

David has wide experience in this market in the north east having previously worked as a Relationship Director and also carrying out a Credit Manager role with the same organisation.

He is a panel member for the County Durham Growth Fund, supporting Durham County Council in assessing funding applications for European Regional Development Fund grants.

Gill Courtney

Gill Courtney MBE

Gill is a Director and co-owner of Wessington Cryogenics Limited, a Wearside based manufacturer of cryogenic pressure vessels for the oil and gas, bio-medical and physics research sectors. She has many years experience working in both public and private sectors and in previous roles has been charged with developing strategic and income generating partnerships which bring together; industry academia and cross sectoral stakeholders around the enterprise, employability, technology transfer and city regeneration agenda. Gill was a founder Board Member of the North East Local Enterprise Partnership and is currently Vice President of the North East England Chamber of Commerce and a board member of the Entrepreneurs’ Forum. She has always been a pro-active ambassador for North East business at a local, regional and international level which culminated in the award of an MBE for Services to North East Industry in 2011.


Mark Stephenson

Mark is the owner and Director or Stephenson-Mohl Group (SMG), the North East’s only dedicated public affairs agency.

SMG advises clients on how to affect policy change and win planning consents – two branches of work that span local as well as national politics.

Since forming SMG Mark and the team have advised on circa £2.5bn of development and investment and are continuing to grow the practice.

Paul Shields

Paul Shields

Paul joined MHA Tait Walker in 2007 as a Chartered Accountant joining the Business Services audit team and was promoted to Associate Partner in November 2016. Paul heads up our Durham office and is responsible for a portfolio of clients. Paul has extensive experience in dealing with owner managed businesses and regularly attends clients’ board meetings to offer both strategic and financial advice. He started working in practice in 1998 and during this time he has worked alongside a wide range of clients. Paul has a particular expertise in the Manufacturing & Engineering and Property & Construction sectors and he is part of the MHA Tait Walker specialist teams in these areas.


James Ramsbotham CBE

James Ramsbotham CBE DL Chief Executive Officer, North East England Chamber of Commerce

Gillian Marshall

Gillian Marshall

Dynamic and motivated professional with a proven record of generating and building long term relationships. Adaptable and transformational leader, making critical decisions during challenging times. Expectational communication skills. delivers results which add value. Extensive knowledge across public and private sectors. Specialities: Leadership, Business Development, Mentoring and Coaching, Strategic Management, Service Excellence.

Present roles: Board member of Rural Design Centre, Board member of Tedco, Panel member of County Durham Growth Fund.

Previous roles: Chief Executive – The Entrepreneurs’ Forum, Relationship Manager – UKTI, Business Development Manager – Business and Enterprise Group,
Various management roles – Barclays.

Jamie Ollivere

Jamie Ollivere

Jamie Ollivere is Managing Director of RTC North. Founded by his father in 1989 in Sunderland, RTC is one of Europe’s leading independent technology transfer companies and has built its reputation over the past 30 years for supporting small businesses with innovation, business growth and internationalisation. As well as providing services to SMEs, the company also works to promote the STEM agenda in schools and reaches over 10,000 young people each year. The company currently employs 85 staff and has offices in the North East, Yorkshire and North West England.


Jonathan Moreland

Jonathan is a Partner and the head of the Dispute Resolution and Employment teams at Durham law firm, Swinburne Maddison LLP.  He joined the firm in 1991, qualified in 1993 and was later promoted to Partner in 1995. 

For over twenty-five years, he has been advising businesses and individuals on a wide range of matters – acting for national PLCs, limited companies, LLPs, partnerships, charities and academic institutions, such as universities and schools – and has been praised in The Legal 500 United Kingdom for his attention to detail and ability to provide clear and well-structured advice.

Jonathan is centrally involved with the management and strategic development of Swinburne Maddison and, as a business owner himself, is able to offer his clients a pragmatic and empathetic approach to help them identify and solve not just legal, but also commercial issues in the cases he deals with.

He enjoys links with the University of Durham, is the Chair of the Trustees of the Union Society, and also advises the Governing Body of St. Chad’s College.  In 2019 he was appointed to the County Durham Growth Fund panel.

James Kyle

James Kyle

James is an Investment director in the Rathbones Newcastle office having helped establish the office in the city in 2013.  He started his career in the wealth management industry in 1998 and specialises in the management of private client, trust, offshore and pension investment funds.   

