Meet A Local Bios
My name is Celia, and I was born in Madrid, Spain. I am the youngest of five siblings.
In my teenage years, I went to a German school which gave me the opportunity to learn another language and culture. This made me curious about how other people lived and started my love for travelling and getting to know people from other countries.
When I was in my early 20s, I spent some months volunteering in South America, which was a very enriching experience as I got to work with people from very different ethnic backgrounds.
Now I work in a medical practice in London, UK, where the staff and population is very diverse. Such a mixture of people makes my everyday work fascinating, and it has allowed me to see that despite our ethnic or cultural backgrounds, we- human beings- are essentially very similar.
Musician Gráinne Devery hails from Cork city, Ireland. She completed a Masters in Music at Trinity College of Music in 2008, where she studied bassoon performance with Stephen Maw. In 2007 she won the Vernon Elliot Bassoon competition at Trinity. She was a member of the Vesuvio Wind Quintet, who travelled to Saudi Arabia in 2011 to perform for the International Concert Committee and British International School in Al-Khobar. Gráinne has also played with many ensembles around the world including the Ulster Orchestra, Symphony Orchestra of Sri Lanka, Orchestra of St. Paul’s, Bombay Chamber Orchestra and the Cork Opera House Chamber Orchestra. In July 2011 she performed Mozart’s Bassoon Concerto with Kensington Chamber Orchestra.
She joined the British Army in 2011 and was assigned to the Band of the Coldstream Guards. As part of the band, she completed concert tours of Japan, China, South Korea
and Canada. Gráinne was also member of the band’s wind quintet and 18 th century band and performed as a soloist in South Korea and Japan. A highlight of her Army career has been playing for the Queen at her Garden party in Buckingham Palace!
She enjoys sports and has competed in swimming, cross-country running and triathlon within the Army. In 2019 she travelled to Nepal for a high-altitude expedition to mark the
25 th anniversary of the Corps of Army Music.
She also plays the traditional Irish flute and tin whistle. She currently plays with the Band of the Scots Guards.
Born in London, England in 1975, Eric returned to Ghana, West Africa with his parents at an early age, where he grew up and nurtured his natural artistic talents from the onset. He excelled in art and won artistic awards both at school and national levels.
He returned to the UK in his early twenties and pursued his first degree in Mechanical engineering and later followed up with his Masters degree in Advanced Mechanical Design engineering. All this while he never lost sight of his artistic talent, taking courses and exhibiting on numerous occasions at university group art exhibitions at Brunel University, London and other internationally recognized exhibitions and competitions like Pintar Rapido.
His works are highly influenced by the relationship man has with his environment and captures activities of people and places that bring an emotional connection to the viewer. He works mainly in Acrylic with palette knife and brilliantly achieves 3D effects with his impasto technique. He was the co-founder and Director of The Creative Collective art gallery in Ashford, Kent until 2017. Currently, he shows the bulk of this paintings on his website, Instagram as well as Saatchi Online.
Khensani Mathebula founded MATHETA Dance in 2017 with aspirations to build its presence in both the States and South Africa. She was discovered in 2010 in her hometown Johannesburg, South Africa by international guest Ana Marie Forsythe at a Horton workshop and recruited to the competitive Ailey School/Fordham University BFA program in New York City. She graduated Cum Laude as a double major in Dance – as a select Independent Study Choreographer – and Political Science. She danced with Alpha Omega Theatrical Dance Company and performed works by noteworthy choreographers, including Ronald K. Brown, Matthew Rushing, Michael Leon Thomas and Vincent Mantsoe, as well as Alvin Ailey in his classic work Memoria at New York City Center Theater. Her choreography has been presented in numerous festivals around New York City including Movement Research at Judson Memorial Church, Battery Dance Festival, and Dance Gallery Festival. The Company has enjoyed residencies with CUNY Dance Initiative at Brooklyn College and the Ardsley House Choreographic Residency with Dance Gallery Festival. Her latest work, “buya” is a meditation on absence – the abandonment people can experience in relationships and how they deal with the different feelings that ebb therefrom. She is excited for the Company to keep growing and sharing movement that speaks to the hearts and minds of all.
Catrina lives in the United Kingdom. Although she has lived in London, England for many years, she is actually from Scotland – a country known for its wild mountain scenery, its whisky, its bagpipes and the famous kilt. She really enjoys living in London because it is so vibrant and diverse. She works as a social worker in the court system. She used to work in the criminal courts – trying to help people to stop committing crimes and have a better life. Now she works in the family courts with children and families who need the court to make important decisions affecting their lives. Catrina has always loved languages as they allow you to connect with people and open doors to different cultures. She studied French and Spanish at university and has lived in France, Spain and Peru. She does some work with a Premier League football (soccer) team – interviewing players in French and Spanish. Catrina has traveled to South and Central America, North, East and West Africa, the Middle East, South Asia and East Asia as well as all over Europe.
Her passion is salsa dancing – Cuban salsa in particular. She has danced all her life (Scottish, jazz, modern) but came across salsa nearly 30 years ago, and it was love at first sight. In London, you can dance salsa in a different club every night of the week.
