Rupert has lived in the Chew Valley since 2003. He taught English in France and Italy for seven years, before becoming founding Head Teacher of Bath Small School. He retrained as a barrister and since 1998 has been a criminal law specialist in St John’s Chambers and then Guildhall Chambers in Bristol. He also sits as a recorder (part- time judge) in the Crown Court.
He has been involved in the performing arts since childhood, playing violin and singing at school and at university, where he also dabbled in conducting. He continues to play the violin with the New Bristol Sinfonia and two string quartets. His three children have all performed in dance, music and drama, and his wife and youngest daughter are both musicians.
"My legal work is very rewarding, but participating in the arts, whether as a performer or in the audience, is a huge part of my life,” he says.
Rupert started the ball rolling for the Chew Valley Performing Arts Centre by organising the first meetings to discuss the idea of a new arts centre for the Chew Valley. Since then he has helped to gather together lawyers, teachers, accountants, journalists and other professionals - who all bring their particular expertise to the project.
“I'm delighted to be chairing the trustees of Chew Valley Performing Arts, and working with such a talented and committed group of local people to turn our ambitious project into bricks and mortar."
Phil was a senior manager with the Audit Commission until he retired recently and has many years experience in public and private sector consultancy, banking, finance, and the oil industry.
He was invited to become a trustee of the Chew Valley Performing Arts centre in 2017 to further strengthen its approach to business planning.
He believes that all communities benefit from dynamic and creative arts activities that are well managed and focussed on serving local people. Although the Chew Valley is seen as a very pleasant and comfortable place to live, and it has a brilliant range of local arts groups, he believes it needs and deserves to also develop facilities like this 21st century performance space. It will give communities a real sense of ownership of a large and flexible local facility to bring people together and provide more opportunities for personal growth, fulfilment and enjoyment of the arts.
Phil has lived in the Chew Valley since 1998. His wife, Ruth, is a member of two very successful local female choirs – Vox in Frox and Better than Chocolate. Phil is also a member of the local male choir, Men of Chew.
Geraldine was Director of Performing Arts at Cotham School for 20 years, and instrumental in attracting key funding from national and local funders to build a £2 million music, arts and drama centre there, which has become a hub for community and school-based arts activities in North Central Bristol.
She has worked closely with local and national arts organisations such as the Royal Opera House and Bristol Old Vic Theatre, developing outreach programmes ensuring that inner-city students and their families are introduced to the highest standards of participation and performance in the performing arts.
Geraldine has lived in the Chew Valley for 20 years. She is a founder and board member of The Community Farm in Chew Magna, a membership owned community enterprise which grows organic vegetables. She is currently a senior lecturer at Bath Spa University.
"It has become more and more evident to me that a creative community is a happy, fulfilled and generous community," says Geraldine. "Getting involved and being part of something is what matters – whatever an individual's capacity or ability."
Geraldine also reshaped the governance structure of Cotham School to become one of the country’s first cooperative academies, where a forum which invites and encourages stakeholder participation in the decision-making and governance of the school is now flourishing.
Matt has a background in advertising and marketing, having spent over 30 years in leading agencies advising clients on growth and customer acquisition. He is the founder and a director of Mindset, a marketing consultancy based in Bristol specialising in community insight and intelligence. He is also a director of P15, a specialist, insight-led media independent company.
As teenagers his children have both been active drama and performing arts students at Chew Valley School. "Performing arts run deep in our family," says Matt. "I’ve spent half my life drumming in rock bands, whilst my wife trained as a professional dancer at Arts Educational School in London, and later in her career was part of the management team at Northern Ballet Theatre.
"I believe Valley Arts will give a much-needed boost to the performing arts in our part of Somerset, and that can only ever be a good thing."
The Stewart family have lived in the Chew Valley since 2000. When not working, Matt can be found hill-walking or listening to a constant diet of BBC Radio 4 and Radio 6.
Steve is currently Head of Performing Arts at Chew Valley School, an Artsmark Gold and specialist performing arts college for over 10 years. A teacher with over 25 years of experience teaching drama Steve also contributes to BBC Bitesize and has helped develop new GCSE and A level specifications in drama. The author of a textbook on drama in the classroom, Steve believes passionately in the power that the arts have to transform lives and last year worked with the Arts Council helping to develop the new Artsmark programme, a scheme that helps to celebrate and promote the best of the arts in schools across the UK.
But Steve believes it's a tragedy if all that creative expression ends when we leave school. "Picasso said 'All children are artists. The problem is how to remain an artist once he grows up.'"
One of the things that attracted Steve to the Chew Valley was the amazing variety of involvement of people of all ages in a wide variety of arts activities. "There are so many people who live and work around the valley who belong to dance companies, choirs, theatre groups, orchestras and bands. This is an extraordinary level of community involvement compared with some inner-city communities, and these activities not only provide a huge amount of fun for many people, but also knit together village communities."
However, he has found that residents in a neighbouring village might be completely unaware of all the energy and creativity that's going on in a nearby village hall. "I've come away from shows thinking 'That was absolutely fantastic – but why haven't more people been able to enjoy it?'"
He believes that an arts centre which offers a bigger venue could draw together audiences from all around the Chew Valley and act as a creative hub bringing all the communities together. "Valley Arts is not trying to take any activities away from the vibrant network of village halls, but would offer every group the chance to showcase the amazing work that they create in a larger, purpose-built arts venue."