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Nick Ponsillo

Photo credit: Paula Wilson

Nick is Director of Philip Barker Centre for Creative Learning at The University of Chester, which aims to stimulate, support and explore creativity and the arts across the life course. Previously Nick was Head of Manchester Camerata in the Community (2010-2016), where he developed a leading arts in health programme, established internationally recognised music and dementia projects and collaborated with the British Council on Arts and Ageing. Nick is a member of Age Friendly Cheshire West, Culture Forum North and MyHub steering groups, an NHS NW R&D Faculty Associate, Chair of MyHub Music Trust, a Member of Webster Primary School and an RSPH Fellow.


Richard Betts

Richard is the Centre Administrator for the Philip Barker Centre for Creative Learning. He has worked at the University since 2009 primarily within the Faculty of Education and Children’s Service and also works at University Centre Shrewsbury.

Prior to this Richard has a background in event management, marketing, design and print.


Kate Catling

Photo credit: Emma Finch Photography

Kate is temporary Project Manager at The Philip Barker Centre for Creative Learning. She is assisting the team on a variety of the Centre's projects across the University and in the community.

Kate currently works as a freelance Project Manager; leading on the coordination, delivery and fundraising for a portfolio of programmes and projects in the Arts-Health and Culture sector. Prior to going freelance, Kate spent several years leading artistic programmes and projects in arts venues, after studying English Literature at The University of Hull and completing a Masters degree in Arts and Cultural Management at The University of Sussex.


Julia Boot


Julia completed a degree in Physiology at the University of Leeds and a PhD in Neuroscience at the University of Manchester before training to work as a clinical psychologist at the University of Liverpool. Since then, she has worked in mental and physical health services with older people and those with cancer and neurological conditions, initially in Chester with Cheshire and Wirral Partnership NHS Foundation Trust and currently in Liverpool, with Mersey Care NHS Trust. Her roles have included clinical work, research, teaching and training.

Research interests include understanding the positive growth that occurs following the development of health conditions, such as multiple sclerosis and cancer. She is motivated to develop health services and more recently, in collaboration with the Philip Barker Centre for Creative Learning has been trying out models of introducing arts-based approaches into post-diagnostic support groups for people with dementia and their relatives.

We are currently collating articles on using arts-based approaches in clinical psychology practice for a “Creative Ageing” Special Edition Bulletin for the Faculty of the Psychology of Older People (FPOP), for the British Psychological Practice. Julia has been a member on the national FPOP committee for a number of years, contributing to the continual professional development and national initiatives for clinical psychologists working with older people. Modern art, yoga, mindfulness and travel are personal interests, which are integrating more into working life as time goes on. She likes to learn from other cultures and ways of working to see how we can use different approaches to the benefit of ourselves and others.