MEET THE TEAM

Food Durham is manged by a team of highly experienced individuals who are committed to raising awareness of food, specifically where it comes from and how it impacts on things like our health, the environment and the economy.

DR. LIZ CHARLES

Manager,
Food Durham

Liz has worked in rural community development for over 20 years and has a lifetime’s interest in sustainable agriculture, food policy and the environment. 

She studied Rural Environment Studies at Wye College, London University in the 1970s and returned to academia more recently to gain an MSc in Rural Development and Countryside Management at Newcastle University, which led her to continue her action research into Community Supported Agriculture for a PhD in 2012. 

Liz spent three years working on a dairy farm on the Welsh borders and has always grown her own vegetables and fruit; she now runs a smallholding with her partner. She set up an award-winning community care project in the Forest of Dean before moving North in 2001 to join the newly formed Community Development Team in Durham County Council, where she worked across Weardale and Teesdale and had responsibility for Rural Issues. In 2006, on starting her PhD research she was seconded to Durham Rural Community Council (now DCA) for three years where she has had diverse responsibilities. She left DCC in 2006 to work for DCA. DCA enabled her to develop and set up Food Durham, which is still hosted within the organisation. With her husband Liz runs the Railway Paddock Smallholding in the Wear Valley producing vegetable and salad bags and rare breed pork.

KEITH GILL

Manager,
Durham Food Hub

Keith is a hugely successful entrepreneur with over 35 years’ experience.

His previous roles have included Marketing Manager for Tudor Crisps in Peterlee from 1979, where he launched successful products including Tudor Pork Scratchings and Tudor Savoury Straws.

He co-founded Derwent Valley Foods which created and introduced the iconic Phileas Fogg snack range for adults. The brand was considered the most successful ‘grocery sector’ new introduction for 30 years and at its peak employed 280 people and had sales of £25m per annum.

Keith also co-founded The Tanfield Food Company in 2003, which pioneered the application and use of ‘thermal processing’ to produce ranges that had long shelf lives for ready meals. He retired two years after a large investment by Nestle in 2010.

Between 2012 to 2015 Keith worked as a food and business consultant for companies and products with dietary benefits such as weight management for a German company and re-aligning a brand aimed at Chronic Kidney Disease to broaden its appeal to change Blood Chemistry tackling High Cholesterol, Sugars and Hypertension with a Professor of Nutrition using Food as a ‘treat and a treatment’.

HANNAH MURRAY-LESLIE

Community Worker,
Growing Durham

Hannah has been gardening since she decided to get a couple of pot plants to cheer up the backyard of her flat in Heaton.  The obsession rapidly grew until in 2003 she moved to the Wear Valley and took on an allotment.

Since then she has been growing all sorts of fruit, veg and cut flowers for her family, trying out different growing techniques and making lots of jam.

Hannah has a degree in Politics and Social Policy from Newcastle University and her employment background is in the creative and cultural sector, working first in local authority arts development and then in a range of freelance roles.

In 2014 she started a part time RHS Level 3 diploma in the Principles and Practice of Horticulture and in 2015 joined the Growing Durham team, a move that combined her community development experience with her love of gardening, great food and the people and places of County Durham.

Alongside her Growing Durham role, Hannah works part time for Sage Gateshead as CoMusica Inclusion Training Producer, and co-ordinates County Durham’s Sugar Smart campaign.

PETER SAMSOM

Community Worker,
Growing Durham

Peter’s love of food goes right back to his childhood and his fond memories of his grandparents’ vegetable garden and their orchard where they also kept some chickens.

Peter has grown his own vegetables all of his adult life and recently developed his own mini orchard, growing around 20 varieties of apples, many of them specifically suitable for the North of England.

Before starting work for Growing Durham in 2015, Peter worked for the North Pennines AONB Partnership in Stanhope, the Northumberland National Park Authority and Northumberland County Council.

Peter has a degree in Countryside Management from Newcastle University and a diploma in organic agriculture and a certificate in Permaculture Design. Prior to this he was a cheesemaker, running his own business at Beamish Museum, and working on a number of farms in Northumberland, West Wales and the Netherlands.

In addition to working for Food Durham, Peter manages Hexham Farmers’ Market and together with his partner he also runs a smallholding where they keep chickens, ducks and a small flock of Shetland sheep for meat and wool. From September 2018 Peter will coordinate Food Durham’s VegCities campaign.