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Alumna of the Year 2020 Nominee Biographies Flipbook PDF

Alumna of the Year 2020 Nominee Biographies




The Calne Girls Association Alumna of the Year 2020 Award Nominee Biographies Arabella Dorman (St Mary’s 1986-1991) Arabella Dorman is an award winning, internationally renowned artist and one of Britain’s leading portrait painters. Arabella’s work explores the realities of conflict today, its immediate impacts and longterm consequences. She worked as an officially accredited war artist in Iraq and Afghanistan for over a decade, and in more recent years with refugees in Palestine, Gaza, Lebanon and Syria. Arabella enjoys a prominent reputation as a public speaker and fundraiser. She was listed as one of BBC’s Top 100 Women and Salt Magazine’s 100 Most Inspiring Women. Her humanitarian work has been profiled across national and international television, radio and print, including New York Times, BBC, CNN, Aljizeera, Radio 4, BBC World Service, and featured on the front cover of The Times, The Guardian and The Sunday Times Magazine. Arabella’s installation artworks, Suspended and Flight have been internationally acclaimed in raising global awareness about the consequences of war, forced displacement of people and human trafficking. Winner of the Global Mosaic Award, and short-listed for the Art+Christianity Award, Suspended has been on tour across the UK since 2017. Premiered at St James’s Church Piccadilly, Suspended has been exhibited at Canterbury & Leicester cathedrals, Salisbury, Christies, London, and is currently on display at Thomas’s School Battersea. Arabella is Winner of the Oman Masterpiece Award 2021. Arabella lives with her husband, two children and Irish terriers in London. Nominated by Phoebe Dickinson: ‘I greatly admire Arabella for using her art to convey important messages at the same time as creating something thought provoking and beautiful. She is determined and hard-working and the way in which she works is very giving and generous i.e., she is not just thinking about how to make an income but about the bigger picture/message and how she can do something important for the world.’

Dr Christie Peacock CBE, PhD, FRSB, FRAgS, Hon DSc (St Mary’s 1970-1975) Christie Peacock is the Founder and Executive Chairman of Sidai Africa Ltd, an innovative social enterprise in Kenya, supplying quality livestock, crop products and services to over 300,000 farmers. Christie started the company with financing from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Christie is an animal scientist who has worked in agricultural development in Africa and South East Asia for over 40 years. She carried out her doctoral research in Kenya on traditional Maasai livestock keeping. It was there her passion to help marginalised rural communities ignited. After Kenya, she worked for the Australian government as adviser to the Indonesian government’s livestock research organisation, before running a master’s course in agricultural systems at the Asian Institute of Technology in Thailand while working for the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation. Christie joined Farm Africa in 1988, and ran a dairy goat project supporting widows in Ethiopia. Her work in Ethiopia led her to write the textbook, “Improving Goat Production in the Tropics". Christie went on to establish the dairy goat industry in Kenya through a project supported by the UK Government and a goat project in Uganda. Christie took over as CEO of Farm Africa in 1999 and managed its financial turnaround (including running the London Marathon in 2000 raising £50,000) and grew income by over 600% in 9 years. She was awarded Charity Principal of the year in 2003 for her leadership during this crisis. She has been a vocal advocate, internationally, for increased investment in Africa’s smallholder farmers and is a founding member of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Agriculture and Food for Development. Christie has served on various funding committees including for the Wellcome Trust and UK Government and is on the editorial board of ‘World Agriculture’. She was a founding board member of the charity Sense about Science and has served on the board of the Global Alliance for Livestock Vaccines and Medicines (GALVmed) and International Goat Association. Christie received a Honorary Doctorate from the University of Reading (her alma mater) in 2011 and was honoured in the Queen’s Birthday Honours in 2014 with the award of Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE). She was selected as an Ashoka Fellow in 2011 and made a World Economic Forum’s, Schwab Foundation Social Entrepreneur of the Year in 2015. Christie is an enthusiastic follower of cricket and was in the first group of women to become a member of the MCC, becoming a Life Member this year. She has just taken on her family home, an old rectory in Somerset, following her Mother’s (Gill Peacock, nee Pinckney, a St Mary’s old girl) death in 2018. She has various plans for the house and land, when she returns from Africa this year, including a community veg garden, social business incubator, arts venue and NGSstandard garden. Nominated by Joanna Martin: ‘I have nominated Christie because I knew she has devoted her life to helping farmers in Africa via Farm Africa. She was in our form at Calne and she has been pioneering in NGOs and the Third Sector.’

