Ambassadors – Associates 2

Learn more about our Associate Members below.

You can also read about our Steering Group Members here.

Richard Bowdidge, Founder and Chairman of the Board of Trustees, The Tom Bowdidge Youth Cancer Foundation

Richard BowdidgeRichard takes an active role in the management of the Colchester headquartered Foundation as well as developing and implementing the strategic vision alongside the Chief Executive Officer and the rest of the Board.

In addition Richard takes an active part in managing and creating fundraising opportunities, including events and especially corporate partnerships. Recently the Foundation has invested over £57,000 into Colchester Hospital to provide facilities for teenagers and young adults with cancer.

Born in Colchester, Richard went to school in the town and has lived in the area all his life.

Richard works for a Lloyd’s insurance broker in London and is responsible for the management of a specialist team advising corporate clients on their complex insurance requirements. He has worked in the insurance market for some 30 years.

Tom Bowdidge Youth Cancer Foundation

Paul BeresfordChairman/Managing Director, Beresford Group Ltd

Paul BeresfordBeresfords started in Essex 50 years ago this year. We are an independent family business that has grown from a single office practice to a multi-disciplined estate agency business employing around 230 local people across sixteen sites across the County whilst still retaining our original values of professionalism and personal service.

We opened in Colchester just over 10 years ago and, despite the challenging economic climate at the time, it has proved to be a valuable addition to the Beresfords branch network which extends across Essex from Greater London to the Suffolk borders.


Steve Mannix, Executive Director, Mercury Theatre Colchester

Steve MannixThe Mercury Theatre Colchester is the most active producing theatre in East Anglia, and a vital centre of excellence in the East’s growing economy.

Rooted in its local community, the theatre touches over 130,000 people in colchester and the surrounding area each year through the vibrant and broad programme we stage across two auditoria, and through community education partnerships.

Under the Made in Colchester brand, the Mercury creates theatre which reaches audiences and generates critical attention regionally and nationally. The Mercury is a champion of regional arts, both as an active co-producer with other venues and companies and also touring our own productions to audiences across the uk.

Toby Freeman, CEO, Robin Cancer Trust

Toby FreemanThe Robin Cancer Trust is the UK’s only germ cell cancer awareness charity – we raise awareness, reduce embarrassment and save lives through the early detection of testicular & ovarian cancers in young adults.

Based in Colchester, we founded The Robin Cancer Trust in 2012 following the untimely death of our son and brother, Robin Freeman, aged just 24.

We have grown into an award winning non-profit, leading the national conversation on germ cell cancers at events, in print and online – having reached over 9 million people with our life-saving cancer awareness campaigns.

Sean Stuttaford, CEO, Thompson Smith and Puxon

Sean StuttafordEstablished in 1879, Thompson Smith and Puxon (TSP) is one of the leading law firms in Essex, with offices in Colchester and Clacton. We offer a full range of legal advice to businesses and individual clients.

Our specialist practice areas, with accredited lawyers and attentive support staff, ensure you receive the most professional and practical advice available. We continually invest in staff development and new technology, and are responsive and adaptable to client needs.

The partners and staff at TSP bring together local and regional knowledge with City firm experience enabling us to compete effectively with large London practices.


Gillian Marshall, Executive Principal, Colchester County High School for Girls,
CEO Alpha Trust

Gillian MarshallFounded in 1909 with the aim of providing high quality education for girls, CCHSG continues to fulfil that mission as an academically selective state school combining both tradition and innovation.

With around 950 students on role, CCHSG is one of the top performing 11-18 state schools in the country, both for student progress and attainment.

Providing a challenging academic environment alongside exceptional opportunities for personal development the school prides itself on educating the leaders of tomorrow. 

With an active role in education development, research and teacher training, the school leads the Colchester Teacher Training Consortium (CTTC) and the North East Essex Teaching Schools Alliance (NEETSA).  CCHSG is an academy within the Alpha Trust group of schools.


Janus van Helfteren, CEO, Vancols

Janus van HelfterenJanus van Helfteren is 2nd generation in the UK business Vancols Ltd, school photographers. He has been working there since he was 19, and running it since he was about 28. The business is in its 60th year and, depending whose stats you believe, is the 3rd or 4th largest in the UK. Vancols mantra has always been quality, of photography and service to schools.

He has also been involved with advertising photography and marketing in and around the Essex area for many years.

VanCols went into Processing (production) late, only some 14 years ago, previously having outsourced to various UK labs; this changed with the onset of digital, mainly because of quality, more than price. 

Vancols has had an online solution (they build websites as well), dealing more directly with parents for the last 6 or so years, and are about to launch their 4th version of their online ’shop’.

We employ around 70 full time, up to 100 when flat out busy, most from Colchester, with a few coming in from Suffolk.

Janus has been involved in trying to further Colchester, one way or another, for several years .

Janus is 60 years old,  married to a personal trainer (you won’t believe that) with 3 kids, one a graphic designer, one an expert in social media marketing, and one carpenter (none work in the Vancols Business). He may well be known to quite a few of you, if only for asking difficult questions!

Jonathan Hills, Managing Director, Hills Building Group

jonathan-hillsHills Building Group, established in Colchester in 1920, is an amalgamation of property investment, development, and construction businesses.

The Group owns and manages property and land throughout the south-east which include tenants such as Tesco, Irish Post, Halfords and St Helena Hospice.

Hills Construction is a long-standing contractor undertaking high quality construction projects including substantial homes, offices, and supermarkets.

Hills Residential is a house building company building 50-100 homes per year. The company pro-actively seeks out the best sites in the most sought-after locations and has planning permission for over 1000 plots to develop over the next few years. The company also owns Milsoms Kesgrave Hall with Milsom Hotels.

The company supports a number of charities and has recently been involved in funding schools in Ghana.