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Our People

Our people are central to everything we do. 

We welcome diversity, respect individuality and value creativity.

Meet the Team

Our team

We are preparing to recover, rebuild, re-open our venues and re-imagine the future after having been closed for 18 months due to COVID-19. We are keen to play our part in city centre economic regeneration and in supporting community wellbeing. 



We have up to 16 Board members including four elected members from Aberdeen City Council and an employee Director.  Board members work together to set overall direction,  ensure good governance and they are ambassadors for Aberdeen Performing Arts

David Burnside

Was until recently a practising Solicitor in Aberdeen and a consultant for Burness Paull in their Employment and Pensions Division. David provides employment law advice from his own company, Burnside Legal Services (Aberdeen) Ltd., represents solicitors at their Discipline Tribunal and provide witness training for persons involved in court proceedings. He specialised in court work, both criminal and civil and Employment Tribunals and in 2013 was awarded an accolade at the cHeRries Awards Ceremony for his outstanding contribution to Employment Law. A founder member of the Employment Law Group and for 25 years accredited as a Specialist in Employment Law. David was a member of the post-incident steering committees for the Chinook, Piper Alpha, Brent Spar and Cormorant Disasters and acted as joint lead negotiator in the Piper Alpha Disaster, giving him considerable knowledge in dealing with complex issues and significant experience in dealing with the media. David is a Board member of the Legal Defence Union and past President of the Society of Advocates in Aberdeen and of the Aberdeen Bar Association. In 2001, he became Chairman of the Board of Governors of the Albyn School for Girls and was instrumental in preparing the school for a move to co-educational status.

Dr Duncan Cockburn

Duncan is the Executive Director for Strategy & Planning at Robert Gordon University.  In this role he is the executive lead for a number of departments, including Communications; Marketing; Student Recruitment & Admissions; Widening Access as well as Strategy, Planning & Policy.  He joined RGU in 2008 as the Principal’s Policy Advisor. He was appointed as the Director of Planning and Policy at the University in 2013.  Prior to this Duncan was Head of sparqs (Student Participation in Quality Scotland) and is a former President of the University of Aberdeen’s Student Association.

Outwith work, Duncan is active in the cultural sector, he was appointed to the Board of Creative Scotland in 2019.  At a regional level he is Chair of Culture Aberdeen, the city’s cultural network responsible for the implementation and monitoring of the region’s cultural strategy.  He is also a Board member of Sound and was formally Chair of the Look Again visual arts and design festival run annually across Aberdeen and led by the University.  Duncan is a Fellow of the Royal Society of the Arts.

Duncan is a double graduate of the University of Aberdeen, holding a MA honours degree  and a PhD both in History.  He is civilly partnered to Neil and together they live in Inverness with Flora their dog.  In his spare time, Duncan enjoys cooking, gardening and reading history books.

Azzrai Effendi

Azraai is currently Head of Financial Governance at the Offshore Petroleum Regulator for Environment and Decommissioning.

He has skills in data analytics and risk management. His qualifications have been achieved in the US, Malaysia and in the UK. He has a passion for the performing arts and has lived in Aberdeen now for over 10 years.

Andy Howie

The elected Employee Director on the Aberdeen Performing Arts Board. He is currently the Chief Technician at the Lemon Tree. He has over six years’ experience as a technician at Aberdeen Performing Arts venues, as well as many years’ of freelance experience. As Employee Director, he serves a two-year term on the Board.

Vallath Kavitha

Vallath has extensive experience spanning over 15 years in Corporate Communications, Public Affairs and Crisis Management. She lived and worked in Qatar, where she was raised, before moving to Aberdeen in 2013 to pursue an MBA in Oil and Gas Management at Robert Gordon University.

Vallath is currently a Senior Communications Officer at RGU where her key areas of focus are public affairs and internal communications. Vallath is an accredited member of the Chartered Institute of Public Relations and an Executive Committee member of the CIPR Public Affairs Group. She is also on the Executive Committee of the Women in Public Affairs Scotland group. Vallath volunteers for a Citizens Advice Bureau as a board member

Nikki Morris-Laing

Nikki is currently Head of Digital Marketing & Growth B2C UK for ResDiary. With a background in media, tourism and marketing, Nikki formerly held senior roles at SHMU, VisitAberdeenshire and Hampton. Nikki has many years experience in project/people management and working collaboratively with other arts organisations and funding bodies. In her own time, Nikki is a local food blogger and is an Aberdeen Restaurant Week Brand Ambassador.

