Who's Who

Meet our Senior Management Team

John Gordon-Saker

Chief Executive

As Chief Executive John is responsible for the development of the Trust and is keen to tell its compelling story to a wider audience. John joined OPEN in August 2015, returning to Norfolk after more than 30 years away.

John comes from an event and marketing background and previously ran WPP’s brand communication agency and business media division of World Productions, the independent broadcast production company set up by Tony Garnett and Chris Blackwell.

Claire Atkinson

Head of Finance

Claire joined OPEN’s finance team in May 2015 and was promoted to Finance Manager in May 2016. She is CIMA qualified and has over 10 years commercial accounting experience.

Claire's responsibilities are to oversee the day to day finance activities and reports the monthly management accounts to the Board of Trustees.   In her spare time Claire plays the piano and has a love of elephants.

Andrew Baker

Head of Catering

Andrew starting working for OPEN in June 2017, however through his previous job he has been working in our kitchen and providing catering for our conference clients for over 12 months prior to joining the team.

Prior to working with us Andy was the Hospitality Catering Coach delivering The Flourish programme for The Feed, a project of LEAP East CIC.  He also taught at City College, Norwich Hotel School.  He trained as a chef whilst working for his family run restaurant The Cromer Grill.  Under his fathers guidance and attending City College  he gained his City & Guilds and NVQs and Assessor qualifications.  Now he and his team provide an extensive range of menus for OPEN's diverse range of clients and events.

Hayley Gerrard

Head of Marketing

Hayley joined OPEN as Marketing Manager in 2014, having spent 12 years working as a Communications Officer in the Press Office at the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital and before that five years as Public Relations Officer at the University of East Anglia.

As OPEN’s Marketing Manager, Hayley’s responsibilities include: raising the profile of OPEN's unique range of facilities in its venue hire and secure storage. Promoting live music, conferences and events and the activities provided for young people. Identifying and maximising PR opportunities. Media relations both proactive and reactive. Design and production of marketing materials.

Craig Hill

Head of Events

Craig began his relationship with OPEN as an independent music promoter in March 2012.

Since then Craig has worked in various roles within the Trust before being appointed Head Of Events in December 2016.

Charlene Ledgard

Head of Youth Services

Charlene joined open in as Performance Arts Instructor 2012 and was promoted to Youth Programme Manager in August 2015. Charlene has been working with children and young people for over 10 years, and she played a significant part in securing the recent lottery funding.

Her previous experience was as a dance assistant, a youth worker and a dance instructor in the USA, and a learning support assistant at a local high school. Charlene is very passionate about making a difference to the lives of young people each and every day.

Alex Walters

Head of Operations

Alex started at OPEN in 2012 as a Duty Manager before being promoted to Operations Manager. He oversees the day to day running of the venue, maintaining the complex demands of a Grade II listed building that forms part of Norwich’s cultural and historic fabric

With responsibility for customer service through the Box Office and Reception, Alex also looks after the needs of its youth related tenants and is responsible for maintaining the venue’s licensing and health and safety policies. He has experience in property management and his operations team takes pride in supporting a diverse mix of events.

Meet our Board of Trustees

Russ Dacre MBE


As a founding Trustee of the OPEN Youth Trust from 2004, Russ has a broad experience of working with young people, charities and automotive retail businesses.

Brought up in Norfolk he is passionate about seeing the lives of the most vulnerable children and young in norfolk improved through the Trust and other like minded service providers. Russ is married to Alethea, and father to RB and Raffi, he is also partial to a game of golf or two, and is a bit of a foodie!

Les Brown


One of the founding trustees of the OPEN Youth Trust since 2004. As a Chartered Town Planner Les has been involved with many significant developments in Norwich including OPEN and other youth orientated community projects.

He has always been an advocate for the strategic provision of exciting and appropriate facilities for young people where they can be offered sound activities and support which generates a sense of belonging. Married to Alison with two adult sons, Les has a keen interest in photography, DIY and travel.

Emily Groves


Emily is the founder of Indigo Swan, an energy consultancy business, established in 2010.

Indigo Swan has gone from strength to strength winning numerous awards including Energy Consultancy of the Year in 2016 and also seeing Emily named as the Institute of Directors’ Young Director of the Year for the East of England in 2015. 

Michael Ni'Man


Michael, first stepped through the doors of OPEN as a Year 9 pupil at Norwich School. Soon after joining OPEN, Michael quickly became involved in it’s Youth Forum.

This Forum aims to give young people a voice, ensuring that the charity meets the current and future needs of young people in Norfolk.  He believes that through this Forum, OPEN has given him the confidence and inspiration to follow his dream of becoming a doctor, but also picking up an entrepreneurial flair along the way with business interests in social enterprises, IT and innovation.  Michael is now going on to study medicine in London.

Robin Norton


Robin joined the Board of OPEN Youth Trust in January 2014, having had great admiration for the projects and vision that the Trust offered young people.

One of the founders of the fashion stores Dogfish, Catfish and Sevenwolves, Robin has experienced the fantastic community spirit that is constantly evolving in the historic Norwich Lanes to which OPEN is situated. Married to Kate, they have three daughters, Flora, Willow and Audrey. Robin has a real passion for music, Italy and all things vegan.

Ed Savory


Ed became a Trustee in 2013 and as a qualified solicitor is responsible for providing legal support to the Board of the OPEN Youth Trust.

Ed spent the early part of his career working in London before returning home to Norfolk in 2011 practising as a corporate / commercial lawyer with a niche specialism in franchising. In 2014 Ed organised a Christmas music video featuring members of his firm, which was filmed and produced at OPEN. He is a keen sportsman and has a deluded view of himself as a flamboyant chef - for example, his Jamaican jerk partridge (which received very mixed reviews). Ed is married to Vix and they have two young children, Wolf and Coco.

Donald Stuart


Associated with the OPEN Youth Trust since 2013 and came on board as a Trustee in January 2014. Worked in Banking for nearly 40 years through to 2009,

the last 13 of which was based in Norwich where he became aware of the aims and good work of OPEN. The past 6 years has seen Donald work with a number of organisations providing a commercial focus and direction to various groups. Married to Lorraine with three grown up children he is keen to see OPEN progress and spread its resources to the wider Norfolk community.

Karl Sandall


Karl spent 26 years at a senior level with a major clearing bank before joining TaxAssist on 1st January 2000 as Operations Director – taking on the role of Chief Executive in 2002 and Group Chief Executive in 2014 on the back of International expansion.

A 'fellow' of the Chartered Institute of Bankers, a ‘Honorary Fellow’ of The Association of International Accountants and a Governor of Wymondham College, Karl oversees the running of the TaxAssist Group, covering the UK, Ireland, Australia and Canada, on a day to day basis and ensures the company continues to expand rapidly. 

Karl is recognised by the British Franchise Association as a QFP (Qualified Franchise Professional) and is a trustee of the bfa's charitable trust helping disadvantaged individuals benefit from franchising.