Board of Directors



Andrew Fox (Chair)

Andrew Fox, a renowned hotelier has been the general manager at Slaley Hall since October 2017 and has been a board member at Northumberland Tourism since January 2018.




Stuart Birkett (Vice-Chair)

Stuart Birkett runs his own management consultancy business specialising in working with media businesses. He was previously Managing Director of NCJ Media and before that of Northeast Press and Tweeddale Press. He was also MD for Scotland for Johnston Press. During his time in the media, Stuart has been responsible for the running of most of the newspapers between Edinburgh and Hartlepool at one time or another.

Stuart is a voluntary member of a number of Boards in the North East as well as being a Deputy Lord Lieutenant of Northumberland. He lives in Berwick-upon-Tweed with his wife Lesley and has two grown-up children.


Tony Gates

Tony Gates is the Chief Executive of Northumberland National Park Authority; a post he has held since November 2005.

Prior to joining the Authority, Tony has held senior positions in protected area management, rural development and urban regeneration. In these positions Tony worked closely with the tourism and environment sectors and has developed a strong track record in rural and sustainable tourism.

A native of Northern Ireland, Tony first graduated in Town and Country Planning from the University of Newcastle upon Tyne in 1989.

Tony currently is lead policy officer for tourism for the 10 English National Parks and is keen to help ensure the potential of England’s national parks to contribute to growth of the rural visitor economy is fully realised.

Tony is married with four children and lives in Hexham.



Graeme Mason

Graeme is the Chief Sustainability and Communications Officer at Newcastle International Airport. He obtained a First Class Honours Degree from the University of Kent and a Master of Philosophy in Town and Country Planning from University College, London.

He joined the Airport in 1993 and since then has overseen the production of Newcastle's first ever Masterplan and subsequent reviews, as well as planning for all developments including a major terminal extension, business park, solar farm, hotel, control tower, fuel farm and filling station. Graeme has also instigated environmental and CSR strategies and the Airport’s Net Zero Carbon 2035 plan, and over the years has built up strong and varied relationships on behalf of the Airport at a national, regional and local level.

In recent years, Graeme has also taken on the role of media spokesman and drives the airport’s public affairs strategy. He was instrumental in the creation of the Newcastle Aviation Academy, and is closely involved in work to improve the customer experience.

Graeme is also a member of the board of the Airport Operators Association, the North East England Chamber of Commerce Council, the CBI Regional Council, and is a Trustee of the Newcastle United Foundation.



Ben Quigley

Ben Quigley, Chief Executive at award-winning marketing agency Different, is an on and offline communications expert for clients including the Civil Aviation Authority and L'Oreal. He led the team that developed the highly successful ‘Passionate People, Passionate Places’ North East promotional campaign.






Jeff Watson

Jeff Watson

Jeff Watson is the elected County Councillor for Amble West with Warkworth and is the Cabinet member for Healthy lives (which includes Tourism) as well as Chair of Advance Northumberland.

Before becoming a Councillor, Jeff had a successful business career, home and overseas in Blue Chip, FMCG companies and retired as President of Sara Lee in Canada. He was involved in the Tourist industry subsequent to his retirement and had several holiday cottages before concentrating full time on local Government.




Jeff Headshot crop
Jeff Sutheran

Jeff (with his wife Jill) owns and runs St Cuthbert's House, an award-winning accommodation business on the Northumberland coast. He moved to Seahouses with his family after a 20-year career in the uniformed services in the north-east.  Jeff is passionate to see businesses work together to strengthen not only the Tourism industry, but also the social and economic wellbeing of our rural and often fragile communities.  Having raised his own family in rural Northumberland, he is resolved that Tourism should make a consistently positive impact for those who live and work here, as well as those who visit.  He has steered a number of projects to encourage creative and sustainable collaborations.  Jeff currently also serves as Chair of the local North Northumberland Tourism Association, and as Business representative on the Northumberland Coast AONB Partnership Board.




Nigel Walsh

Nigel Walsh is the Culture, Heritage and Libraries Service Manager at Active Northumberland and has worked in local government for 18 years. 

After graduating from the University of Northumbria, Nigel’s roles have included leisure management, facilities development, strategic planning and economic development, regeneration and cultural services management.  Nigel’s previous experience also includes project management of the 2012 Olympic Torch Relay through the County and the delivery of several large scale cultural events.  He has directed, from inception to completion, the delivery of numerous capital schemes including the development of community parks and sporting facilities, the safeguarding of heritage assets and major public realm improvements.

Nigel is responsible for the leadership, management and development of culture, tourism, heritage and libraries for the County of Northumberland.  This involves management of 34 public libraries and 11 visitor information centres, heritage and arts strategy, strategic events, creative industries and tourism strategy and development. 

His current projects include the development of a new five year Cultural Strategy for the County, rationalisation of the cultural property portfolio, implementation of a Libraries service development programme and project management of the 2016 North Sea Tall Ships Regatta.

Nigel is a strong advocate of the role of Culture in supporting regeneration and is committed to building resilience in the sector and furthering the role of culture in place shaping.

COVID-19 (Coronavirus) Response: Support to Business

COVID-19: Guidance for Businesses

Information for UK tourism businesses affected by COVID-19 including links to Government guidance, financial assistance and other resources.



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