Watson Mutch

Watson is a qualified Chartered Accountant with many years accounting and management experience. He has worked in Professional Practise and also in both Public and Private Sectors. Although most of his career has been spent working here in Aberdeen, his career has also taken him to Dundee , London and New Zealand.

He recently retired from his position as Partnership Accountant at  long established Aberdeen Solicitors, James and George Collie.

Prior to this Watson was employed by Aberdeen Journals and it’s parent company DC Thomson. At Aberdeen Journals , Watson was Finance Director and Company Secretary. He subsequently moved on to a Senior finance role at DC Thomson and was based at their Dundee headquarters.

He continues to be a Trustee Director of the DC Thomson pension scheme.

Craig Pike – Chair

Aberdeen Performing Arts Chairman. Lawyer specialising in Private Client work with Ledingham Chalmers LLP, with previous experience as Area Personnel Manager for Boots The Chemists. A Director and performer with local theatre groups, producing shows at His Majesty’s Theatre and ACT Aberdeen, as well as a performer and member of comedy group ‘The Flying Pigs’ having produced work for stage, radio and TV. Formerly Vice Chair of Castlegate Arts Limited, which operates ACT Aberdeen. Holds an LL.B. (With Options in Management Studies), a Diploma in Personnel Management and Diploma in Legal Practice.  (updated 12 July 2021)

Harry Yorston

Harry is a management consultant with over 30 years’ experience in the Oil and Gas Industry and has held senior management and Board positions with several international oil companies. He has expertise in HR, HSE, Performance Management and Change Management. Harry chairs the Aberdeen Performing Arts People Committee and chaired the Music Hall Redevelopment Strategic Board. Harry brings commercial acumen to Aberdeen Performing Arts, a passion for the arts and a belief in the positive impact the arts can have on young people. Harry was previously Deputy Chairman of Eden Court Highlands. He has an MBA from Heriot Watt University and a BA Hons from RGU in Business Studies.

Councillor Yvonne Allan

Councillor Allan is Convener of Aberdeen City Council’s Appeals Sub Committee and Staff Governance Committee. She is on the Planning Development Management Committee, the Licensing Committee and the Pension Board. She is Chair of the Aberdeen Gomel Trust , Bulawayo Trust and Fairer Aberdeen Fund. Her special interests are community, regeneration, youth and equalities. She is a keen golfer, gardener, enjoys walking and travelling and football.

Councillor Christian Allard

Councillor Marie Boulton

Convener of the Capital Programme Committee, Planning Development Management Committee, Pre-Application Forum and Licensing Board. Vice Convener of Strategic Development Planning Authority.  Currently sits on the City Growth & Resources Committee, Aberdeen City Region Deal Joint Committee, Local Licensing Forum, Urgent Business Committee, and Full Council.  Lead for Culture, the City Centre Master Plan and the Beach Master Plan. Chairperson for the Local Review Body of Aberdeen City Council. External appointments include Aberdeen Performing Arts, Alcohol & Drugs Partnership, Aberdeen Outdoor Access Forum, Visit Aberdeenshire Board, Marguerite McBey Trust, Castlegate Arts and Friends of Aberdeen Art Gallery.

Councillor Avril MacKenzie

Avril was brought up in Morayshire and came to Aberdeen to study hospitality management at R.G.I.T but after a few years moved on to accounting. She was elected into Aberdeen City Council in May 2017 and sits on a number of committees – Planning Development Management Committee,  Pre-Application Forum, Audit, Risk and Scrutiny, Capital Programme, Operational Delivery, Strategic Commissioning,  she is also a named substitute for the Integration Joint Board. Apart from Aberdeen Performing Arts, Avril is also on 6 outside bodies – Aberdeen Airport Consultative Committee, Aberdeen City Heritage Trust, Association for Public Excellence, Grampian Valuation Joint Board, NESTRANS and North East Agricultural Advisory.

Leadership Team

Ben Torrie

Director of Programming and Creative Projects

Faye Barron

Director of People and Place

Jane Spiers

Chief Executive

Leah Hodder

Director of Marketing and Communications

Matt Godfrey

Head of Finance and Sustainabilty

Ross Sims

Head of Technical and Operations

Susan Whyte

Head of Creative Engagement