Regional Executive Committee

View the Executive Committee for Birmingham & West Midlands for 2024-25

Stephen Hartland MBCS FRSA


Stephen Hartland MBCS FRSA

Stephen joined the Society when he was 20 and became active in the work of the Birmingham Group in 2002, following a successful campaign led by him against the widening of the Hagley Road in Edgbaston. He was elected a Vice Chairman of the Group in 2008 and its Chairman in 2009. He was elected as Chairman in 2022 to serve until 2025.

Stephen’s area of speciality is in Public Art and he is considered an expert in Birmingham’s Victorian monumental sculpture. He is also a member of the Public Statues & Sculpture Association (PSSA).

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To see Past Chairmen, please click here

Joe Holyoak RIBA

Vice Chairman

Joe Holyoak RIBA

Joe is an architect and urban designer and has his own practice. He promotes the importance of good design in everything he does, and regards the intelligent conservation and reuse of old buildings as a necessary part of the definition of good design, and also of the wider agenda of sustainability.

Joe has been an active member of the The Victorian Society since the 1970s, with his first big campaign against the demolition of Birmingham’s Central Library in 1973; we lost that, but it was a turning point. Victorian architecture became more respectable, and we became more successful.

Joe also chairs the Birmingham & West Midlands Group Casework Sub-Committee.

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James Fletcher ACA CTA

Honorary Treasurer

James Fletcher ACA CTA

James is from Evesham in Worcestershire, and is Head of Management Finance for Malvern College, one of the United Kingdom’s leading independent schools.

He qualified as a Chartered Accountant in 1995, and a Chartered Tax Adviser in 1997, and has a proven track record of good financial governance.

He is a Chartered Accountant and Chartered Tax Adviser. He was re-elected Honorary Treasurer in 2022 to serve until 2025.

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Akil Dowe

Honorary Secretary

Akil Dowe

Akil was appointed Honorary Secretary in August 2023. He is an Assistant Headteacher for a city centre school in Birmingham and who has spent most of his career working in inner city schools, with some of the most disadvantaged students in the city.

He believes that to understand the past is to open one’s mind and intellectual appetite to better discover the present and that beyond the subject matter and day-to-day teaching, the love of learning is a key ingredient of successful education.

Akil has spent most of his life living in Birmingham and as a second-generation son of immigrants from the Caribbean, he embraces both his roots from the Caribbean and Africa, as well as the feeling of place within Birmingham, and the rich history and contributions to the region.

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Programme Secretary

Nina Hatch B.Ed, M.Phil

Nina originally trained as an historian, subsequently working in history and environmental education in Nottinghamshire. However, soon after her arrival in Birmingham she was ‘head-hunted’ for the regional group’s executive committee.

Since 1989 she has coördinated the Group’s role in providing an educational and social programme of talks, walks and visits for members. During this time, Nina has developed a wide range of contacts within the region’s architectural, local and arts history societies.

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Committee Members:

Matthew Bannister

Matthew Bannister

Matthew is originally from London but has lived in Droitwich for the past five years. His background is in sales and marketing, which he hopes to bring to bear fuit for the West Midlands group.

Beyond this, he is an avid enthusiast of Victorian & Edwardian architecture, with a passion for its preservation and restoration through re-use for modern-day purposes. His deep interest in the intricate details and historical significance of Victorian & Edwardian buildings has led him to join the The Victorian Society, culminating in his election to the Regional Executive Committee at its 2024 AGM

Mark Bench

Mark Bench MRICS

Born in Manchester and whisked to Worcestershire. Mark, as a child, had strong connections with Birmingham (Edgbaston) via his maternal grandparents.

Upon graduating Mark worked as a Fine and Decorative Arts Surveyor launching his career in central London for two international auction houses. In 2007 he emigrated to New York for fourteen years working in art and finance. He is currently on the board (emeritus) of the The Victorian Society of America, Metropolitan Chapter. He sits on the preservation committee and is very interested in the built environment and preservation and re-purposing (where possible) of the existing. He also sits on the collections committee of the Delaware Art Museum (with one of the ‘finest collections of Pre-Raphaelites outside Britain’) and the Teme Valley Arts Society.

He has three close family members who are practising architects, two of whom are in conservation.

Andy Foster MA FSA

Andy Foster MA FSA

Andy is a building historian and former city councillor. He has been a member of Birmingham’s Conservation and Heritage Panel and its predecessors since 1993, representing the Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings (SPAB), and also represents the conservation societies on Lichfield (Church of England) Dicoesan Advisory Committee.

His special research interest is church architecture of the later Arts and Crafts period, Early Christian or Byzantine revival, in Birmingham and the surrounding area.

Andy wrote the Pevsner City Guide to Birmingham, published in 2005, in the Pevsner Architectural Guides series; and The Birmingham & Black Country guide in the same series, which was published in March 2022.

Jasna Jaksic MA RIBA

Jasna Jaksic MA RIBA

Jasna qualified as an architect at the Faculty of Architecture, University of Belgrade (1961-66).

In 1972 she took her Professional Practice Exam at the RIBA in London and practised as an architect at Birmingham City Architects Dept from 1970-2000, after which she took early retirement.

In 2003 Jasna completed a Conservation and Renewal Course at the Faculty of Architecture at UCE with an MA (Distinction). Her thesis was on the work of John Henry Chamberlain, as her interest and knowledge through her practice was in Birmingham 19th century Gothic Revival and its social and ideological background.

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Eva Ling

Eva Ling

Eva is a graduate in Chemistry with a lifelong interest in Architecture. She studied Architectural History at Birmingham University and with the Open University.

She has been a member of the committee of the Birmingham Group of the The Victorian Society since c. 1990 and has acted both as Honorary Treasurer and Honorary Secretary, as well as being active in Casework.

Eva’s special interests are the Arts and Crafts movement in Birmingham, Industrial Architecture and sympathetic re-use of buildings no longer needed for their original purpose.

Helene Pursey

Helene Pursey

Helene joined the The Victorian Society in the 1990’s and was soon involved in helping to plan our events programme.

An early member of the programme committee she has been responsible for updating members, by email, of local events. Helene is responsible for the sales of our book – Birmingham’s Victorian and Edwardian Architects, which was published by the Birmingham & West Midlands Group in 2009.

Although a Londoner, Helene has lived and worked in Birmingham for over 40 years, spending the last 20 years of her working life as Librarian and Tutor at Fircroft College.

Dr Jake Scott

Dr Jake Scott

Jake is originally from Northampton and has lived in Birmingham since he was 18, completing his PhD in 2022 at the University of Birmingham, researching populism and political theory.

Jake was appointed to the Regional Executive in October 2021 and served as Honorary Secretary February 2022 to August 2023.

Gill Sockett

Gill Sockett

Gill spent all of her working life in Birmingham. Before taking early retirement she was Head of Technology at a City comprehensive school.

She joined The Victorian Society in 1994 and has been a member of the Executive Committee of the Birmingham & West Midlands Group since 2006.

Gill also sits on the Programme Committee.