Louise Diggle (St Mary’s 1982-1984) Louise Diggle is a plein air painter based in London. She went to the City and Guilds of London Art School and CCAT. Her work is all about light and the way it hits and transforms buildings, people and places at different times of day and seasons. She works with pastel as she finds it can be worked rapidly and the fragility of the medium suits the transience of the moment. Louise is on the council of the Chelsea Art Society and a member of the Small Paintings Group. She exhibits with many galleries and regularly has work in the Pastel Society. In her own words, she has also ‘received the odd award in my time. Nothing outstanding but I totally enjoy what I do.’ Most recently she won the 2019 Royal Talens/Rembrandt Award. Louise was an art teacher for decades before turning professional and very much enjoys teaching and talking about painting: ‘If I can in some tiny way communicate that wonder I have of the world then I’ve done my job’. You can find out more about Louise and her work at or most up to date: Instagram louisediggle. Nominated by Catriona de Laitre: ‘First and foremost, Louise is a wonderful plein-air artist whose work is absolutely beautiful, and I thoroughly recommend her to those looking for beautiful paintings to enrich their lives. Her ability to capture light is astounding. Secondly, she is a fantastic teacher (from first-hand experience!) and has always time to answer questions and share her experience. She has done fantastic work for several charities over the years also and I’m not sure she would like me saying this, but she has continued doing all this while valiantly and uncomplainingly going through multiple treatments for illness. I can’t recommend her enough. And yes, she is a great friend of mine but even if she wasn’t, I would have nominated her.’

Sophie Newnham (St Mary’s 1989-1996) The last few years have been particularly challenging for Sophie whilst also serving as a profound turning point, leading her to where she is today. After many difficult years on dialysis, a failed kidney transplant and other complications, Sophie ended up being put into an induced coma to give her body a chance to rest and recover. Three months later, against all odds, she began to wake up and with the huge support of her family, friends, doctors, nurses and physiotherapists, she began the long road to recovery, re-learning how to talk, eat, and even walk again. Through all the challenges of the past 20 years, the one thing that has endured is her love of art. Even at times when things have felt hopeless, her work as a botanical and portrait artist, has helped her to forget the health challenges she was facing and given her a creative outlet for expressing herself, happily absorbed in a beautiful world of form and colour. Surviving has given Sophie a renewed strength, purpose and drive in her life and every day she feels very grateful to be here. 'I am so touched to have been nominated for the Alumnae of the Year award by Louisa. Louisa and my sister Charlotte remain good friends since their days at St. Mary’s and she has been a wonderful support along the way.’ Nominated by Louisa Elder: ‘Sophie is a fabulously talented (and modest) artist as well as a trained interior designer. Sophie has experienced some hugely challenging health problems and her tenacity and humour through such difficult times has been deeply inspirational. Sophie’s courage and strength in overcoming adversity compels me to want to nominate her for this award.’

