Patron of the Festival
Julie Ward MEP
Julie Ward is a Labour MEP for the North West of England. She is also a writer, theatre-maker and cultural activist who began her working life on the factory floor before becoming a community arts worker. In 1984 she was appointed director of a regional arts and disability organisation covering five counties in the North of England and in 1986 she co-founded Jack Drum Arts, an artists’ cooperative that provides a wide range of activities for all sections of the community.
In May 2014 she was elected a Labour Member of the European Parliament (MEP) to represent the NW of England. She is a member of the parliament’s committees on Culture and Education, Regional Development as well as the Women rights’ and Gender Equality Committee. She’s a board member of the European Internet Forum, and a founding member of the European Caucus of Women in Parliament – a global forum. Julie has been a women’s rights campaigner before being elected, and continues to work for gender equality as an MEP.
Julie is a children’s rights champion, having co-founded the European Parliament cross-party and cross-committee intergroup on Children’s Rights. She is also active on a number of other intergroups including Disability, Youth, Common Goods & Public Services, Creative Industries, LGBTI, Anti-Poverty, Trade Unions and Social Economy. She is now on the Labour Party’s Children and Education Policy Commission as a European Parliament Labour Party representative, as well a Culture and Education committee representative to the inter-committee network on the implementation of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD).
She was named North East Woman Social Entrepreneur of the Year in 2003 and has served on the board of Culture North East and Arts Council England as well as being a school governor. In 2009 she decided to go to university and study for a Masters in Education and International Development, graduating in 2012. Julie is a Churchill Fellow and has travelled and worked all around the world with a particular focus on Europe and neighbouring countries. She sits on the Citizen’s Panel of Durham University, the executive board of National Drama and is a volunteer for the Institute of Ideas national youth debating competition.
President of the Festival
The Committee welcome actor Mark Gatiss as our new President of the Festival. Mark was born in Sedgefield. He spent his early life in School Aycliffe attending Woodham Comprehensive School in Newton Aycliffe. He studied Theatre Arts at Bretton Hall College, West Yorkshire.
Mark has had a varied career as an actor, writer and producer. He was a member of the comedy troupe The League of Gentlemen. He played acting roles in Wolf Hall, Game of Thrones, Mapp & Lucia and as British politician Peter Mandelson in Coalition. He is to star in the upcoming comedy Dad’s Army.