ACED Champions

Meet our ACED Champions:

ACED Education Champion - John Astley

John Astley was born in Southampton and took his Higher Education at Bristol, Oxford and London universities. John has lived and worked in Oxford as sociologist of culture, until 1996, and after retiring from his full time job moved to Devon. He has held teaching and curriculum roles with Exeter and Plymouth universities, and the Open University. He is mainly writing now, and developing adult community education.

ACED Engagement Champion - Anna Fitzgerald

Anna Fitzgerald is a painter and community artist living in Exmouth. She has recently been the artist in residence at Powderham Castle and co-runs two galleries. She loves encouraging artists, building art networks and opportunities, because her art is all about collaborating and this is why she created Exmouth Art Trail and WooHoo Art Events

ACED Craft Champion - Gemma Girvan 

Since graduating from Somerset College of Technology with a 2:1 in Textiles and Surface Pattern Design, Gemma has developed a career in the arts and cultural sector with a specific focus on retail and a particular interest in Designer Makers. She was assistant buyer for a leading high street fashion chain, before becoming a product developer for TATE (Modern, Britain, Liverpool and St Ives), developing ranges responding to the exhibition programmes. Gemma currently works as Gallery and Retail Officer at Thelma Hulbert Gallery (THG) and is the curator of THG's annual craft exhibition: Present Makers.

ACED Music Champion - David Knox

David is a musician with over 30 years experience playing in bands, signed and unsigned. He has played with many of his heroes including the Levellers, Asian Dub Foundation, Hawkwind and Senser. In this time, David has played on stages at Glastonbury, Beautiful Days and Respect Festival, venues up and down the country and his most recent band gained 50,000 plays on Spotify. David is proactive in creating opportunities for musicians in Devon at the King of Clubs in Ottery St Mary and festivals including Sidmouth Folk Week, Move in Exeter, Exeter Street Arts Festival and Ottery Food Festival. He has also managed to get local indie band the Kabins signed, has a mobile recording studio, works in partnership with the Music In Devon Initiative, Future Sound of Exeter and is starting a record label.

ACED Museum & Heritage Champion - Jo Cairns

Jo is the Museum Development Officer for Devon. Her role aims to provide support for museums across Devon to achieve and maintain Museum Accreditation and their standards of practice. She also support museum networks across Devon aiming to enable communication and partnership working between museums. She works as part of the South West Museum Development Service who offer grants, training and specialist support with audience development, volunteer management, digital engagement and conservation and collections care. Jo has many years of experience working in the SW museum and heritage sector, most recently for the National Trust as a Collections Registrar.

ACED Theatre Champion - Ellie Chadwick

Ellie lives in Sidmouth, and is a freelance theatre-maker and Senior Lecturer at Plymouth Marjon University, where she leads the Performing Arts degree programmes and directs student shows. She runs Sleight of Hand theatre company which makes work across the South West and further afield. She is a resident artist at Pervasive Media Studio in Bristol and has worked as a theatre facilitator and researcher in Performing Arts across Asia and Europe. She is about to publish a book with Routledge on her theatre research. Recent theatre projects include ‘Trace of Us’ with Sleight of Hand at the Tate Modern, ‘Age Queer’ at Trinity Centre Bristol, and ‘Counting to Zero’ at Jackson’s Lane for Cut the Cord. 

ACED Libraries Champion - Emily Hicks 

Emily joined Libraries Unlimited in July 2022 after spending 18 years working in museums. Her career began in the Lake District with the Wordsworth Trust, cataloguing books, transcribing manuscripts and leading the schools’ programme. In 2010, after three years as Assistant Curator at the Museum of Farnham in Surrey, Emily was appointed Curator/Director of Bridport Museum, overseeing the Museum's £1.3 million redevelopment and curated the popular ‘Turner in Bridport’ exhibition and programme.

Emily is passionate about the power of culture to help shape place and improve lives. She has been astounded at just how much our libraries do for their communities and is enjoying supporting their fundraising to do more. She is also a semi-professional soprano, and for the last few years has been performing local composer Matthew Coleridge’s Requiem in venues around the UK!