Rachel Inglefield (St Mary’s 1984-1991) Rachel Inglefield (nee Hall) lives near Marlborough, Wiltshire with her husband Ed and two children. She left St Mary’s Calne in 1991 after seven wonderful years at the school. After attending Bristol University, Rachel went on to have a successful career in corporate public relations working for leading London communications agencies. Her son Jamie was born on 21 February 2012, and ten days later she suffered a stroke and secondary bleeding on the brain. It was the most terrifying and lonely experience of her life. Not only did she have to face the physical challenge of learning to walk again, regaining her balance and movement, but also the emotional questions surrounding her future and recovery – especially with such a young family. The experience made her realise how lucky she was – to have such a loving family and wonderful group of friends who helped her when she was discharged from hospital. Many stroke survivors leave hospital without such support and those people rely solely on the care of the charity – the Stroke Association. She has thrown herself into fundraising for this fabulous charity, alongside her family. They have raised well over £80,000 for the Stroke Association since 2012 and Rachel was awarded the Fundraiser of the Year Life After Stroke Award in 2013 ( Most recently she chaired a committee that put on a stunning carol service in Marlborough College Chapel in December 2019, with HRH the Duke of Kent as its Royal Patron. The 2019 service raised a staggering £53,500 which made it the Stroke Association’s biggest fundraiser outside London. Such was its success, she immediately started work on ‘A Celebration of Christmas 2020’ which was sadly cancelled due to the pandemic. She hopes one day to put on another service in the beautiful College chapel, to continue to raise much needed funds for charity. As an army child, with her family moving around the world, school was a huge part of Rachel’s life. St Marys was very much ‘home’ for the seven years she spent there, offering a challenging yet nurturing environment, with such strong friendships formed. She feels that being a ‘Calne girl’ set her up for all the challenges she subsequently faced. Nominated by Louise Diggle: ‘I hugely admire Rachel’s courage and stoicism in the face of adversity and for turning a negative into a positive. Nearly 10 years ago Rachel had a stroke, days after giving birth to her son Jamie. Through enormous inner strength and determination, she made a full recovery and raised (and continues to raise) huge amounts of money and awareness for the Stroke Association. Living near Marlborough, she is also local. She organised a carol service at the College in 2019 and raised over £53k. It would have been repeated last year had it not been for the pandemic: She is an extraordinary woman and wears her achievements lightly. Rachel is a participator, inspirer and a generous giver in life and I think that also deserves recognition. I have to mention though, she is married to my cousin Edward. Family loyalty and pride aside, I would still give her my vote.’

Christina Smith (St Mary’s 1946-1951) At 86 years of age, Christina Smith has sadly progressed to the late stages of Alzheimer’s Disease. The following abridged biography has therefore kindly been provided by her dear friend and fellow Calne girl, Elizabeth Whorlow: ‘Christina was born in 1934 and so was I. We met at St. Mary's in 1946 and she has been a constant in my life ever since. Those of us who are still around feel there has not been much recognition of her groundbreaking life and I would like to do something, however small, towards putting a new perspective on it. A powerhouse from her early times at St Mary's, Christina has to be recognised as someone who would make a difference. After leaving St Mary’s, she started work in London as a secretary, before going to Paris and becoming fluent in French and then on to Germany. Her big break came when she joined forces with Terence Conran; she was much more than a secretary and Habitat was launched. It’s hard to realise what a big impact Habitat had on many people’s lives; it offered completely new and refreshing designs for living, at remarkable prices. Christina started travelling the Far East to find exotic and practical things for the home market. She came to visit us in Hong Kong where we were living. By then She had set up a small shop in Neal Street, Covent Garden, called Goods and Chattels - an outlet for her new-found goods and chattels, but she was also buying for Habitat, amongst others. Probably the most remarkable achievement of her life was how she saved Covent Garden. By 1974, Covent Garden as a place in the West End was undergoing dramatic change. The flower market was moved to Nine Elms and the GLC was determined to abolish and rebuild the whole area. At this time Christina started buying up the old warehouses which were due to be replaced by modern town planning and she was refashioning and restoring them with the expertise of her architect friends, into a mix of private and public, residential and offices. Apart from all that far flung mix of newly rescued and refurbished building, there was her retail empire. First the Tea House, which is still there and then next there was The Flowersmith and Smith’s Restaurant which finally sold to Belgo’s but had a long heyday. Then there were the galleries where the famous came to exhibit. I just recall her saying she had found a couple of Hockneys in her impenetrable archives. They were probably sketches and she then sold most of her paintings, of which she had a lot, not so long ago. All the proceeds went to charity. At last came the call from the Palace and I went with her to Buckingham Palace. Personally, I felt she was under acknowledged, but true to form she was delighted to receive the award of Officer of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (OBE). The final chapter is, of course, not yet over. She has two devoted careers and is still much loved. Recently I talked to one of them who said she had been visited on Valentine’s Day by a young actor friend carrying a bunch of red roses. She is in no way forgotten.’

