Meet the Team

Clara Shield

Founder & CEO

I’m Clara Shield and I am one of the co-founders of the Young Women’s Film Academy and until December 2019 the Chair of the Board of Trustees. I have been facilitating and leading work with girls and young women since 2000 predominantly in the voluntary sector using creative drama and film to explore issues of oppression and challenging gender discrimination. I am delighted that since its inception in 2010 the Young Women’s Film Academy, it has grown from strength to strength becoming a charity in its’own right in 2018 and continues to provide all girls and young women, regardless of circumstances, the opportunity to engage in telling their story through film.

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Hannah McParlin

Programme Lead: Talent and Skills Development

Hi, I’m Hannah I’m a new member of the team and will be running the Loneliness: Never far from Home project. I’ve been film making and facilitating for over 10 years. In particular teaching young people filmmaking skills in a variety of settings, including Tyneside Cinema’s academies and at RGS. I love teaching and working in settings where film can be used to help develop people and provide a voice. I passionately believe filmmaking is and should be fun, creative and positive (and sometimes hard!). I’m a jack of all trades but specialise in the technical side of film, I’m a certified trainer in DaVinci Resolve editing software. I make films for clients and work freelance in industry in a variety of roles including on productions for independent features, Channel 4, BBC and Netflix.

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Beth Connolly

Programme Lead: Community Engagement and Wellbeing

My name is Beth Connolly and I’m delighted to be part of the Young Womens Film Academy team as the Freelance Creative Producer responsible for Youth Outreach and Engagement. I work as a freelance Filmmaker and Videographer for companies in and around Yorkshire and Lancashire having recently graduated from the BA Hons in Filmmaking at Leeds Arts University. I’m active in the industry and have been gaining experience since 2017. I’ve worked for production companies in and out of the UK since I turned 18 in 2016, including a year studying screen acting at the Bow St Academy for Screen Acting in Dublin in 2018. I specialise in Documentary and unscripted content, and I strongly believe that when it comes to filmmaking, this is a platform that should be used by underrepresented communities that are in need of a space to stand and be heard. Social activism through filmmaking is an area I’m very motivated by, so working with the young people at the YWFA to create content that they can use to be their own advocates, promoting their voices and educating their communities is a job I’m SO excited to dig into. I thoroughly enjoyed running the ‘Who We Are’ Workshop over half term for the YWFA, and I’m looking forward to getting into the next project!

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Rhiannon Banks

Cross Programme Producer: Wellbeing and Additional Needs

Hi Im Rhiannon, I have been working freelance with the Young Women’s Film Academy since the end of 2022 and I am delighted to be coming on board as an Assistant Creative Producer. I'm a local lass and I understand what it's like to grow up in the North East. When I was younger, there was nothing like the YWFA and very few opportunities in the north for women in creative fields, so I am so happy and excited to be a part of this awesome organisation.

I come from a photography background. Mainly specialising in music, documentary and portraiture photography. You can usually find me photographing a band at a local venue. I work freelance these days but I have helped run photography studios and been a photographers assistant which has led me to working on music, commercial and short films as a camera assistant, Lighting tech, DIIT and runner.

I am looking forward to meeting you all and having the opportunity to support young women in the north east to be themselves, tell their stories and build a support network so we can make the creative industries better one woman at a time!

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Fiona Scott

Associate Safeguarding Advisor

I’m Fiona Scott and I have been fortunate in my 19 year career to work with both voluntary and statutory organisations with young people and their families from diverse backgrounds.
As a qualified BACP Accredited Counsellor, I feel passionate about reducing the barriers and stigma that can still surround mental health and ensuring that young people have safe spaces that are freely accessible and have their voices heard. I strongly believe and have seen first-hand, how engagement in the creative arts and media are natural vehicles for young people not only to develop their skills in film, but also promoting self-confidence and interactions with peers; all of which are crucial in bolstering mental health and their holistic development.

Salha Kaitesi

Associate Website Developer

I'm Salha and I'm the Founder, Artistic Director & Executive-Editor of Teakisi. I am a social entrepreneur, gender equality, empowerment champion and a self-taught blogger with multiple skills that I’ve acquired over the past 10 years. Fuelled by my passion for empowering and promoting African girls and women, their voices, equality and diversity, I consider myself a ‘forever student,’ eager to both build on my academic foundations in Sociology and Politics, while staying in tune with the latest digital and in person strategies that will amplify the voices of African women and my community. I look forward to working and supporting YWFA.

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Angela Kennedy


Hi my name is Angela and I joined the Young Women's Film Academy as Trustee at the end of 2023 when the work of the Covid Healthcare Support Appeal came to an end. I was a visual artist who did use projections as part of the artwork but work professionally Clinical Psychologist specialising in the impact of trauma and adversity on the health and wellbeing of individuals and communities. In recent years, I was able to bring those two spheres more closely together, making many NHS films and bringing the arts into a public health arena. I finished a documentary in 2023 on staff who survived suicide attempts, a topic very close to my heart. Supporting the Young Women's Film Academy to work well with young women to find purpose and a voice through collective learning and visual storytelling is a privilege. The importance of the arts in bearing witness to rarely told lives, spreading fun and hope, and connecting us to other people brings us to the best of what we can be. Exciting and rewarding times ahead!

