Meet The Board


Amanda was educated in this country and in Europe, followed by the Boston Museum School of Fine Arts. Her early career was as an artist, working for Walt Disney briefly in California! She married in 1967 and moved to Challock in Kent. During the next twenty years, as well as working as an artist and farming, she brought up her four children. Amanda was widowed in 1996, and now has ten grandchildren. She was made High Sheriff of Kent in 2006 and was awarded the OBE for services to Kent in 2011. Amanda was a magistrate for 23 years, as well as Chairman of her Parish Council. She holds an Honorary Fellowship of Canterbury Christ Church University and an Honorary Doctorate of Civil Law from the University of Kent. She also served for three years as a Director of VisitEngland.

Patron of Visit Kent, Amanda Cottrell is a Deputy Lieutenant of Kent, a Kent Ambassador as well as a Trustee of Canterbury Cathedral and the Godinton House Preservation Trust. She is Chairman of both the Diocese of Canterbury Communities and Partnerships Framework and the Churches Working Together Partnership. Amanda is Patron of Produced in Kent and the Caldecott Foundation, co-Patron of the Strode Park Foundation and of the Maidstone Museum as well as the Director of a small bus company which serves the rural areas of Kent. She is a Liveryman of the Worshipful Company of Fruiterers, and a Freeman of the City of London and the City of Canterbury. She is also Patron of the Ellenor Foundation and a Medway Champion.

Amanda has worked closely over many years with the rural and agricultural sector in Kent, and this remains extremely important to her.

Jonathan Neame, Chairman-Elect (Dec 2015) Shepherd Neame Ltd

jonathan neame, chairman, visit kent

Jonathan Neame was educated at Harrow School, Pembroke College Cambridge, The City University and Inns of Court School of Law.  He achieved 2.1 MA Cantab Classics; Diploma in Legal Education and is a Barrister at Law.  He worked as a Strategic Consultant during the early part of his career.

Jonathan joined Shepherd Neame in 1991 as Company Secretary.  In 1994 he became Tenanted Trade Director and subsequently Trade Director.  In 1999 he became Managing Director, and Chief Executive in 2003.

He is a Non-Executive Director of the St. Austell Brewery Co Limited.  He is also a Trustee of The Leeds Castle Foundation and Chairman of Leeds Castle Enterprises Ltd, a Kent Ambassador and Deputy Lieutenant of Kent.

Jonathan is married to Lucie and they have one daughter, Violette.

william benson, chief executive, tunbridge wells borough council.

William has been Chief Executive at Tunbridge Wells Borough Council since 2010. Before that, he held a number of senior roles in local government with a particular emphasis on performance, transformation and customer care. William’s original background is in international development and he worked for the International Development Select Committee in the House of Commons leading on a range of inquiries and reports.

William sits on a number of national boards and committees that shape and influence national policy towards local government and is a Fellow of the Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce.

Colin Carmichael, Chief Executive, Canterbury City Council

Born in London, Colin attended William Ellis School in Highgate before studying modern history at Merton College, Oxford. He gained his key local government experience in London in the late 1980s and 1990s, working for the London Borough of Hackney before becoming Director of Corporate Services for the London Borough of Camden.

Colin became the Chief Executive of Canterbury City Council in 1996. The ethos of accountable and credible local government has shaped his work at Canterbury, ensuring that local residents and businesses are served by a city council that is ambitious on their behalf, and aims for excellence in all its work. Colin’s commitment to the district extends into the community. He is a member of the Governing bodies of the University of Kent and of Canterbury Christ Church University. He currently also chairs the Board of Canterbury Further Education College.

Bill Ferris OBE, Chief Executive, chatham historic dockyard

Trained as an accountant Bill gained a 1st Class Honours Degree in Managerial and Administrative Studies from the University of Aston. He ran his own wholesale and retail bakery business in Devon for six years before moving into the heritage sector in 1988.

In 1988 Bill became the first Commercial Manager at the Yorkshire Mining Museum (now the National Museum of Coalmining), seeing it through its last phases of development and early years of operation. He left this prestigious project in 1990 to join Heritage Projects for whom he has managed two projects, A Day at the Wells and the White Cliffs Experience in Kent. After three years he was promoted to Operations' Director with a National role. He was responsible for seven projects with combined visitor projections in excess of 1 million per annum. This led to him undertaking a range of consultancy work for Heritage Projects, working on a number of Millennium and Lottery funded initiatives.

He joined Chatham Historic Dockyard Trust, as chief executive in December 2000 to lead a multi million pound capital investment programme and devise and implement an operating strategy designed to lead to eventual financial sustainability for this large, complex heritage site. Articulated as “Preservation Through Re-use” the strategy has helped raise a further £25 million for capital projects bringing most of the 100 buildings on site, of which includes 47 are Scheduled Ancient Monuments, into use and hugely improve visitor attractions and facilities. The Historic Dockyard Chatham is now a thriving community and visitor destination with 115 residential homes, 100+ business tenants and 160K paying visitors pa.

