Our Team

Welcome to the team behind Clayhill Arts! Find out why they do what they do and what you'll see of them when you come to visit

Deborah Parkes

Co-founder and Director

I have worked across the arts and hospitality sectors all of my life and am passionate about creating spaces and opportunities where people come together and learn from one another. 

From running a neighbourhood bistro in Nottingham, to working for voluntary run arts spaces, artist studios and independent artists, I know what it means to commit yourself to the often precarious lifestyle of being an artist! I also understand how important it is to spend time being looked after once in a while which is why setting up Clayhill Arts felt like the right thing to do. I co-founded Clayhill with my husband Michael, to support those working in the creative sector and promote a sense of value for what it is they do.

Outside of Clayhill, I like experimenting in the kitchen, watching BBC FOUR (and Salvage Hunters!) reading, music and spending time in my chicken shed! The chicken shed is is an old coop that has been converted into a studio and is where I play with bits of paper and collected items from my travels and flea markets. I’ve loved the work of Robert Rauschenberg and Jospeh Cornell for as long as I can remember, they both influence the work I make and the way I look at the world.

You can find me over on instagram here and whilst you’re visiting Clayhill you will find me in the kitchen, greeting you as you arrive and making sure you are comfortable throughout your stay with us - I look forward to meeting you!

DM Profile_web Fiona Walsh Photography

Michael Parkes

Co-founder and Director

Before Clayhill I worked within the education sector and have over 15 years’ experience across FE, HE as well as major cultural institutions. My background is in Film and Media and I’m a long-time supporter of arts education and believe that creativity should be at the heart of all learning. 

I co founded Clayhill Arts with my wife Deborah to improve training prospects and support for people in the creative industries. I decided to take on the project management of building and restoring Clayhill, getting hands on - building and labouring on-site wherever possible, despite no previous experience. I even painted and decorated the entire site – which took 8 whole months! I continue to enjoy building projects both big and small and am currently putting the final touches to a cinema on site here at Clayhill called the Cinebarn. 

In my spare time, I enjoy lots of TV, reading, music and the occasional pub quiz. I collect and restore old toys from the 80s, have a pet cat called Pixie (there is another one called Piper who gets in the way a lot) I also love a submarine! Not to be confused with Louis Theroux or TV comedian Mark Watson, though that often happens, so I’m sure it will when we meet!

You can find me on instagram here and when you’re visiting Clayhill you’ll likely find me with a drill in hand ready to fix something! I quite like it in the background, but I do pop out to say hello now and again!

Katherine O'Shea

Head of Programme and Operations

I joined Clayhill Arts during the pandemic - so an interesting time to be starting a new job!

Before Clayhill, my background was in PA work and project management, where I was supporting directors and generally helping teams to stay organised. I'm also an arts graduate and have worked on several creative projects over the years while working as an illustrator including setting up my own homeware business and publishing two children's books in 2012 and 2014.  

Like many creative types, my career has been a journey full of unexpected turns. I never thought I could get excited by spreadsheets, for instance, but really I do! I'm passionate about helping people discover their creative potential, so delivering a programme of learning for Clayhill Arts is the ideal job for me. I believe that learning is a lifelong process, particularly for artists, and that everyone has the ability to succeed when it comes to creativity. Finding tutors who share this enthusiasm is what I aim for. It's lovely to see their eyes light up when they talk about their work - that's the best part of my job!

In my spare time, I love to paint and draw - when I'm not in the garden that is! I also have an ever-growing collection of beautiful magazines which I had to build my own special bookcase for! My favourite artists include Arthur Rackham, Maurice Sendak and N. C. Wyeth - not to mention several of our own tutors!

You can find me on instagram here and when you’re visiting Clayhill, you’ll find me supporting our tutors through the delivery of their courses and making sure all of the learning objectives are being met!


Chris Drew

Gardener and Groundskeeper

I joined Clayhill in September 2017, shortly after the renovations were complete. There’s been a lot going on since then and I’ve been getting to grips with what it means to manage 8 acres of land in an arable farming landscape! This was a complete change of career for me and it's been quite a learning curve. I have thoroughly enjoyed it and continue to improve my skills here every single day.

Before Clayhill I was working in Finance studying towards my accountancy qualification. I have always loved being outside so the opportunity to work at Clayhill was impossible to refuse.

I am passionate about music and have been playing the drums since I was young. In my spare time I like to listen to music, watch ice hockey and go for walks, especially in the autumn and winter.

You can find me on instagram here and when you’re visiting Clayhill you might not see me, or you’ll hear me from afar on our ride on mower! I tend to keep my jobs on the quiet side whilst you’re visiting so you can enjoy the tranquil grounds and make the most of the wildlife.

Jayde Elliott

Marketing and Customer Experience Coordinator

I joined Clayhill as an intern in September 2020. The internship was discussed during the pandemic and I was so excited to start and to get the ball rolling after the lockdown restrictions had eased! You can read about my first few months here.

I am now working at Clayhill Arts full time as the Marketing and Customer Experience Coordinator. I am passionate about being creative; incorporating the arts and mental health; how artistry can be a way to express yourself and your feelings. Finding ways to create, in whatever medium, can definitely be a form of therapy!

In my spare time, creativity doesn’t stop! I enjoy creating videos for my YouTube channel. I love photography and listening to music. I write a lifestyle blog and poetry - I am currently working on releasing my first poetry book as well as starting up a Facebook group/Instagram with my best friend called “Somerset Writers”, to encourage local writers to get inspired and meet new people during lockdown! I love to draw and paint and I used to handcraft jewellery.

You can find me on Instagram here and when you’re visiting Clayhill you might not see me, but I will be up in the office creating and scheduling content for Clayhill Art's social media!

Clayhill Arts Team Member