Jess Steele – Director (Jericho Road Solutions)

Jess is the Project Champion for the Observer Building development and a Director of White Rock Neighbourhood Ventures.

She has 25 years’ experience as a local community activist and entrepreneur in Deptford and Hastings and at national level in executive leadership roles at the British Urban Regeneration Association and Locality, including leading the development and delivery of the Meanwhile Project, the Campaign Against Delinquent Ownership, and the national Community Organisers programme An active social entrepreneur, she has established community enterprises in publishing, heritage, tourism, childcare, financial management, neighbourhood development, workspace and, more recently, homes that are genuinely affordable in perpetuity. 

Building on her experience of saving Hastings Pier, Jess specialises in supporting ambitious local projects to rescue the most challenging of precious buildings across England and Wales. She was awarded an OBE in the 2016 New Years Honours for services to community assets in the UK.

Jess’s company Jericho Road is a founder investor, alongside Meanwhile Space, in the 9-storey creative community at Rock House and now the Observer Building and Jess has nurtured and coordinated the Heart of Hastings Community Land Trust which is supporting bottom up development and bringing property into community ownership. She is currently working on a PhD in ‘Self-Renovating Neighbourhoods as an alternative to gentrification or decline’, due for submission in 2021.

Eddie Bridgeman – Director (Meanwhile Space)

In 2009 Eddie co-founded Meanwhile Space CIC with the ambition of creating a social enterprise that makes the most of otherwise underused space. The organisation now delivers projects with private and public landlords and actively seeks spaces for meanwhile use. 

Eddie is a regeneration practitioner experienced in blending commercial and community concerns to achieve positive change in places. He has been involved in regeneration since 2005, previously as Projects Director at the British Urban Regeneration Association (BURA), an organisation facilitating the exchange of knowledge, ideas and contacts across the private, public and third sectors. 

At Meanwhile Space, he has responsibility for the strategic financial direction of the company, as well as company compliance, and new business. He leads on the joint venture acquisition and management, sitting on the board of White Rock Neighbourhood Ventures, Living Rents and High Street Works.

Eddie’s experience is predominantly of places that have socio-economic and perception challenges, typically urban communities and seaside towns. He is interested in how the property industry can make create an innovative response to realise change. Eddie is a member of the Academy of Urbanism and the Social Investment Panel. Prior to his career in regeneration he worked in Europe and Asia Pacific creating, marketing and producing business to business products and services.

James Leathers– Director (Heart of Hastings )

Awaiting biography


Emily Berwyn – Project Champion (Meanwhile Space)

Emily is the founder and Director of the pioneering social enterprise and advisory organisation Meanwhile Space. As the market leader 
in Meanwhile uses since 2009, Meanwhile Space designs innovative MeanwhileTM solutions to create better places to live and work, by taking on challenging redundant spaces, and working with local communities to bring them into affordable temporary use.

Emily is an experienced project designer and manager for programmes that utilise vacant space to support community initiatives, social and creative entrepreneurialism, and facilitate periods of positive change. Leading a team of eleven including all organisational and company administrative duties across the group of Meanwhile companies, Emily directs project managers to deliver promised outcomes across 25 multi-faceted spaces throughout London.

Emily is a trustee of the Meanwhile Foundation, supporting with strategic direction of the charity and its role to lobby on behalf of, and support other operators in the Meanwhile industry. Emily is currently providing a strategic decision-making role on the project board of the ambitious Observer Building project in Hastings, raising finance for an experimental new build project in Rotherhithe and is a visiting lecturer at School of Architecture, University of Sheffield, teaching on the MA Urban Design course.

Her achievements include a feature in the RBS Women in Social Enterprise 100, as a BPF Future Leaders winner for Innovation. She has an MA with Merit in Urban Design from the University of Westminster and is a fellow of the RSA.

David Spooner – Construction Project Manager

David has 50 years experience in the construction industry. Initially trained as a quantity surveyor he moved into management roles with contracting companies. He reached the level of divisional director with Willmott Dixon with responsibility for a significant portion of their activity.

After 27 years he then moved into project management acting for clients on a wide variety of projects ranging from small refurbishments to the £180 million 40 storey City Point in Moorgate.

His final project was the restoration of Hastings Pier where he was the Client construction project manager, responsible for the delivery of the project. Having then retired he now has involvement in local construction projects where his skills and experience are of benefit.

John Brunton – Joint Project Manager (White Rock Neighbourhood Ventures)

John is responsible for the joint project management of the Observer Building development alongside Beth.

John began his time in Rock House as a workspace tenant in early 2015 and quickly became fascinated by how the building and the organisation that owned it was run. He was on the panel for the Selection Workshops for the residential flats in Rock House and grew passionate about the local communities housing difficulties. He was elected as Tenant Representative Director in July 2017, setting up the Service Charge committee, the mechanism through which tenants have control over how their service charge is spent and becoming intimately involved throughout the phased organic development of the building as the conduit of communication between the WRNV team and tenants. 

In February 2018 he joined the WRNV team as the Landlord’s Agent, placing him in charge of managing the building facilities, compliance, finances, contractors and suppliers, project managing all aspects of the renovation happening in the building and overseeing existing tenancies/leases. He is a non-voting director on the WRNV board and manages the WRNV staff team. John is passionate about the possibilities of affordable housing that the Observer Building can offer local people in need after seeing the benefits that Rock House offers its residential tenants. 

Beth Woolf – Joint Project Manager and Coordinator (Jericho Road Solutions)

Beth is jointly responsible for the Project Management of the Observer Building development with John, and also supports Jericho Road with its many other projects and client work. 

She has 4 years of experience as a Project Manager and Executive Assistant. After achieving 1st class honours from the University of Birmingham, Beth co-ordinated projects in public health strategy, schools transformation and international development in South America. She has provided high quality, executive-level support to leaders of Save the Children UK, the States of Jersey and a large London academy. She also has expertise in events, internal communications, teaching, mentoring and coaching from previous roles. 

Sarah Jackman – Project Support Officer (White Rock Neighbourhood Ventures)

Sarah provides administrative, communications and events support to the Observer Building Development team. 

Her background is with not-for-profit and charitable organisations.  She gained over 10 years project experience with a community-based arts organisation in Wales where she established a creative business programme for young people, mentoring in arts administration and event management.

Sarah is a published writer of fiction and non-fiction. She has edited a number of fine-art publications and provided editorial services for independent publishers.