Kia ora! My name is Sarah Martin and I’m a New Zealander who has lived in the United Kingdom for the past 15 years. New Zealand is a remote, mountainous group of islands in the southeastern Pacific Ocean. Across New Zealand, you can find some of the most beautiful landscapes in the world from towering snow-capped mountains and misty fjords to golden beaches. The Maori named the country, Aotearoa, “The Land of the Long White Cloud.” Maori culture is widely respected by New Zealanders.
In 2007, I moved to London to teach drama at a girls’ preparatory school. I was fortunate to find my dream job – acting is storytelling and there is nothing I love more than a good story! I am an experienced drama teacher with a genuine passion for my subject. Acting allows you to explore life in a different way – you can be a completely different person with different thoughts, different opinions and different experiences. My job involves planning and teaching drama, sourcing and buying props, creating sets, coming up with ideas for costumes and stage makeup, choreographing dance numbers and rehearsing scripts. I spend a great deal of time writing and directing plays. Every role, every story, every performance is different. I love collaborating with young people to create a performance. There is always a LOT of laughter! When not working I enjoy hiking, theatre trips, travelling, visiting museums and galleries and having brunch with friends.
Chernise grew up in Singapore and in Hong Kong, two bustling, cosmopolitan East Asian cities open to all sorts of cultural influences. At age 19 she moved to the UK to study for her undergraduate degree in Politics and Sociology. She made really good friends at university and decided to stay, and has lived in Britain ever since. She is fascinated by the cultural differences between Asia and Europe.
Chernise is also a keen baker, and after University and working for a few different organisations, she set up and ran an artisan bakery supporting women from refugee backgrounds into employment or education. This project is now closed, but saw amazing results with 73 percent of the women who graduated from the bakery’s training programme going into work or college, and remaining there 12 months later. Chernise loves combining ingredients and techniques from different culinary heritages to create something new and delicious, and training and developing people to reach their full potential. She now lives in London with her husband Sam and their little dog Lola.
Clair Gregory Clair Gregory
Daughter of an amateur opera singer, with Scottish, English and Russian heritage Clair grew up with a wide range of music influence from Placido Domingo, to Ipi Tombi and Kate Bush. From age 11 she sang descant in a formal robed choir (covering John Rutter to Handel), while listening to an eclectic mix of Soul, RnB, Hip Hop and 80’s Electronic music such as Kansas City Prophets courtesy of her older brother. As half of the gospel duo Clearrose with her identical twin, their signature harmonies aired widely (‘Attitudes’ 2009) working closely with producers John Barber, Brucie Quantise and Gordon Lorenz (EMI). Later forging independent label (c) releasing two compilation albums and a charity single raising funds for a water sanitation project in Matebeleland Zimbabwe by MEDAIR.
Collaborations include Carl McGregor’s Project 21 band and students from Walsall Studio School. Modern choral arrangements of traditional carols with composers Huw White (Dr Who) and David Orton. Songwriting with Noel Robinson (Kingdom Worship Movement). Jazz and Gospel collaborations include Sarah Teibo and band, Trevor Davis and band, Nick Griffiths (Big Band) and Nao Suganamo (Japan – piano ensemble). Various genre events with Keith Taylor’s Doxology Band, Colin Peters (Gospel Central), Millicent Stephenson (Sax) and the Elizabeth Fields Collective.
Currently writing with hip hop and 80’s style producer Denzy. Since 2008 Clair has worked as a teacher of curriculum and vocational music qualifications, from early years to 6th form A Level and BTEC. Working regularly in 25 schools across the midlands in England. Leading small ensembles, to whole school assemblies, supporting massed school vocal events alongside Ula Weber (Ex Cathedra), David Lawrence (Young Voices) and collaborative vocal projects (at Birmingham Town Hall and Symphony Hall). Currently Clair is based in a specialist music school coaching singers up to grade eight and beginner piano. Whilst studying a masters degree in Songwriting and Production, she is excited to explore what’s next.
Nice to meet you, my name is Vivien!
I’m a classically trained piano teacher for children, and I started my little studio called ‘Happy Kids Piano’ in 2018. Playing the piano has been my passion since I was 5. Music gives me joy and peace, and my Mum used to say that I could sit in front of my piano and play it all day long! Thanks to my determination and hard work on learning and practising this beautiful instrument in my childhood, I achieved Distinction in Grade 8 when I was only 13 and completed the Performance diploma in 3 years!
I was born and raised in Hong Kong, the world’s busiest city famous for the amazing skyline (and delicious food!) I’ve always been fascinated by other cultures, and Australia was the first country where I lived away from home. I spent a memorable summer in Perth studying English and completed my Business Degree in Hotel Management on the Gold Coast n Australia.
I couldn’t be more proud to call London my home now, where I’ve found my true calling – becoming a piano teacher to teach all the wonderful kids from all over the world!
Sign Language Teacher
Hi, I’m Victoria. I was born in the United Kingdom. I really enjoy languages, travel and food and always enjoy the opportunity to explore new cultures and cuisines.
