Trustees & leadership

Wing Commander Michael J Russell OBE – Chair of Board of Trustees, Treasurer, Finance and Scrutiny Committee Member

Mike spent 30 years as an RAF navigator followed by a successful civilian career in military training. He holds an MBA and a Private Pilots Licence. He has been a Sunnyside Trustee since 2012.

Julie Laws – Vice Chair of Board of Trustees, Head of Safeguarding, Chair of Finance and Scrutiny Committee

Julie has been a councillor at Dacorum Borough Council and Berkhamsted Town Council for ten years, including the position of Mayor of Berkhamsted and Cabinet Portfolio Holder for Environmental Services and Sustainability.  She is currently Chair of Board of Governors for Ashlyns School, Berkhamsted.

Her skills from her time as a borough and town councillor includes local leadership, political understanding, scrutiny and challenge, partnership working, regulating and monitoring and local knowledge.

From her years in secondary, middle and first school governor roles, she brings a wealth of knowledge in data analysis, leadership, teamwork, critical friend, financial and legal understanding, clear communication and safeguarding.

Wendy Conian – Trustee, Chair of Environmental Sustainability Committee

Wendy is a business change and HR consultant with over 20 years’ experience in private, public and not for profit organisations. Most recently, she spent 10 years working at PricewaterhouseCoopers’ consulting group. Prior to this she was a self-employed consultant and a HR manager within the pharmaceutical, retail and manufacturing sectors.

Wendy has extensive knowledge in organisational change management at UK and global levels, delivering enhanced business performance and customer focus within those organisations.

Wendy is a Berkhamsted Town Councillor and chair of the Council’s Transport and Environment Committee and Climate Emergency Steering Group.

Wendy is a long standing member of Transition town Berkhamsted.

Joy Dyson – Trustee and Chair of Staff and Health & Safety Committee

Joy is a fellow of the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development by Diploma, she is experienced in both private and voluntary sector, having worked at manager and director levels and as a consultant. Her main skills include HR management, employment law expertise, management training and coaching, health and safety. Joy has also run her own business.

Adam Connors – Trustee

Adam started his career as a physicist, and completed his PhD at CERN designing part of one of the particle detectors which ultimately discovered the Higgs Boson. He has since taught physics in Sudan, sold encyclopedias in Chicago, fitted WiFi at the refugee camps in Greece, and provided emergency networking support to the relief workers in Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria.

He’s worked at Google since 2006 and now manages a team of engineers and research scientists as part of Google Health, a project which aims to use big data and machine learning to improve the quality of healthcare.

Bella Stuart-Smith – Patron

Bella is a gardener and professional garden designer who has a long term interest in education.   She  chaired Hertfordshire Gardens Trust  and still leads  their schools programme, having developed and run the  Mrs Wheelbarrow workshops. Over a 7 year period these  visited 174 Hertfordshire primary schools delivering practical gardening  workshops, and now delivers a grant scheme.   She also sits on the St Albans Cathedral Foundation and chairs their Education Trust.

She became involved with Sunnyside during her year as High Sheriff of Hertfordshire.  From that first encounter at  the opening of Hemel Food Garden, she has always been amazed at the ambition of the charity and their determination to put horticultural work opportunities at the centre of an effective social enterprise. She speaks to everyone she can about Sunnyside, their delicious produce and the work they do.

Emma Claire Sweeney – Patron

Emma is the author of Owl Song at Dawn (2016), a novel inspired by her sister who has cerebral palsy and autism, which won Nudge Literary Book of the Year. Emma has been named as both an Amazon Rising Star and a Hive Rising Writer, and has won Society of Authors, Arts Council and Royal Literary Fund awards.

Emma’s PhD explored literary representations of disability, and she has written extensively about both disability and literature, publishing in the likes of the Paris Review, TIME and the Washington Post.

Her debut non-fiction book, A Secret Sisterhood: The Hidden Friendships of Austen, Brontë, Eliot and Woolf (2017) was co-written with her own friend Emily Midorikawa and features a foreword by Margaret Atwood, who described the work as a “great service to literary history”.

Emma first became involved with Sunnyside back in 2012 when she ran a yearlong writing residency, which culminated in the publication of The Memoir Garden: Poems from the words and experiences of adults with learning disabilities. She continues to hold regular literature sessions at Sunnyside, where she loves feeling part of such a progressive, inclusive and generous-spirited community.

John Driver – Patron

John is a retired chartered electrical engineer who had a successful 30 year career with BP; in a wide range of Engineering Technology, Project management, Scheduling and H&S roles across BP Oil and BP Solar; both here in the UK, and overseas up to Board level.

After retirement in 2003, John agreed to join the board of SRT as a Trustee and served for 15 years, including taking on the role of Vice Chairman, and making a significant contribution towards the sustainability, strategic direction and professionalism of the Trust going forward.

John has a passion for helping those in need across community; and has a deep love of nature and wildlife. He has been an allotment holder for the past 20 years, served on the Sunnyside Allotment Society committee and Sunnyside Church PCC; supporting SRT in fostering and maintaining good working relationships with it’s neighbours.

In his capacity as patron he will take every opportunity to promote and raise the profile of SRT’ across the local community.


Keely Siddiqui Charlick – CEO

Keely Siddiqui Charlick has worked with young people and adults with learning disabilities throughout her career. Before joining Sunnyside, she held senior development and operational roles for large London-based charities; since then she has been instrumental in transforming Sunnyside from a small day service into a thriving and innovative social enterprise. Keely also undertakes work for the School of Social Entrepreneurs (SSE – www.the-sse.org) and uses Sunnyside as an example to inspire other charities to move into trading and create employment opportunities for vulnerable young people and adults.

Keely has a particular passion for helping people reach their potential. Key aspects to her leadership are being person centred, putting a robust business framework around charity values, localism, financial and environmental sustainability and a love of nature and animals. She feels very lucky to work for Sunnyside and to see it develop.