Our Board

Damian McParland

Damian McParlandChairman

Damian has been a Corporate/Commercial Partner in Northern Ireland law firm Millar McCall Wylie LLP for over 15 years and one of the leading media and entertainment lawyers in Northern Ireland for over 20 years.

Damian has had a long-term working relationship with Northern Ireland Screen and many other film and television, media and entertainment entities in advising on the development, funding, production and financing of film and television projects and has worked on the best known productions to have been filmed in Northern Ireland.  He has advised lenders and borrowers on some of the largest funding transactions in Northern Ireland in recent years in addition to advising on commercial contracts, restructuring and reorganisations and mergers and acquisitions.  He regularly advises charities and not for profits on corporate structures, governance, liabilities and constitutional documents.

Damian has also been a lecturer and tutor in Company Law and Corporate Governance at the Institute of Professional Legal Studies, Queens University Belfast, for over 15 years.

Damian is ranked by Chambers Europe as a leading European Lawyer; by Chambers Legal Directory as the leading lawyer in Northern Ireland in Media & Entertainment Law; by Chambers and Legal 500 legal directories as a leading lawyer in Corporate/Mergers & Acquisitions in Northern Ireland.

Millar McCall Wylie and Damian have been active members of Arts & Business NI for many years and have been involved through sponsorship of events, mentoring organisations, supporting the Young Professionals programme and sitting on funding and awards judging panels.

Deborah Collins

Deborah Collins

Deborah is Head of Business Events at Visit Belfast. She has over 16 years global sales and marketing experience working within fast paced Tourism and IT sectors. In her current role, she leads an award-winning team who are responsible for attracting strategic business events to Belfast and Northern Ireland.

Deborah is passionate about tourism as a force for good, and its importance to the local economy, creating and supporting jobs and prosperity, as well as legacy and impact, enabling Belfast to become a more vibrant and sustainable place to visit, meet and live in.

Deborah holds an MA Honours in Modern European Languages from the University of Edinburgh, and is a keen supporter of the Arts.

Stuart Deignan

Stuart Deignan

Stuart is originally from Northern Ireland and splits his time between London and Hillsborough. He is a senior business and operations leader with almost 20 years’ experience in management consulting, account management and digital/technology/business services, including 10 years at executive/partner level in global roles working at board level. He has held senior leadership positions across several industry sectors (including Energy, Engineering & Construction, Public Sector and Utilities). 

Stuart has significant experience of defining and executing strategy, driving change within large organisations to improve business performance.  Key to the successful outcomes has been to create enthused and entrepreneurial teams that work alongside clients to solve critical business problems through flawless delivery and innovation. In addition to a strong focus on developing himself and his direct reports, Stuart is passionate about coaching and mentoring others. He is proactive in developing both high performing and underperforming staff, and in establishing policies and processes around recruitment, retention and development and in bringing gender and cultural diversity to high performing teams.

Stuart also has a great passion for the arts, be that opera, ballet, jazz, theatre or the many exhibitions he is fortunate to enjoy.  Whilst a lot of this is in major centres such as London or New York, he is particularly passionate about enabling and encouraging the arts and business in Northern Ireland. 

 

 

Sophie Hayles

Sophie Hayles

Sophie is Chief Executive, Crescent Arts Centre, Belfast. She brings local, national and international perspectives in cultural leadership. Previously she led the fundraising team for a European Capital of Culture, worked for the British Council in a number of roles and locations, including in Northern Ireland, and was Strategic Development Manager at Whitechapel Gallery, London. As an Associate with Counterculture Partners LLP Sophie has delivered business plans, fundraising strategies, and governance training for creative and cultural organisations across the UK. Sophie has been involved with Arts & Business NI since 2015; as a mentor on the Frontiers:LEAD programme; as an arts member with Creative Exchange and nominated for Allianz Board Member of the Year 2017. She is on the Advisory Committee for Barnardo’s Northern Ireland.

Laura Murphy

Laura Murphy

Laura qualified as a Chartered Accountant in 2013 and since then has worked for a number of high profile organisations in both Dublin and Belfast, including ESB, Irish Distillers and Dale Farm. She has gained particular experience in providing financial analysis for strategic decision making and enjoys partnering with commercial and operational colleagues to help drive business performance. Laura is currently Head of Financial Costing at AFBI, where she looks forward to broadening her knowledge of the agri-food sector. She joined us through the Arts & Business NI Young Leaders on Arts Boards programme. 