James graduated in Law from Newcastle University in 1998, holds the Chartered Institute of Securities and Investment (CISI) Diploma and is a Chartered Fellow of the CISI.  He currently sits on the Appeals Committee of St Oswald’s Hospice charity and is a former trustee of the Great North Air Ambulance Service

Arthur Hodgson

Arthur Hodgson

Forum Manager at Advance Manufacturing Forum.
Arthur has firsthand experience of the manufacturing sector and is skilled in relationship management having worked for leading North East organisations including Nissan, Arriva Ford, The Mussel Club and the North East Chamber of Commerce. Arthur works with the board and strategic partners to support the needs of AMF members and further grow the forum.

Brian Aitken

Brian Aitken

Brian was Editor of The Journal for 11 years. In his time there he built up one of the most extensive and powerful business networks in the North East and initiated a number of successful campaigns and projects that contributed to, and celebrated the success of, the region.

He started the Let’s Grow campaign which successfully bid for £60m from the Government’s Regional Growth Fund. Working in partnership with the BE Group (now UMI) and chartered accountants UNW, Brian recruited a panel of business people to distribute the money to help companies expand.

The grant funding helped dozens of North East businesses safeguard or create nearly 5,000 jobs.

Other campaigns he initiated include:

· Proud to Back Apprenticeships which tackled the skills gap by promoting the benefits to companies of investing in training.

· Go Global which used case studies and expert advice to encourage companies to export their way out of recession.

· Think North East First which had the aim of keeping as many local pounds circulating in the local economy as possible. This was done by promoting North East-made products and services and encouraging people to seek them out when making purchasing decisions.

· Taste North East England, a ‘buy local, use local, eat local’ campaign aimed at consumers, retailers and chefs.

· Pay Fair, an ethical business campaign supporting smaller firms by encouraging companies to pay bills promptly

He set up his own business, Brian Aitken Associates, five years ago and has held Corporate Affairs positions at Newcastle United and Newcastle College as well as working for a range of clients including the charity Changing Lives, Redu, Northumbrian Water, UK Land Estates, Elite Fitness and FW Capital.

He has been a board member of the North East England Chamber of Commerce, Newcastle Gateshead Initiative, Tyne and Wear Sport and the Tyne Theatre Preservation Trust. He is currently a trustee of Urban Green Newcastle, the charity that took over the running of the city’s parks and allotments from Newcastle City Council.

Sarah Slaven

Sarah Slaven

Sarah Slaven is Interim Managing Director at Business Durham, the economic development arm of Durham County Council.

Sarah has over 25 years’ experience in economic development, business support and partnership working in County Durham, in particular leading on business engagement to help businesses start-up, develop and grow in County Durham. Sarah was part of the management team that established Business Durham in 2012 and held the post of Operations Director until taking on her current position as Interim Managing Director. Prior to working for Business Durham, Sarah set up and managed East Durham Business Service, a public-private partnership.

Sarah is a Member of the Institute of Economic Development, and holds a BA (hons) in Law and Economics, and an MBA from Durham University.

Currently, Sarah is a Director of County Durham Engineering and Manufacturing Network (CDEMN) and of Aycliffe Business Park Ltd, as well as serving on the Board of the County Durham Economic Partnership and Innovate North East Ltd.

In her spare time Sarah enjoys walking and cycling with her family, gardening, watching cricket in the sunshine or relaxing with a good book and nice coffee!

Nicki Clark

Nicki Clark

Nicki is Chief Executive at UMi. Nicki’s professional experience includes the Financial, FMCG, and Business Service sectors which has also resulted in her working with a number of different cultures following her years in export. As one of the founding members of the team at UMi Nicki has facilitated a number of partnerships, acquisitions and has played a key role in the development of what makes UMi a very special place to work. She believes that businesses have the power to make a difference and by working together we can do more. Its that belief that is a key part of UMi’s culture today and is evidenced through employee ownership and a progressive open minded culture that thrives on doing what others say can’t be done.

Nicki’s has a number of other commitments that give her the opportunity to influence driving a balanced and thriving business community as well as the education of young people. All with the clear purpose of fulfilling our aim of making it easier for businesses to do more and go further.

Kevan Carrick

Kevan Carrick

Kevan Carrick is co-founder and chairman of JK Property Consultants LLP, founded in 2007 He has advised on master planning and delivering key strategic regeneration developments including: East Quayside, Newcastle; HMRC 1.6 m sq. ft., offices Longbenton and Washington; Transport Hubs at Hull, Darlington and Teesside International Airport purchase and formation of joint venture to develop 3.5 m sq. ft. of distribution units. He advises on landlord and tenant matters and acts as mediator/ arbitrator/expert in many property disputes. He also mentors sme’s and start-up businesses.