Jo Cundall

I am delighted to join the board of trustees of Young Womens Film Academy. I have been in the North East for 20 years and now consider myself to be an honorary Geordie, whilst my two kids are resolutely so! My career has been defined by a belief in the transformative power of the arts. But first and foremost I am a feminist.
My background is in arts programming and producing, mainly in theatre, but also with some cross art form work at festivals and events. I spent 12 years at Northern Stage in a variety of roles and then moved to Gala Theatre, Durham where I reestablished them as a producing house. 4 years ago I moved to work in funding and now work as Senior Advisor for Culture at Community Foundation Tyne & Wear and Northumberland. I manage funds seek to use creativity to address the needs of communities across the wider NE and advocate for culture as a tool to empower and enable. That is where my knowledge is most thorough, but I would probably say that the cause closest to my heart is about challenging and redressing the inequalities still faced by women and girls. From 2013 to 2021 I was on the board for Open Clasp Theatre Company, a women led organisation that works with marginalised women and girls to put their voices on stage. It was a transformative time for me, and I am proud to have been their Chair from 2016 as they continued to 'change the world one play at a time'.

I have been looking for a new trustee role for a while now and when I saw that YWFA were advertising it felt like the perfect fit for me. I know them as an organisation through one of the funds I manage and have been consistently impressed, and intrigued, by the work they make. Of course it is about so much more than that and I can see the transformative power it has that goes beyond 'just' the filmmaking.

Jenna Allsopp

I'm Jenna Allsopp and I am a newly-appointed member of the board of Trustees. My experience of film is very much from the perspective of audience and writer, having recently completed my PhD at the University of Brighton exploring the amateur filmmaking of people with learning disabilities who also identify as LGBTQ+. The key theme I was interested in exploring in this research was how people with marginal identities have predominantly been the object of visual representations but how there was power in becoming the subject; the power of self-representation and of coming to voice. As someone who grew up in the west end of Newcastle, I understand the importance of arts education and access to skills and opportunities, so I am thrilled to be working with an organisation which shares my principles and passions for inclusive arts practices. I currently work as Senior Administrator of the Design History Society and the journal Critical Social Policy and I have previously lectured on histories of art, design and visual culture at the University of Brighton, Bath Spa University and Northumbria University.

Maria Caruana Galizia

My name is Maria and I am an award winning producer living and working in Gateshead. My company Candle & Bell was named one of the top 50 emerging creative companies in England by Creative England, and in 2023 received investment from The BBC Small Indie Fund.
Currently, I have a feature film in development with the BFI, and another that has received development support from Torino Script Lab and production finance from the Arab Fund for Arts and Culture. I am also the series producer for the Sky Arts programme ShortFlix2.
Through Candle & Bell I have produced numerous short films; “Mordechai” with Benjamin Bee made the BAFTA long list for best short film in 2018; “ A Six and Two Threes” with Andy Berriman made the BIFA long list for best short film in 2016; Maria has won two Royal Television Society Awards for “They Live in Forests They Are Extremely Shy” directed by Saeed Taji Farouky, and “She Lives Alone” directed by Lucy Rose.
I’ve produced numerous commercials for brands, businesses and organisations. I am an alumni of the Venice Biennale Cinema College, EIFF Talent Lab and a 2021 BAFTA mentee.
I grew up in a small rural village on a mediterranean island, where there was no access to filmmaking or film education. It is because of my experiences as a young woman trying to find my way in the film industry that I am so passionate about helping a new generation of filmmakers. I’m looking forward to working with the YWFA to help them continue to do their important and vital work.

Lin Gatiss

Always an admirer of the YWFA and its ethos, I was thrilled to be asked to join the team and contribute to such a relevant grass roots and inclusive charity. Having witnessed first-hand the YWFA enhance and enrich the lives of individual girls and young women - instilling resilience, gaining new skills and recognising their own worth – I’m proud the academy gives a much needed voice to young females in the north east, as well as a rare opportunity to work alongside female industry professionals. My experience lies within the media, business and education sectors (25 years+) and as an International Development Officer, I now promote educational opportunities worldwide.

Sarah Ralph-Lane

I was introduced to the YWFA in September 2017 after working with the academy on a film-in-a-day workshop for girls from two schools in Newcastle and South Shields. I moved to the North East in 2015 for my day job and felt like I had spiritually 'come home'! I am a Senior Lecturer in Media and Cultural Studies at Northumbria University, and my research, teaching and public engagement focus is gender, culture and the media. I am co-founder of Girl-Kind North East (with Dr Sarah Winkler-Reid from Newcastle University) – a project which takes a non-problem centred approach to working with girls and young women in the region. From 2012 - 2015 I conducted research on the British Television Comedy Industry, interviewing writers, directors, producers and other personnel and have published findings from this on intersecting issues of gender, age and ethnicity within the industry. Sarah is currently on maternity.

Cecilia Stenbom

Cecilia Stenbom is an artist filmmaker. Originally from Sweden, Stenbom was based in Iceland, Finland and Scotland before moving the North East of England. Her work has been screened and exhibited nationally and internationally. Her work span from narrative fiction and hybrid documentary, to experimental, artists’ film and moving image art. Stenbom completed a practice-based PhD at Newcastle University in 2019 and is currently assistant professor at Northumbria University, teaching film practice and creative development. Selected projects include: Rules of Engagement a national tour of screenings and talks including Regent Street Cinema (London), CCA (Glasgow), and Tyneside Cinema (Newcastle). Somewhere Becoming Sea curated by Film & Video Umbrella for Hull Capital of Culture; iShorts commission for Creative England and BFI NETWORK; North By North East, commission for Berwick Film and Media Arts Festival; and screenings including Rotterdam International Film Festival, Tampere Film Festival, and London Short Film Festival.
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