Meet the Board

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Meet the Board

Nigel Barton

Nigel Barton (Chair)

(Independent appointment)

Chair of Coast & County Housing

I am currently also Chair of Coast & Country Housing – a charity based in Redcar. Before retiring, I was Managing Director at System Training Ltd, a company devoted to apprenticeship training, but also spent 3 years as Executive Director of Operations at Coventry and Warwickshire Mental Health Trust overseeing the organisations’ restructure and move to Foundation Trust status.

Prior to the NHS, my career spanned 27 years with TNT Express, culminating in a global role, integrating acquisitions in Brazil, China, India and Spain.

With a BSc and MSc from Cranfield University, I am also a Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Logistics (FCILT), Fellow of the Institute of Couriers FIOC and a Green Belt Lean practitioner. I live in Blackhall, County Durham.

Meryl Levington

Meryl Levington (Vice Chair)

(Independent appointment)

Head of Student Futures, Department of Academic Enterprise,Teesside University

I was born and grew up in County Durham and settled back here after university and time away in London. My two passions in life are entrepreneurship and athletics. I run a company that supports people to grow or start up a business, delivering a range of interventions from workshops to coaching and mentoring, which I set up 16 years ago on the back of an MA in Entrepreneurship from Durham Business School. In that time have supported over 10,000 people to consider business start-up, trained over 5,000 teachers and youth workers to encourage enterprise in schools, and young people’s programmes and trained over 100 Business Advisor's, as well as helping all sorts of businesses achieve growth goals and ambitions.

I am a long distance runner, who came to the sport at University. I competed up to international level for England but these days injury, age and time constraints mean I compete only a few times a year and can no longer pound out the huge number of miles I used to. I also enjoy hill walking, cycling, and skiing – although I’m really not good at the latter.  I’m passionate about encouraging young people to get into sport early so it becomes a natural part of their lives and daily routines, and activities that allow families to do sport together

I live in Durham and am married to a mountain biking football playing Software Architect and we have an eight year old daughter whose currently into ballet and running.

Dave Shipman 2

Dave Shipman 

(Independent appointment)


Originally from West Yorkshire I have lived and worked in Co Durham for the last 30 years, I currently reside in Chester le Street.

Before retiring I worked as a Strategic Commissioning Manager with Durham County Council Adult Services, responsible for Mental Health, Learning Disability, Autism and Prison social care services, having previously worked for 20 years in Children's Services in a range of roles as a social worker and manager.

My interest in sport has always been there, due to my father, who shared his love for sports and the outdoors and his philosophy regarding all sports, aspiring to excellence through competition and teamwork, but always encouraging and supporting everyone at whatever level or standard. So, I am a life-long Leeds Utd supporter and love both rugby league and rugby union, played and now watch both codes. I have also been a keen cyclist since student days and have been lucky enough to cycle in many countries around the world, having organised many trips away with friends. I took up running seriously when I moved to Durham and have been a very active member of Elvet Striders for all of its 30 years, so have experienced the trials and tribulations of volunteering in sport from a number of perspectives, including as captain, chairperson and social secretary.

My aspiration for CDS is for sustained success, as evidenced by the increased involvement of people from all backgrounds in an increasing number of sports and physical activities. 


Debra Forth 2

Debra Forth

(Independent appointment)

Owner of Relax Kids Durham and Go Forth Fitness and Wellbeing

My name is Debra Forth and I own ‘Relax Kids Durham’ which I set up in September 2014 but only recently left my role as HLTA and Primary PE Specialist to pursue it full time.  This is at the forefront of current Government and education focus and is a very successful and established programme which supports children’s emotional well-being, builds confidence and helps raise their self-esteem. I also own Go Forth Fitness and Wellbeing and I'm currently delivering Soccercise and Boxercise session to schools and local community   I have a passion for sport both on a personal level and also passing this on to children to empower them to achieve throughout all aspects of their life.

I currently manage an U10 mixed Football Team and have been instrumental in establishing girls football within the local community.  Durham Federation Girls U10s is recently formed and has been a great tool in establishing links between school and the community.

I feel that with my background and experience in sport and mindfulness that I have a lot to bring to my role as a Trustee for County Durham Sport. I look forward to working with you all, expanding my knowledge and experience and sharing what I have already gained.


Patrick Bonnett

Patrick Bonnett

(Independent appointment)

Deputy Director, National Innovation Centre for Ageing, Newcastle University

Previous experience over 30 years in broad area of science and innovation, public policy development and implementation, skills and learning, technology commercialisation and cultural/institutional strategy and development in private, public and university sectors.

Keen fell runner, orienteer and mountain marathon competitor, previously Chair of Durham Fell Runners and currently member of Fell Runners Association Access & Environment Committee. School Governor since 1999.

My aspirations for CDS are to see it flourish as an organisation which promotes the benefits of sport at all levels and for all abilities and interests and that it realises the opportunities that new structures and organisational frameworks offer it, that it provides a rewarding and stimulating environment for CDS staff and is seen as an exemplar organisation within the County and nationally for the work it does and the outcomes it achieves.


Wendy Emberson

Wendy Emberson

(Independent appointment)

Coach & Committee Member Greencroft Netball Club

I am a married mother of two children living in Greencroft in Derwentside.

I work as a Finance Manager in a Charitable Organisation which provides volunteer drivers and domiciliary care to vulnerable people in the community, based in Ferryhill.  Prior to working in the charitable organisation I worked in a Kitchen Company and prior to that in a Building Society.

I have both played and coached sports at a club level and have been an active influence in growing Greencroft Netball Club into a well respected and sucessful organisation and I remain on the committee. I have a wide interest in sport.