Leadership Team


Jane Ruffer Chair of the Leadership Team

Jane Ruffer is married to Jonathan and along with being a wife, mum and dog walker has been a doctor, a lecturer and a school governor, has run a national helpline and has been a trustee of various charities and a hospice. She likes encouraging people to have a go and realise their potential and is a big fan of life-long learning. 


David Maddan Chief Executive Officer

David Maddan spent 32 years in the Army, leading troops on every continent except Antarctica and commanding a regional brigade in the North East of England. He specialised in worldwide intelligence and operations for the Ministry of Defence and commanded the School of Infantry, where he was responsible for training the next generation of infantry soldiers and junior commanders.  David is a Deputy Lieutenant of North Yorkshire and a trustee of the Grenadier Guards charity.  He joined The Auckland Project as Chief Executive Officer in July 2016.


Rebecca Coates HR Director

Rebecca joined The Auckland Project in April 2012 and immediately began to develop the castle’s commercial offering, including bringing private events and weddings to the castle. Rebecca is now also responsible for Corporate Services and manages the compliance, human resources and internal communications functions. Passionate about the local area and the project as a whole, Rebecca is keen to develop new and exciting ways for people to get involved with the castle, including working with local colleges on apprenticeship schemes and creating work experience opportunities. Having lived a stone’s throw from the castle as a child, Rebecca now lives in Weardale with her husband and two sons.


Liz Fisher Engagement Director

Liz joined the staff in January 2014. She previously worked for the National Trust as Assistant Director of Operations in Yorkshire and the North East. She worked for the National Trust for over twenty-five years, directing community and volunteering as well as operational management. She led the National Trust’s campaign to save Seaton Delaval Hall in Northumberland. This involved the community, developing the business plan to enable £13 million investment in the site and, once the National Trust had acquired the property, ensuring the site was operationally ready. From 2014 her focus has been the delivery of the Heritage Lottery Fund activity plan, community consultation and development, visitor experience, and operational effectiveness.


Lynda Sale Director of External Affairs

Lynda has over twenty-five years’ experience as a strategic marketing and communications director. Before working at Auckland Castle, she was a founder partner of SaleOwen, an independent brand strategy and research consultancy. She started her career working in advertising and communications agencies, latterly as Director of Research and Planning and Board Director of Valin Pollen Ltd, then the largest corporate communications agency in the UK, working on blue chip clients such as Visa International, and Unigate plc.


Adam Duncan Group Finance Director

Adam moved from South West London to join The Auckland Project in late 2017, returning to the North East after graduating from Van Mildert College, Durham University in 1985. A qualified Chartered Accountant, he is an experienced Finance Director with extensive operational experience in the international art, luxury and design and UK healthcare sectors. Adam is married with two sons.


Ann Cooper Interim Marketing and Communications Director

Ann has worked in Marketing and Communications for more than 20 years.She joined London based PR company LD Communications in 1994 and for over ten years looked after national and international media campaigns.She moved into Arts Marketing and Communications in 2005, as a theatre Marketing Manager before returning to the North East in 2007 to work at BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art, where she became Head of Communications. Whilst at the gallery she oversaw the first presentation of the Turner Prize exhibition and award ceremony outside of Tate which attracted the largest ever visitor figure in the exhibition’s history. In 2015 she moved to The Auckland Project, as Head of Communications and is currently Interim Director of Marketing and Communications.


Chris Blacklock Properties Director

Chris has worked in a number of senior operations, investment and property roles in the pub and hospitality industry over a career spanning 33 years. Most recently he has been Head of Property for Star Pubs and Bars a 1000+ pub company which is part of Heineken UK. He has also held Investment and Operations roles at The Orchid Group, Ultimate Leisure and The Yates Group.

It was during the first 17 years of his career working for Vaux Breweries of Sunderland that Chris first worked in Bishop Auckland. During this time whilst managing the company’s pub estate, he developed a great understanding of County Durham towns and villages and its people.


Alyson Bailey Commercial Director

Alyson originally from Hexham and a graduate of Sheffield University, joined the team in September 2017. She has worked in a number of sectors within the hospitality industry and has held senior roles within the heritage, visitor attraction and leisure markets.

As Managing Director for Sodexo Prestige Scotland she was responsible for the strategic direction of the business delivering high quality standards and financial performance over a unique portfolio of historic properties, sports stadiums and green field sites.  She has a proven track record of delivering complex events and hospitality solutions for such high profile clients as Historic Scotland, Royal Palaces, RHS and National Trust in Scotland.

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