Nominated by Catherine Porteous: ‘In our generation, when only the most academic girls thought of university, Christina decided to pursue a business career. She travelled to China at a time when few people braved the Iron Curtain, to bring back all kinds of things almost unknown in the West. So successful was she that she opened a second shop, and when Covent Garden Market closed, she spearheaded the fight against the local authority's plans to bulldoze the whole market area. In order to frustrate these plans, she began to buy up the ends of leases in the surrounding streets, and when the campaign won the day, she found herself very well off. She then became a philanthropist for the arts, funding the Trafalgar Studios theatres and galleries in the Covent Garden area, patronising young artists and photographers and collecting their work. She would be outstanding at any time, but in our generation her enterprise, as far as I know, was unsurpassed.’

Susan Aglionby (St Mary’s 1957-1963) Susan was born 1945 in Oxford after leaving school she became an SRN St George’s Hospital London and then a Ward Sister at Atkinson Morley Hospital Neurological Hospital She married 1967 and had two children 1969 and 1971. Susan was widowed 2002. Susan worked as a Family Planning Nurse running clinics in London and Cumbria 1972 – 2007. She also worked with Corrymela Northern Ireland, the community peace and reconciliation organisation and was a fund raiser, working with a number of youth projects in challenging estates in London. She established Avenues Youth Club, which is still thriving 40 years later. Susan’s other interests and achievements include: • Lifelong involvement in Girl Guiding throughout UK and overseas (Siberia) training other Guiders and an examiner for Gold DofE and Queens Guide Award • Trustee for 9 years of Cumbria Community Foundation (and Chair of Main Grants panel during devastating floods of Carlisle 2005 and Cockermouth 2009) • Hon Fellow of Cumbria University 2014 • DL of Cumbria • OBE 2017 for services to young people and the community • Blamire Medal for contribution to Agriculture in Cumberland. Alongside all this Susan has been farming organic rare breed beef and sheep in Cumbria for 25 years and built up her farm from a 19-acre small holding to over 200 acres. Susan's passion is the production of sustainable and delicious meat from traditional breeds and promoting organic farming. She is also committed to sharing this passion with young people, adults and community groups. In 2009 Susan donated 35 acres of potential development land at Houghton, Carlisle to the Cumbria Wildlife Trust. In 2015 she transferred the farming business to Susan's Farm, a community interest company (CIC) to allow her work to develop and continue into the future. In 2019 the CIC converted to become a registered Company (Charitable Incorporated Organization). The farm is now a working care farm with a wide-ranging educational programme and its three charitable purposes (see illustrate her selfless dedication to others. She has staggering energy and is a compassionate family member. She is always looking after other people regardless of her own position, but never losing or compromising her very high standards. (Her long established concern for the environment is illustrated by her bicycling to Carlisle Station, popping her bike on the train to London, then heading off again on it once she gets to Euston!). Much of this ethos would have been kindled and instilled at Calne. With the sound foundation of her Calne education, her own qualities, commitment to wide ranging issues, vision and drive, touching and helping so many of the vulnerable from all walks of life, her contribution should certainly be acknowledged as an inspiration and role model for others.

Nominated by Hokey Bennet-Jones: ‘Susan has passionate and very practical commitments to wide ranging issues, and with vision and drive, touches and helps so many of the vulnerable from all walks of life. For example, her charity, Susan’s Farm, is now a working care organic farm with a wide-ranging programme, advancing education among disadvantaged adults and young people with learning difficulties, challenging behaviours, or mental/physical health problems. Her selfless dedication to others should be acknowledged as an inspiration and role model for us all.’