In primary school on a trip to the library I found a book about American Sign Language (ASL) and I was fascinated, so I borrowed it and as soon as I got home I tried to learn how to spell my name and use some simple sentences. I later realised I didn’t know anybody else that used ASL – I didn’t yet know about British Sign Language (BSL). So, I returned the book, but never completely forgot about sign language – this was pre-internet. When I got to secondary school my adventures in language learning took off and I learned German and French.
I trained as a Teacher and decided to combine my love of languages with teaching and trained to be a Qualified Teacher of the Deaf, which is when I finally got back to studying BSL.
I now work with d/Deaf young people and their families and enjoy supporting d/Deaf young people to develop their language and communication skills.
My love for reading never went away and I enjoy reading a range of graphic novels and listening to audiobooks. I have travelled to the Caribbean, the US, around Europe and across Canada – all provinces except the Yukon, but I hope to get there one day and I look forward to travelling again in the future. Japan is next on my list.
Dr. Leisha Strachan
Dr. Leisha Strachan is a first-generation Black Canadian, proud daughter of Jerome and Margaret Strachan who immigrated to Winnipeg 53 years ago from the Caribbean island of Grenada. She is blessed to stand on the shoulders of elders in her family and Black community in Winnipeg who came to Winnipeg facing discrimination and racism yet remained for the opportunities that they foresaw for their children.
She began her career as a physical educator after completing a Bachelor of Physical Education and a Bachelor of Education from the University of Manitoba. After teaching for three years at the K-8 level, she left teaching to pursue graduate school. She completed a Master of Human Kinetics at the University of Windsor and a PhD in Sport Psychology at Queen’s University. Currently, she works as a professor at the University of Manitoba.
She is a former national team member in the sport of baton twirling, earning 2 bronze medals at the world championships. She has been coaching in the sport for the past 26 years and is a judge and choreographer in baton, working with athletes across Canada, Scotland, England, and Australia. She continues to engage and develop the next generation through directing ANANSI School for the Performing Arts, a group working to teach African and Caribbean culture through the arts. With training in Caribbean dance and West African movement, she has been leading and choreographing the dances for ANANSI for the past 14 years and looks forward to many more!
“El Jones is a spoken word poet, journalist, and community activist. She is an assistant professor in Mount Saint Vincent University’s Political Studies department and served as the Nancy’s Chair of Women’s Studies for the 2017-2019 term. El is the author of Live from the Afrikan Resistance! and her most recent book Abolitionist Intimacies was released from Fernwood Press in November, 2022. El was the fifth Poet Laureate of Halifax. In 2016, El was a recipient of the Burnley “Rocky” Jones human rights award for her community work and work in prison justice. She is a co-founder of the Black Power Hour, a live radio show with people who have experienced incarceration on CKDU that creates space for people inside to share their creative work and discuss contemporary social and political issues.”
Marilyn Markham is the Head of the Salesforce Centre of Excellence at American Express Global Business Travel (GBT). In her role, she builds the operational platform necessary to enable modern digital experiences to manage business travel. Marilyn moved from London, UK, in 2018 to work in GBT’s New York area office. However, she is no stranger to international relocations or the travel industry. She has lived in 5 countries before this move, speaks French, Spanish and English, and has been in the travel industry for 15 years.
Travel is not just a necessity for Marilyn. Travel is a habit, a curiosity and a passion. The necessity comes from reaching her family which is spread across the globe from Vancouver, Canada to Accra, Ghana with her home base being Ferney-Voltaire, France. A true citizen of the world, Marilyn has an appreciation of various cultures and viewpoints. To satisfy her curiosity and intrepid spirit, she likes to visit at least one new place every year to experience, taste and learn about how others live.
When travel is not an option, Marilyn reads, listens to podcasts and participates in storytelling nights to stretch her imagination. She is a fan of the spoken word, a bit of a science geek and has recently discovered an interest in psychology. You will have gathered by now that Marilyn is an avid learner with wide-ranging interests! She holds a degree in Basic Theology from the St Mellitus College in London, she is a certified John Maxwell Team Public Speaker, Coach and Trainer, she was a member of Toastmasters International and is a Telecommunications Engineer by training. Her latest pursuits include social justice topics and learning how to play the saxophone.
When it comes to her legacy, Marilyn would like to have inspired and taught others how to challenge the status quo to bring about progress, justice and freedom.
For Marilyn 2020 has been challenging in its isolation and uncertainty but it has also been a blessing that is allowing her to discover the joys of cycling and affording her the time to catch up on her favorite action movies.
Ray Strachan is a Theatre Artist of Grenadian and Filipino descent, born and based in Winnipeg. He has trained with the Black Hole Theatre Company and at The Banff Centre, and is a founding member of the ANANSI School for the Performing Arts. Recent theatre credits include, The Wizard of Oz @ Rainbow Stage, Calpurnia and The Mountaintop @ Royal Manitoba Theatre Centre, Voice @ Prairie Theatre Exchange, and Othello with Beau/Echo. Ray can be seen on CBC/BET’s The Porter.