He is a member of the Visit Kent Board and has recently retired, after 6 years, as chair of The Association of Independent Museums. Bill was awarded the OBE for Services to Heritage in the 2011 Queen's Birthday Honours Interests include trout fishing, mountaineering and skiing.

Richard Hicks, Acting Director of Regeneration, Community & Culture, Medway Council

richard hicks, director of regeneration, community & culture, Medway council

Richard became Director in September 2015, after taking up the role of Acting Director from June 2015.  With oversight of the Council’s extensive regeneration programme, vital front line services and of Medway’s vibrant cultural offer, the role is fundamental to the place-making of Medway, establishing Medway as a great place to live, work, learn and visit.

Richard was previously Deputy Director, with responsibility for Medway’s extensive festival offer, one of the largest free programmes in the country, for Medway’s rich heritage, with castles and Grade 1 listed buildings, Medway’s greenspaces, many of which are Green Flag accredited, Libraries and Community Hubs, and Medway’s sporting offer, attracting 2.5 million visits across the Council’s sites.

Richard has held a number of roles at Medway since its inception in 1998, and before that time worked in a range of positions across Kent County Council.

David hughes, Head of business engagement & economic development at kcc. 

David is Head of Business and Enterprise at Kent County Council, and is responsible for the teams within the council that help deliver support to business across the county, including trade development, inward investment services, finance and digital technology. He is a board member of Produced in Kent and a trustee of the Kent Foundation.  

John Keefe, Director of Public Affairs, Eurotunnel

john keefe, director of public affairs, eurotunnel

Originally a Geologist by education, John is currently Director of Public Affairs for Eurotunnel spending much of his time working with National and local government to promote the economic importance of the Channel Tunnel and to ensuring the resilience of the transport infrastructure connecting it to the rest of the UK, as well as its vital role linking the UK to Europe. 

He has worked on the Eurotunnel project for 23 years, having been involved since the construction phase and subsequently through the start-up and the critical financial restructuring and, most recently, in developing solutions to protect the vital Tunnel infrastructure from illegal migrant incursions and to reducing the impact of Operation Stack on Kent businesses.

John is originally from our neighbouring county, Essex, but has been working in Kent and on Kent issues since joining Eurotunnel. He is married with one son currently at University in Exeter, two dogs and two horses and, working for Eurotunnel, naturally divides his time between the UK and France.


DEIRDRE WELLS OBE, Chief Executive, Visit Kent

Deirdre Wells OBE was appointed as CEO of Visit Kent in September 2018. Deirdre is also CEO of Go to Places, an organisation created by the company, to deliver services to partners outside,and in partnership with Kent, including setting up the new Destination Management Organisation Visit Hertfordshire, the Big Weekend and a number of national tourism projects under the Government’s Discover England Fund.  

Prior to her appointment to Visit Kent, Deirdre was Chief Executive of UKinbound, representing nearly 400 UK inbound tourism businesses. During her tenure at UKinbound, Deirdre was a passionate advocate on behalf of the industry on a broad range of issues including the impact of BREXIT,  Visas, Air Passenger Duty and skills.  

Deirdre joined UKinbound following 20 years in Government at the Department for Culture, Media and Sport working on a variety of high-profile projects including the Millennium Dome, Liverpool Capital of Culture 2008 and the 2012 London Olympic and Paralympic Games.

Deirdre was awarded an OBE in 2007 in recognition of her work in leading the team behind the national memorial services for the UK victims of the 9/11 attacks, the Bali bombings, the 2004 Asian Tsunami and the London 7/7 attacks.

Appointed the Government’s Head of Tourism in 2010, Deirdre was instrumental in the delivery of the GREAT campaign – an ambitious and far-reaching marketing campaign aimed to help the world discover why Britain is such a great place to visit, study, work, invest, and do business.

David Statham, Managing Director, Southeastern

david statham, managing director, southeastern

David spent much of his formative years in passenger-focused roles, culminating in his appointment as Customer Service Strategy Manager at Great Western and management of the ScotRail franchise in 2004.

A key player in First Capital Connect’s successful bid for the Great Northern and Thameslink franchise, he mobilised the franchise to combine the Great Northern and Thameslink businesses in 2006 and later led the first stages of the transformational Thameslink Programme.

Appointed Projects Director and Deputy MD in 2010 he also led on several capacity enhancement schemes on the Great Northern route which increased peak seating capacity by over 24%. In May 2013, as Managing Director of First Capital Connect, David led the development and delivery of a customer-focused strategy, putting passenger priorities at the forefront of its decisions.

In September 2014, David joined Southeastern as Managing Director. Since his appointment he has employed 100 more people, giving new opportunities to apprentices and graduates, and increasing the number of frontline staff at Southeastern stations. David is leading the company to focus on passenger satisfaction and has overseen £4.8 Million investment in major station improvements and maintenance on the majority of the company’s trains.