Rebecca Rothwell (St Mary’s 2003-2010) After leaving Calne, Rebecca attended UCL and gained a degree in Classics. She initially was opposed to a career in teaching, so as not to follow in the footsteps of her parents, but she decided to apply for Teach First. After graduating she spent some months in Malaysia, working in a boarding school, which crystallised her love of education. Rebecca left Malaysia to start Teach First and was placed in a girls' school in North London where she taught English to a diverse and disadvantaged community. In 2015 she set up the Classics department, by initially teaching Latin as an after-school club. This grew and now they offer Latin, Greek and Classical Civilisation at the school with the students achieving excellent results. Rebecca considers it a privilege to be able to provide a classical education to a community who might otherwise not have been able to experience it. She is currently Head of Sixth Form at the school and she will start in her new post of Assistant Head at a secondary school in the borough of Camden from April 2021. Nominated by Emily Cecil: ‘Becca has always been the best of friends, and out of all of us has been incredible at keeping in touch with everyone since we left Calne. She reaches so many of us, all in different friendship groups and always makes time for a chat/coffee/catch up, exactly like she did at school. After University Becca started teaching, and since starting at her school in Ealing is already Head of Sixth Form and introduced Latin into the curriculum. I’ve seen her interact with her students (having helped on a few interview prep evenings) and she is truly wonderful – caring, thought provoking, and challenging her pupils while being infectiously enthusiastic. She truly embodies what a Calne Old Girl is – connected, the best of friends to a huge amount of us, talented, giving, kind, and now is the most brilliant of teachers, both academically and pastorally, just as we had at Calne.’

Vicky Wilson (St Mary’s 1962-1968) After leaving Calne, Vicky studied for a year at the Cours de Civilisation Française de la Sorbonne in Paris. Upon returning to the UK she joined Air France as VIP Ground Staff in the hope of escorting Sacha Distel and other French celebs off the planes! Before too long, Vicky had moved on to the position of nursery Assistant at The Montessori based Young England Kindergarten in St George’s Square SW1. She was swiftly promoted to assist the Principle. When the owners hit a crisis, Vicky’s father bought the lease and goodwill of the business for her and she remained Owner and Principal of the Kindergarten until 1989. In 1974, she married Anthony Wilson and had her first two children (Charles and Camilla) which led to her taking on a Partner at the Kindergarten. She then had two more girls (Octavia and Francesca - who both went to St Mary’s Calne). The Kindergarten still exists today run by her original Partner, Kay King. During her time there she gained some unexpected life experience at a very young age. This included appearing in court for the custody case of Lord and Lady Lucan's children and employing Lady Diana Spencer! After Francesca was born, the Royal Nanny, Barbara Barnes, came to her family as a maternity nurse. This led to them joining forces to open the ‘Young England’ quintessential children’s clothing shop in 1990 in Elizabeth Street, London SW1. There were challenges with the business as they were ambitiously combining retailing with manufacturing under their own label. They were also operating in a time when the interest rate was at a record high and so in 1996 they took the decision to sell the business. Vicky then enjoyed several years with Carlisle - an American Luxury Capsule Clothing Company that was launching in the UK. Vicky has always been involved with several children’s charities including the NSPCC. She also became a Trustee and eventual Chairman of what is now called Dementia UK, where she instigated the first Dementia UK Carol Concert. During her years at the Young England Kindergarten Vicky served on the board of a large primary school in Fulham and between 2010 and 2015 was a Governor of Cherhill C of E Primary School. Vicky’s relationship with St Mary’s Calne has been extensive in latter years. From 2005 to the current day she has served as a Governor of St Mary’s Calne and St Margaret’s. In 2018 she also served part of the year as Interim Chairman of the Governors.

In the early 2000s she became a member of the OGA committee and in 2010, alongside its current Chair, Cate Bell, transitioned the OGA into the Calne Girls Association (CGA), more closely aligning its work with the school. In 2012 Vicky became a founding trustee of The Calne Foundation Trust which was formed using seed capital from the original OGA. The CFT enables serious capital projects, bursaries and other special objectives to be achieved and Vicky is actively involved in the extensive spectrum of fundraising activities and enterprises which the CFT undertake, including masterminding the wonderful David Wilcox Concert in Salisbury Cathedral in November 2017. Nominated by Rachel Benson: ‘Vicky is someone who has given back throughout her life, in a way that Calne girls have always been encouraged to do and is such a defining characteristic of so many of them. Her work with Dementia UK being one such example and similarly her commitment to education since she first started at Young England Kindergarten. Vicky has always given a huge amount of time and energy to the projects and entities in which she is involved. Vicky's support for St Mary’s over many years has been invaluable. Perhaps most significantly is her founding role in setting up the Calne Foundation Trust (CFT) which was established to build funds to support the school and its pupils. Central to the CFT is the Bursary Fund, which is to enable girls who could not otherwise afford to, to attend St Mary’s. Through her various roles at Calne, Vicky has supported the school often in times that needed to be approached with understanding, loyalty and thought. Vicky's knowledge of St Mary’s has been invaluable in many areas and she has always been available as a listening ear to the headmistresses and staff alike. Finally, Vicky is a good friend, who always makes time for people. This is a particularly precious trait in a world where time is at an increasing premium and everyone’s lives lived at such a fast and frantic pace.’

