I was first taught to meditate at school in 1980, although at the time I didn’t actually know it was meditation! One of the teachers would sometimes ask us to focus on our breath or physical sensations. I found it calming and used the technique from time to time when feeling stressed. I went off to university and nobody else seemed to do it – certainly no one talked about it. So for the next thirty years I was an occasional secretive meditator. I qualified with a degree in Psychology and Sociology from the University of Leeds in 1987.
When I returned to Newcastle in 1987 I began volunteering with the probation service and occasional sessional work at a probation hostel. I the worked as a support worker for Haven Tyneside before moving to Carr Gomm Tyneside, now Tyne Housing. I progressed to a senior management position and developed a number of new projects including the North East’s first purpose built ‘wet’ hostel. I was also instrumental in developing the citywide drugs management protocol with Northumbria Police and the City Council. In 2003 I joined Tyneside Cyrenians (now Changing Lives. As Director of Operations. During that time I led the modernisation of the organisation and established it as a leading regional homelessness provider. During that time I secured funding for numerous projects and initiatives. I was chair of Homeless Links National Advisory Council and chaired SITRA’s national homelessness conference. I took voluntary redundancy in 2010 and gained an Advanced Diploma in Leadership and Performance Coaching from Northumbria University. I then took on the role of registered manager at a drug and alcohol residential project for Phoenix Futures. After redundancy in 2012, I changed career and established a video production company making marketing videos for company websites. During this time I was asked to help Home Group tender for homelessness provision in Newcastle and I also set up a charity called Space for Peace. The tender was successful and I was asked to manage the new partnership consortium which included Haven Tyneside.
In 2015 I suffered a period of illness and was diagnosed with a Crohn’s Disease. I decided at this time to again change direction and focus on mindfulness.
In 2016 I trained as a mindfulness teacher to bring the benefits I have received from practicing mindfulness, to others.
Along with my business partner, Rachel Jones-Wild I now run a not for profit Social Enterprise, Mindfulness Based Therapies. We published our first book, Mindfulness with Attitude in November 2022. Our mission is to bring the benefits of mindfulness to as many people as possible, particularly to those that face financial barriers. We also deliver mindfulness into workplaces to support staff wellbeing and business performance. I qualified as a yoga teacher in 2020.
I am, and have been happily married to a local artist, Alison, since 1993 and we are parents to two wonderful children, Lydia and Isaac. We live near the coast in the North East of England. I have been a season ticket holder at Newcastle United since 1989. I also make probably the best salted caramel chocolate brownies in the world.
Russell Hewitson initially qualified as a solicitor and practised with Ward Hadaway before moving to Northumbria University where he is an Associate Professor of Law. Russell is a magistrate on the South Northumbria Bench. He is Chair of Law Society’ Conveyancing and Land Law Committee and a centre fellow of the Cambridge Centre for Property Law at the University of Cambridge. Russell is also a trustee of Netherton Park Trust.
I have over 40 years of experience in Local Government finance having worked in a variety of roles in local authorities across the North East. There are not many areas of finance that I have not been involved in at one time or another but my specialism is in regeneration finance.
My major role was that of Head of Finance at Bridging NewcastleGateshead. This was the cross-authority Housing Market Renewal Pathfinder programme with a principal focus on housing market renewal and growth. BNG was classified by The Audit Commission as ‘performing strongly’ overall for three years in succession and particular comment was made in terms of the efficiency and effectiveness of the Partnership. This is an area of work that I took the lead on and encompassed programme and performance management, efficiency planning, business planning, financial modelling, risk management and all things ‘value for money’.
I have spent many years working with and advising a range of management teams, regeneration boards, council committees, boards of governors and trustee boards and I fully understand the difference between governance and management.
Since taking early retirement in 2015 I have utilised my skills in the charity sector initially working with the Tyne and Wear Building Preservation Trust in a voluntary capacity. I currently work with The Lawnmowers Independent Theatre Company, a small charity run by and for adults with learning difficulties, providing financial support.
I am a Trustee and Vice Chair of Citizens Advice Newcastle where I have been helping to develop financial management, business planning and fundraising strategies to help improve the lives of vulnerable people in Newcastle.