Present Roles: chairperson, and co-founder director of North East Initiative on Business Ethics; co-founder director and past-chairperson of Northern Dispute Resolutions Limited; and Director of North East Business Innovation Centre.

Previous roles: Chairman and partner Storey Sons & Parker; Chairperson and Trustee of Percy Hedley Foundation; Chairperson and Trustee Northern Counties School for the Deaf; Chairperson Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors, North East Region; Chairperson RICS Commercial Market Panel; Chairperson working party RICS to publish The Code for Leasing Business Premises in England and Wales 2007; RICS spokesperson on Policy North East Region; Director Arbirx Limited (training Arbitrators, Experts and Mediators); co-founder, Trustee and Chairman Knowledge Foundation Limited, training and events in economic regeneration; Board member, NELEP Investment panel; and several regeneration groups in Newcastle and Durham.

Caroline Theobald

Caroline Theobald CBE

Caroline Theobald has spent her North East career connecting business people for mutual advantage and is passionate about creating commercial and life opportunities, particularly for young people. She was awarded a CBE for services to business and entrepreneurship in 2016 and is a lifetime holder of the Queen’s Award for Enterprise. Caroline co-founded, among others, FIRST, a learning and development company that specialises in entrepreneurial skills, and The North East Initiative on Business Ethics (NIBE), a not-for-profit organisation on a mission to make the North East known as a place for transparent and quantifiable business practices. Caroline is also chair of the business advisory board at Newcastle Business School, Northumbria University; an associate at Teesside Business School, an advocate of gender equality, a trustee of Newcastles of the World and an honorary diplomat representing Sweden

Chris McDonald

Chris McDonald

Born and bred in the North East, Chris is experienced in setting up and growing small businesses, as well as working at a senior level in multinationals.  Chris led the development of new manufacturing technologies and innovations for clients across the world, before leading the divestment of what is now the Materials Processing Institute in Teesside in 2014.  As Chief Executive, Chris has overseen the diversification of this 75 year old innovation centre, from its core business in the steel industry to cutting edge new developments in digital technologies, advanced materials, decarbonisation and the circular economy.

Chris is a prominent supporter of UK industrial strategy, often called on to comment in the media and provide support to government. He chairs the UK Metals Council, which connects the metals supply chain to government and is chair of innovation & enterprise at the Federation of Small Businesses, as well as being a North East Regional Council member of the CBI.

In supporting the Open North Foundation, Chris hopes to share his expertise in innovation, technology and strategic change, to support businesses in the region.


Carly Merryweather

Carly Merryweather
Project Coordinator

Carly currently works at Berger Closures Ltd assisting the Managing Director as Office Manager, utilising her skills, experience, HR and Business Management qualifications developed over the last ten years. A passionate advocate of personal development, Carly is an Associate Member of the CIPD and has dedicated much of her working life to the professional development of others, particularly through her work as a Teacher and Lecturer in the Work Based Learning Sector. Carly also has a vast range of experience in event and project management and previously worked in Regional Tourism for One North East.

Dee Lunn

Dee Lunn
Head Of Digital

Dee brings 20 years experience of design and digital expertise, applied across a range of sectors, including world leading brands. She specialises in enhancing engagement through effective use of a range of technologies.

Open North Foundation


Barclays Bank PLC
Business Durham
Middleton Enterprises
Swinburne Maddison
Wessington Cryogenics
Scarlet Butterfly Media
The Journal Newspaper
Tees Business
Hartlepool College
Clarity White

Berger Group Europe
Entrepreneurs’ Forum
Rathbone Investment Management
Make UK
MHA Tait Walker
Northern Echo Newspaper
Bede Homes
Kevin Carrick
Barron Williams
Vero Power

Ward Hadaway
GJ Jackson Accountants
Regional Technology Centre
The Lakes Distillery
Bradley O’Mahoney Public Relations
Jackson Hogg Recruitment
Advanced Manufacturing Forum
Hunter Johnstone
Wear Business
IRR Trenchless

Open North Foundation


Grants will range from £1,000 to £5,000.

Exceptional requests may be considered by the Board. Only in exceptional circumstances can a beneficiary receive payment more than once.

The beneficiary should be willing to promote the support they have received from Open North Foundation and their name may be publicised.

Grants will generally only be paid out once the initial fundraising threshold has been reached.

Open North Foundation


Let’s help one another recover, discover and grow!

Pledge now by clicking the button below…