A trio of North East business leaders are celebrating after receiving honours in the Queen’s birthday honours list.
Ian Watson, founder of Hadrian Healthcare Group, Jam Jar independent cinema founder Dan Ellis, and Nicki Clark, CEO of business support organisations UMi are among the roll call of names has been released to mark the Platinum Jubilee.
Mr Watson , founder of Hadrian Healthcare Group and the Watson Family Charitable Trust, said he was delighted to receive an OBE for services to philanthropy and to charity.
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He said: “My philosophy has always been that with good fortune and privilege comes responsibility. We have been very fortunate so we have a responsibility to give back. And who wouldn’t want to visit someone and say ‘here’s £20,000 to change your life’?”
Mr Watson’s Gateshead-based company set a new benchmark in care home deals three years ago when five homes across County Durham and Yorkshire were sold for more than £100m to a fund managed by insurance giant Aviva.
Alongside the operation of the luxury care home company and a property acquisition and development company, Mr Watson has spent more than 20 years exploring philanthropic endeavours, starting with involvement on the Marie Curie Development Board and through the charity World Vision.
His charitable work stepped up when he launched his own charity, the Watson Family Charitable Trust, which has spent more than £600,000 on a huge range of causes across the North East and beyond.
Projects the family have backed range from lighting up St George’s Church in Jesmond, supporting the Success4All organisation and helping to complete a holiday respite centre for children in Northumberland, through to completely rebuilding a school for disabled children in Uganda.
He said: “It’s wonderful to be recognised – and I’ll certainly look to celebrate with my family.
“I launched the family charitable trust about six years ago, making my wife and children trustees, and put £1m of my own money into it. It’s been great fun too, and great to get the children involved. And over the last five to six years we have done some really interesting things, the kind of things that you can really get involved in on a personal level.”
Dan Ellis set up the Jam Jar Cinema in Whitley Bay 10 years ago, converting a former office building into an independent picture house that offered an antidote to the big cinema chains and operates as a social enterprise.
He said his mam was “buzzing” about the news he had received an MBE for services to cinema.
He said: “I’m absolutely incredibly proud and equally humbled to get this honour. It means the world, and you know what, it’s going to mean the world to everyone down in Whitley Bay as well. There’s going to be a really big celebration.
“I did quite a lot through the pandemic to keep audiences engaged and it’s been a tough time for cinema. We’re just celebrating the fact that we’ve been open for a full year after the second lockdown. We’ve just had our second best ever weekend with Top Gun and it’s looking really, really strong.
“The company has been there for 10 years now and I think it’s quite rare for an independent to do that. 10 years ago Whitley Bay was a sad town and I had this idea to open a cinema as one little thing to improve the town and it turned out to be a bit of a flag bearer.
“A decade on and we’ve got loads of cool bars, eateries and mint shops. I really love my home town.”
Nicki Clark , who runs UMi (formerly the BE Group) and is chair of governors at a school in Sedgefield, has received an OBE for services to business and social enterprise in North East England.
She said: “It was a genuine shock to learn I had been nominated and I am over the moon to have been awarded an OBE. It is a huge honour to be recognised in this way and it is something I am immensely grateful for.
“My late dad also received an OBE, so it makes it even more special as he and my mum have had such an influence on why I do what I do.
“I am so proud of the work we do at UMi, and the awesome business we as a team have created.I consider it a privilege to stand alongside the team at UMi making the difference that we do, and also the dedicated and incredible people in my other roles and interests.”