Claire Coleman

Claire Coleman

Claire Claire is a Senior Project Manager at Codec Ireland and is an alumni of the Arts & Business NI Young Leaders on Arts Boards Programme. She is a marketing graduate with a wide range of transferrable skills, particularly in the digital and project management field, with a keen interest in upcoming digital technologies and the opportunities they present to organisations. In her previous roles, Claire has worked for an Advertising Agency with a range of clients on a global and local scale to deliver strategic and comprehensive marketing campaigns and at Tourism Northern Ireland she developed a passion for developing technology to innovate the delivery of services to the tourism industry and visitors of Northern Ireland. 

David Roberts

David Roberts

David is Director of Strategic Development at Tourism NI where he is responsible for a broad portfolio including Industry and Investment Programmes, experience development and events, and accommodation certification and quality assurance. Having worked in economic development throughout his career, he possesses an in-depth knowledge of business planning, funding and organisational development issues and challenges. David is a strong and enthusiastic leader who actively seeks out opportunities to enhance the impact and effectiveness of policies and programmes. He joined us through the Arts & Business NI Board Bank programme.

 

Professor Gillian Armstrong

Professor Gillian Armstrong

Gillian Armstrong is a Professor of Business Education and is Ulster University Business School’s first Director of Business Engagement. She has been with Ulster University and Higher Education for over 25 years and has been actively involved in the development and management of academic excellence within the Business School. Gillian joined Ulster University in 1997 and was awarded a Senior Lectureship in 2007 and a Chair in Business Education in 2013. Prior to her current role, she was Head of the Department of Accounting, Finance and Economics from 2010 – 2018 at Ulster.

Deeply committed to supporting the growth and development of the regional economy, Gillian has sought to ensure that the Business School works closely with priority sectors to actively support the supply of skills and the attractiveness of Northern Ireland as a location to do business. She has been actively involved in the development of work based learning and innovative educational models to support employers in securing talent and in upskilling and retaining graduates in a range of sectors. She has worked in partnership with Deloitte NI to develop the first-Degree Apprenticeship programme within the region and is currently leading a Business School initiative to support Future of Work requirements and related educational models.

Gillian is an active member of the Chartered Association of Business Schools (CABS) and is a Council member of the NI Chamber of Commerce (NICC). She is also a Visiting Professor at Hebei Geo University (HUI) in China, as a result of increasing international partnership activity, whilst her teaching and research interests are in the use of big data consumer analytics and have been supported by a range of research funders (DAERA, Invest NI).

Joe Dougan

Joe Dougan

Joe Dougan has been working in the concert and events industry for 16 years. As a promoter, he has been booking and promoting Belsonic in Belfast since its inception in 2008. It is now Northern Ireland’s largest concert event, selling in excess of 200,000 tickets annually. His other professional interests include venues in Belfast and Dublin, outdoor events and artist management of Northern Irish media figures and comedians. He is also a board member of Arts Council of Northern Ireland, LIVE the UK’s live music business representatives and the Belfast City Council Music Region Board, steering music related cultural policy within the city.

Lisa Doherty

Lisa Doherty

Lisa Doherty, a seasoned professional, originally from Wicklow town, brings her extensive expertise in HR and Communications to the Arts & Business NI Board. Her career, which spans over 25 years and encompasses a range of local and international roles, has earned her recognition as a Fellow of the CIPD, MII, and PRII. Lisa's professional journey is distinguished by her strategic approach to aligning HR practices with business objectives, underscored by a strong commitment to legal risk management, good governance and excellence in communication. Outside her professional realm, Lisa's commitment extends to supporting carers of young people with additional needs, particularly in areas of autism and ADHD. This personal engagement in inclusivity mirrors her professional dedication to fostering diversity and holistic well-being.  At the core of Lisa's values are her passion for the arts, a legacy stemming from her family's involvement in film and theatre. This passion informs her belief in the transformative power of art to drive innovation. In her role on the Arts & Business NI Board, she seeks to combine her strategic HR and Communications expertise with a deep advocacy for the arts, aiming to create innovative intersections between creative expression and business excellence. 

Our Funders & Partners

Arts & Business NI is generously supported by The Arts Council of Northern Ireland.