Juliet Davenport (St Mary’s 1979-1986) Juliet is founder and Chief Executive Officer of Good Energy – a renewable energy company with a mission to power a greener, cleaner future together with its customers. Juliet has been an innovator for over 20 years, working on ideas to fight climate change and transform the energy sector for the better. In 2013, she was awarded an OBE for services to renewables. She currently sits on the board of the Renewable Energy Association and Innovate UK. Juliet is Vice President of the Energy Institute and in July 2020 she was appointed as a new board member of The Crown Estate. Nominated by Alice Newall: Juliet is founder and CEO of Good Energy: the first UK female CEO. Juliet has been an innovator for 20 years, she is thinking outside the box, and is bringing young females along with her. Juliet is interacting with at least 4 Universities, and I absolutely trust that she is part of the solution for UK's proposed 'net zero by 2050' goal

Dr Flora Bird MBChB BSc MPhil FRCEM DipIMC (St Mary’s 1994-2001) Flora left St Mary’s School, Calne, in 2001 and graduated from Bristol University in 2008 having completed a medical degree and a BSc in Neuroscience. During this time, she spent an informative elective period working with AMREF (Flying doctors in East Africa) and helping provide medical care to a Masai community in Northern Tanzania. She spent the subsequent 10 years working as a junior doctor, based mainly in London, and completed her training in 2018. Flora is now a Consultant in Emergency Medicine at the Royal London Hospital. She works clinically in Emergency and Pre-hospital Medicine, and as a Research Fellow for London’s Air Ambulance pursing her interest in the hyperacute physiology of traumatic brain injury. She has experience in expedition medicine, pre-hospital care in the UK (London’s Air Ambulance and Essex & Herts Air Ambulance) and abroad (AMREF, East Africa), and has completed an MPhil in applied physiology investigating children’s responses to immersion and swimming in cold water. She currently holds roles as an Emeritus Flight Doctor for Essex and Herts Air Ambulance, Honorary Senior Clinical Lecturer for Queen Mary University London and is lead for the Trauma Sciences Module of the intercalated BSc in Pre-hospital Medicine, QMUL. She was fortunate enough to return to Kenya in 2018-19 to work again with AMREF and to provide medical education to a Samburu tribal community in Northern Kenya with the Milgis Trust. During the recent CoVid19 pandemic, Flora co-led the Critical Care Workforce Expansion Committee at the Royal London Hospital that saw a 44 bedded unit expand to in excess of 120 beds. When not working, Flora enjoys running (in mad moments she has completed ultras, including the Marathon des Sables whilst raising money for Trinity Hospice), swimming in cold water and learning to kite surf. Music, which was once a dedication and passion, is now a hobby that she enjoys, alongside good food and an adventure at any opportunity. She lives in London with her husband and 5-month-old daughter. Nominated by Alexandra Knatchbull, Araminta Lowes, Clemmie Broom and Tiffany Douglas-Home: ‘Very few doctors make the grade to fly with the London Air Ambulance and Flora not only does this, works her shifts in A&E but is also conducting cutting edge research into the treatment of head injuries at the point of injury. She is on the board of HEMS and continues to champion their fundraising efforts, raising over £1m last year for the charity. Her talents have always seemed limitless. Whether running the Marathon des Sable for the hospice that looked after her father or being air lifted into serious trauma situations, she is always smiling. No task is too small or big whether professional or personal. We are honoured to have her as a friend and Dr. Bird is a huge credit as an alumna of St. Mary’s Calne. She makes the rest of us look incredibly dull…’