Meet the Team

Helen Thackray, Director

Helen has been Director of Blaze since March 2021, leading on strategy, vision and fundraising. Helen previously worked in cultural venues across Yorkshire, Nottingham and the North West working with communities, increasing access to culture and developing innovative co-creation models. Helen is passionate about creating spaces where young people can explore their creative potential, develop their own support networks and achieve their own goals.

Meet the Trustees

Jasleen Kaur, Chair

Originally from Preston and currently studying Business Management at Liverpool University, Jasleen has a background in Libraries and Museums. She has worked with the Harris in Preston to deliver events for children and young people: ranging from music concerts to comic cons. Her aim is to break the stigma behind libraries and encourage more young people to use their space. Jasleen currently works with Hewlett Packard Enterprise on their campaigns and communications which enables her to continually develop skills in producing events and global marketing strategies.

Derri Burdon, Vice-Chair

A qualified teacher and CEO of Curious Minds, Derri previously worked for Bolton Council’s Educational Improvement Service where she was responsible for leading a number of high profile school improvement initiatives including: Find Your Talent, Inspiring Communities, Bolton UFA and Sunflower Clubs. Derri is a ‘sandgrown-un’ Lancashire Lass with Irish roots. School wasn’t her favourite place as a child but despite this (or likely because of it) she is passionate about improving learning outcomes for all children, especially the most disadvantaged and vulnerable.

Azraa Motala

Azraa Motala is a North-West based artist and recent graduate from the MA Fine Art program at the Chelsea College of Arts where she was awarded the Hoyland scholarship. In 2014, she graduated from the University of Central Lancashire with a first class BA honours degree in Fine Art. Azraa was recently a finalist for the UK Young Artist of the Year Award in partnership with Saatchi Gallery and has exhibited work nationally in solo and group exhibitions.

Sara Domville

Since graduating with a BA in Performing Arts, Sara has developed a career as a socially engaged artist, creative producer and programme director that spans 25 years. She has worked across artistic mediums that include theatre, dance, music, film, photography, installation and interactive digital technologies with a diverse range of organisations, communities and people. She is passionate about developing the next generation of creative producers and as a director of Blaze from 2009 to 2013 is delighted to be a Blaze trustee.

Joe Clegg

Joe Clegg is a Manchester based actor, writer, producer, podcaster and marketer with over six years experience working in the arts, having trained with the Royal Exchange, Contact, the National Youth Theatre and Reform Radio to name a few. Joe is also a writer and producer for new writing theatre company Hung Theatre, and Marketing & Communications Officer at music organisation Brighter Sound.

Lydia Hesketh

As the Head of Communications for Bloomsbury Institute, a higher education institute dedicated to widening participation in London, Lydia firmly believes everyone should have the right and access to higher education. She is passionate about allowing people young and old the opportunity to define what success means to them. Lydia has been the Co-Chair of Blaze since 2020 – joining just before the Covid-19 pandemic! She specialises in communications, brand, marketing and digital marketing and has worked across a range of sectors.

Russell Tennant

Russell has over 20 years working in arts and culture for local authorities, education and the independent arts sector. He is passionate about giving arts opportunities to a wide range of people and helping unleash the creative potential of young people. He has been involved in Blaze from the very beginning. He currently works as an Investment Manager for the National Lottery Heritage Fund.

Meet the Blaze Advisory Group

The Blaze Advisory Group is a team of 16-25 year olds from across Lancashire who meet once a month with our Director to help shape our programme whilst taking part in fun creative activities.

Beth N

Three words my friends would use to describe me…

Thoughtful, Creative and Courageous.

I’ve joined the Advisory Group because…

I wanted to help Blaze figure out ways to make creative opportunities more accessible to young people across all areas of Lancashire!

A creative activity I enjoy doing is…

Performing spoken word. I find it really fun, and also pretty therapeutic, to write my thoughts down in a creative way, but then I also get a buzz from sharing it with an audience too.


Three words my friends would use to describe me…

Determined, Energetic and Helpful.

I’ve joined the Advisory Group because…

I want help create a better future for the youth of today.

A creative activity I enjoy doing is…

Building and making things!

Zia (they/them)

Three words my friends would use to describe me…

Empathetic, adaptive, and realistic.

I’ve joined the Advisory Group because…

I am a creative young person who is currently employed by Lancashire Youth Challenge in a Kickstart placement as Assistant Arts Producer at Culture Co-op, who push meaningful difference in young peoples’ direction via youth projects and creative outlets. I am passionate about free thinking, the importance of stable mental health, and cultural and emotional competence, amongst other things. Through the advisory group, I am excited to help make creative opportunities and skills more accessible to everyone, thereby increasing equity, diversity, collaboration, and richness in the arts amongst Lancashire.

A creative activity I enjoy doing is…

Sketching and writing for personal pleasure, though I hope to work on these to a professional standard e.g. prints on paper and clothing, and develop newfound interests in sound technology, graphic design, clothing DIY, and editing.

Beth R

I’m a theatre and performance student. I love creating my own work as well as watching theatre and leading workshops.