Meet the Judges

The role of the judge:

Being a judge of the Wiltshire Life Awards is a privilege and also enormous fun. There are two highlights in the year. The first is when a huge file of papers arrives with all the nominations. Far from being a chore, I find reading all the stories of endeavour commitment and talent most uplifting, often humbling and always a joy. Everyone on the judging team supplements their reading with ‘secret shopper’ visits and much Google and internet research.

When we meet for our long judging day, which always promises a great deal of passionate discussion and debate, we are sustained by delicious food and drink samples, marvelous feasts for the eye and tummy; and for the accountants among us, lots of statistics and numbers. The second highlight is, of course, our extremely elegant awards dinner. This is a wonderful opportunity for us to meet many of the people we have read so much about and to hear their stories. Wiltshire is a very special county and there are many extraordinarily good and talented people getting on with doing great things, often behind closed doors and little known about. This is a chance to celebrate the brilliant things that happen in Wiltshire and the amazing people that do them.

Helen Birchenough
Chair of the judging panel, 2018
Lady Ruth Hawley

Although brought up in the West Country, Lady Ruth Hawley spent many years overseas in HM Diplomatic Service. She lived and worked in Vietnam and Egypt, where she met her husband, and then lived in Nigeria, Iraq, Oman and Malaysia. They came to Wiltshire after her husband retired, and Lady Hawley became involved in many aspects of local life: health trusts, St John Ambulance and other charities, the Wiltshire Advisory Committee, church and local government bodies. In 1998 she was appointed High Sheriff of Wiltshire and since then has been a Deputy Lieutenant, Lay Canon of Salisbury Cathedral and a governor of Godolphin School.

Helen Birchenough

Helen has lived and worked in Wiltshire for 20 years. She was a trustee of Salisbury Playhouse for nine years, chairing it for three years, and led the fundraising campaign to build a rehearsal room and community space there. She is chair of Salisbury Arts Festival and is working closely with the Playhouse and Arts Centre to merge the three organisations into one new multi-arts centre. She is a trustee of Wiltshire Community Foundation, chairing a grant-making panel that gives scholarships and financial help to those struggling to access education. Helen is chair of Wiltshire College and is also a Deputy Lieutenant of Wiltshire.

Mark Allen

Mark is chairman of the Mark Allen Group, a very successful company employing 300 people in four locations, which he founded 31 years ago. It publishes 65 magazines, both paper and digital, in a broad range of markets, and organises events and exhibitions nationally and internationally. Before starting his company, Mark worked as a journalist on regional and national newspapers, transferring to magazines to become the editor of two award-winners. He has a passion for Wiltshire, opening his Wiltshire office in 1994, when he acquired Wiltshire Life. Wiltshire Life has thrived to become the longest-established monthly county magazine.

Rose Eva

Rose Eva is a sculptor and writer on the arts. She studied history of art at the internationally renowned Courtauld Institute of Art in London, and has since always worked in and around the subject. She was a specialist at Phillips Fine Art Auctioneers in London and the director of Phillips Germany. She has curated exhibitions and has written catalogues for both galleries and museums. Rose regularly writes on the arts for Wiltshire Life, and has published articles in the NADFAS magazine. As a sculptor she has won competitions and awards with her work, including the Discerning Eye Humphreys Prize in 2015.

Claire Waring

As a child Claire spent two years travelling through Italy and the more remote outposts of Greece with her parents. It instilled in her a sense of exploration, still there today. Whether she’s going underground in Box mine or bringing you the inside story on our heritage, she’s still exploring, in Wiltshire, as editor of Wiltshire Life. She believes the county is endlessly fascinating. Her media career began at the University of Bristol on their graduate magazine (circ. 60,000). From there she went to the Oxford Mail and Oxford Times, followed by writing and editing roles on newspapers and magazines in Bristol, Devon and Wiltshire. She joined Wiltshire Life in 2005.

John Bush

John Bush, CVO, OBE lives near Westbury where he has been involved in farming and other rural businesses. He was a magistrate and, in 1997, High Sheriff of Wiltshire. From 2004 to 2012 he was Lord-Lieutenant for Wiltshire, a role which took him round the county visiting a huge range of organisations and businesses which were displaying excellence in their field. Some of them won the Queen’s Awards for Enterprise and for Voluntary Service. He is particularly aware of the contribution made by large numbers of Wiltshire people to voluntary organisations. He has long been a supporter of Wiltshire Life for its efforts to highlight everything that is best in the county.

Nicholas Fogg

Nicholas Fogg, MBE, FRSA is a man of many parts. He is a fellow of Queen’s University, and the most recent of his seven books, a biography of William Shakespeare, has gone into its sixth edition. Nick is a long-standing contributor to Wiltshire Life, and also writes regularly in the national press. He worked on the Middle East Peace Processes and is currently an adviser to the Council for ex-Heads of State and Government. Twice the mayor of Marlborough, he began the renowned Marlborough International Jazz Festival, its Literary Festival and the Open Studios event. As a supporter of Derby County, he jokes that he is inured to life’s disappointments.

Charles Spencer

Born at St Martin’s Farm, Zeals in the south-west corner of Wiltshire, close to the National Trust house and garden of Stourhead, Charles has spent the last 35 years managing the family farm. In addition to expanding the mixed farming business, he has gradually converted old buildings into business premises which have increased employment opportunities in the area. He is involved in the local community and sits on various committees, including chairing the parish council. Charles has recently hung up his rugby boots after playing for a local team for the last 20 years, but he continues to enjoy playing both tennis and cricket.

Lynsey Docherty

Lynsey Docherty is an opera singer, producer and vocal animateur. She has sung leading roles for soprano across the UK; she has created singing projects in prisons, orphanages in Tajikistan, for theatres and festivals nationwide, bringing opera and singing to school children and children with special needs. Lynsey is the founder and artistic director of Celebrate Voice, a festival of singing based in Salisbury, staging world-class opera, jazz, music theatre and folk events, alongside a celebrated community programme. In her spare time, Lynsey loves travel, long walks with her husband, young son and two pointers and is a whizz at table football.

Colin Ewell

Colin manages a wide variety of discretionary private client portfolios, ranging from individuals to whole families and a small number of trusts including charities. After serving in the British Army, Colin joined NCL Investments in 1998, which merged with Smith & Williamson in 2002. Having gained experience in a number of departments in the investment back office Colin moved to the front office in 1999. He was made a director in 2009 and became a partner in 2013.

Ram Thiagarajah

Since moving to Swindon 18 years ago, Ram Thiagarajah, a retired civil engineer, has been involved in a wide range of community organisations and is passionate about helping those in need. He has been president of the Swindon Tamil Association since 2016, which fosters south Asian culture. Ram has been instrumental in helping the Tamil community integrate in Swindon. He has served as chairman of the board of trustees of the Swindon Carers Centre and is a trustee of the Wiltshire Community Foundation as well as being chairman of the Swindon Black and Minority Ethnic Forum.

Caroline Hole-Jones

Caroline founded Splash Communications in 1996 – a boutique communications agency specialising in Food & Hospitality and Employment - which was soon billed as the UK’s fastest growing agency winning many industry accolades for its creative work, and working with former PM, Tony Blair and Kofi Annan for a year across The Africa Progress Panel. Following the acquisition of Splash in 2016, she formed the Canny Group specialising in marketing across Food, Hospitality and public affairs. Caroline has lived in Wiltshire for the last 35 years and in her own words “it’s a magical county packed with entrepreneurial spirit and inspirational talent”.