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Meet the trainers

Ginny Collins, BA (Hons), MSc. studied at University College London on Gower Street, then City University in Angel Islington, unwittingly shadowing Humanists UK’s former and current headquarters. A stronger link was forged in 2001 when a Humanists UK celebrant conducted her own humanist wedding. This experience, along with a degree in English literature and love of the written word led her to celebrant work. She has been taking weddings, namings and funerals since 2010, in and around Surrey. Prior to this she worked in publishing. Ginny holds a qualification in Teaching in the Lifelong Learning Sector and joined Humanists UK’s training and development team in 2014 as Head Trainer, before moving into the role of Ceremonies Training and Development Manager.

Lin Donnelly B.Ed (Hons) has over 20 years experience in the field of special educational needs, primarily focusing on emotional and behavioural difficulties, and latterly as a dyslexia assessor. She has trained teachers in the social and emotional aspects of learning (delighting in the title of SEAL Trainer), and has extensive mentoring and coaching experience. Working with young people and vulnerable adults as an Appropriate Adult and Custody Visitor, the one lesson she has gained from all this experience is that there are in fact seven senses, not five. Alongside touch, taste, smell, hearing and sight are the equally important sense of humour and sense of perspective. Accredited as a Humanist celebrant in 1998, and as a Pastoral carer since 2016, Lin is happy to be joining the training team.

Leigh Chambers trained as a journalist in London in the late 1980s before working as a freelancer on women’s magazines and national newspapers. She then worked in a PR and Communications role for the voluntary sector for almost twenty years, heading up National Adoption Week when she was at the British Agencies for Adoption and Fostering, and seeing the Muscular Dystrophy Campaign through a period of change. Following the birth of her daughter she went freelance again, copy writing annual reviews, reports and leaflets for charities as well as providing PR consultancy. It was then that she also trained as a celebrant in weddings and namings, working first in London and then in Cambridge from 2004. Over the years she has had the privilege of performing over 130 weddings in locations as varied as a field in France, a boat, a beach and a hot air balloon (as seen in Don’t Tell The Bride). When not performing ceremonies or bringing up two children, she devotes her time to her other great loves – writing and broadcasting. She completed an MA in Creative Writing in 2009 and is currently finishing her second novel. On the airwaves she is a stalwart of Cambridge 105 Radio, hosting a live mid-morning show twice a week, and a fortnightly book programme. She also regularly chairs literary events at Heffers Bookshop in Cambridge. Leigh is looking forward to meeting new trainees on the training courses and sharing her experience so that Humanists UK can increase its band of celebrants and provide a humanist ceremony to everyone who wants one.

Hannah Hart BA (Hons), MSc. has a background in the not-for-profit sector in marketing and project work. She lives in Gloucestershire and has been a celebrant since 2008, although she has only been conducting all three ceremony types since 2015 when she realised she was (just about) grown up enough for funeral training. For three years Hannah combined work as a celebrant with her role as the marketing consultant for Humanist Ceremonies ™. Her remit included developing marketing materials, managing online content (including social media) and media coverage. Her conviction that we should keep clients not just at the centre of what we do but also how we communicate about it has led her to join the training team. She’s particularly looking forward to working with trainees as they develop their own unique style, and will be on hand to advise on the most painless and effective ways of developing a celebrant ‘business’.

Blake Hutchings was first accredited for funerals in 2015 and quickly qualified for all three ceremony types. He now has over 100 ceremonies under his belt from just over two years, becoming a popular choice for funeral directors in Warwickshire and the surrounding areas. He has a long background in performance, having been a working musician for eighteen years, which is something that he still does occasionally to keep his skills in check. Blake’s academic background is in mathematics, with a degree in Mathematics and its Learning from the Open University. A lifelong Humanist, his passion for the importance of critical thinking led to him setting up a local Skeptics in the Pub group in Coventry, for which he was the compère and lead organiser. Blake has also worked as a driving instructor (so he has plenty of patience!) and done some teaching in schools.

Ian Willox, MA (Hons) started as a BBC studio manager, was a freelance journalist and producer for ten years, created and ran his own media production company for ten years, managed a tech start up to IPO through the hype of the late nineties, with regular bouts of corporate communications work along the way.  He created pan European training courses for SEAT (teaching their dealers how to sell cars), he constructed change management course content for HMRC, he produced the DFID/Open University £9m pilot, English in Action, training Bangladeshi teachers how to teach in English – which won the 2013 British Council ELTons award – and has trained and produced communications for a number of blue chip company CEOs and CFOs.  He also teaches 6th Formers basic media skills (which is a lot more fun than trying to teach a CEO).  He conducts Funerals, Wedding and Namings.  He is a regular mentor.  He lives in Oxfordshire.

Sophie Colligan’s background is in secondary school education, with most of those 20 years spent in small schools that specialised in supporting pupils with special educational needs. She trained as an Art & Design teacher but ended up teaching RE for 10 years (which is how she first heard about Humanism). She’s loving being on the Humanist Ceremonies training team because at last she’s getting to teach something alongside being a full-time practitioner of the subject itself – such a powerful combination in education! Sophie is passionate about clear communication, genuine inclusivity, neurodiversity awareness, the destigmatisation of mental health, the use of social media for community-building and activism… and, of course, co-creating meaningful and personal celebrations of life’s milestones! She’s been leading weddings and namings since 2017 and has just become accredited for funerals. She’s found that having a very clear celebrant ‘brand’ helped her get started quite quickly in an increasingly competitive market… and she’s very much looking forward to supporting trainees in their own personal celebrancy journeys.

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