Meet the Mentors

Leading lights in local art, music and food

Our mentors Julia Bickerstaff, Shaun Keaveny and Tony Singh are passionate about cultivating home-grown Northern talent. Heavyweights in their fields, read on to learn about their inpsiring careers...


Julia Bickerstaff

Name: Julia Bickerstaff

Hometown: Garforth, Leeds

You know her for… her amazing neon light and glass creations, including collaborations with Burberry, Adidas and Fender guitars. She also created a sculpture for the Tour de France.

In Julia’s own words…
The North is great because… it’s cultural and welcoming.

The future of art is in safe hands because… creatives can make a career out of art now – it’s no longer just about being famous when you die. There is a real future in art and its progress is so rapid, that it may not be quite what you expect.

A successful artist is someone who… is happy with what they do in their work and how it unfolds. It’s not necessarily about making loads of money, but about saying what you want to say.

I’m part of the Where Next Project because… art is challenging and difficult to get into. I’m really excited to meet new creatives, who the Where Next Project can push forward.

Nurturing talent is important because… without it, we’d lose the next generation.

I’m looking for… artists with conviction, who know what they want to explore.

My one piece of advice is… be patient with yourself and your craft. With time, concentration and motivation, you can do it.

You might not know… that your microwave can be more interesting than you might think. At least, that’s what I’m going to show in my next project…


Shaun Keavney

Name: Shaun Keaveny

Hometown: Leigh, Lancashire

You know him for… being the guy making you chortle into your coffee on the BBC Radio 6 Breakfast Show.

In Shaun’s own words…
The North is great because… it’s wonderfully unpretentious. The people have a great drive and work ethic – we’re made of the right stuff.

The future of music and broadcasting is in safe hands because… there’s brilliant broadcasting in the North and a real passion for music.

I believe in… working hard, from the bottom up. It’s important to change the toner in the printer and bring your boss a cup of tea. Then, when you get an opportunity, you’re in a good position to grab it.

I’m part of the Where Next Project because… even with hard work, it can be increasingly difficult to get help in the industry. I had brilliant mentors and in the words of one of them, it’s important to ‘pay that forward’.

I’m looking for… people who bring a little sunshine and want to learn. Whether you’re in broadcasting or music, I’ll work to bring out the best in you.

My one piece of advice is… that the boring stuff works. To succeed in music, you need to apply yourself and have the right attitude. Always be friendly and enthusiastic.

On a weekend you’ll find me… listening to Santana on vinyl with joss sticks on the go (we’re not sure if he’s joking).

You might not know… my dad sends me his best jokes whilst I’m on the air. Thanks dad…


Tony Singh

Name: Tony Singh

Hometown: Leith, but he now lives in Edinburgh

You know him for… Being a heavyweight on the Scottish foodie scene – running restaurants, cookery classes and pop-ups. He’s also been making our mouths water on Great British Menu and A Cook Abroad.

In Tony’s own words…
The North is great because… it’s full of amazing local produce, magical people and beautiful landscapes.

The food and drink industry is in safe hands because… the things we’ve always had in the North and Scotland – great producers and natural resources – are now getting noticed on a world stage.

I’m part of the Where Next Project because… I want to help cultivate the next generation of food producers, growers and chefs.

My lightbulb moment was… going to college and being mentored by great lecturers. Their passion and lust to pass on their talent got me where I am today.

I’m looking for… passion, enthusiasm and an open mind in people who apply to the Where Next Project. Everything else can be taught, but love for what you do is what gets you out of bed in a morning.

My one piece of advice is… try everything, even if it’s not to your liking. You’ve got to be willing to learn.

The one thing I wish people knew about being a chef is… that it’s not like what you see on TV. It’s long, hard hours in a sweaty box, without windows, with 12 sweaty other people. You need to be resilient to survive.

You might not know… I used to work on the railways – as a chef on the Flying Scotsman, that is!

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