Line-up announced for North East business festival

26 September 2022

A stellar line-up of speakers has been announced for Sunderland Business Festival, which returns from October 12 – 14.

Those who will be taking part in the events include Heather Mills; Johnny Moore and Leo Pearlman from Fulwell73, the production company behind Friends: The Reunion, Dame Irene Hays from national travel agent Hays Travel, Alice Rowen Hall who founded Pink Boutique and now runs Rowen Homes and Kristjaan Speakman and Steve Davison from Sunderland AFC, alongside leaders from key Sunderland organisations.

The Sunderland City Council-backed Festival, which ran for the first-time last year, aims to inspire businesses from across the region. The event comprises a range of sessions – most of which are completely free to attend – including a Jobs Fair and Tech Talent event, expert presentations, panel discussions, ‘on the sofa’ discussions with industry leaders and a meet the buyer event. 

The first day of the festival will include a Jobs Fair and a Tech Talent event, happening alongside each other so attendees can visit both. In the afternoon there will be a talk from bosses at Fulwell73 – who are behind shows such as The Late Late Show With James Corden, Carpool Karaoke and Sunderland Til I Die. This will be followed by a panel discussion where Johnny will joined by Alison Gwynn, chief executive of North East Screen; Graeme Thompson MBE from the University of Sunderland; Peter McIntyre, executive director of city development at Sunderland City Council and Helen Munson, the BBC’s commissioning editor for daytime and early peak. Later in the day, there will also be an ‘on the sofa’ discussion with Dame Irene Hays, who is chair and owner of Hays Travel – the UK’s largest independent travel agent.

Day two will include a talk from Heather Mills who will be discussing her life and career in business in an event that is sure to be a must see. Sunderland AFC sporting director Kristjaan Speakman and chief operating officer Steve Davison will be appearing at an event giving attendees an insight into what it takes to run a football club and how solid foundations are the key to success both on and off the pitch.

The festival will culminate on the final day with a behind the scenes tour of Nissan, where Alan Johnson UK Vice President (Manufacturing) will be on hand to give business an insight into how the factory operates. And later that morning there will be a panel discussion with female business leaders at the Auditorium, speakers will include Alice Rowen Hall from Rowen Homes, Kim Cattin from West Barn Co, Cassie Moyse from Bradley Hall, and host Natasha McDonough from MMC.

Throughout the three days there will be drop-in sessions run by organisations such as the BIPC and the Education Development Trust.

The festival is being organised by Sunderland Business Partnership, a collective of organisations – large and small – all with an interest in the city’s development, creating opportunities for members to collaborate and grow, which in turn helps Sunderland to be a more dynamic destination for business.

Sunderland Business Festival is sponsored by Sunderland City Council, Sunderland AFC and Portfolio North.

For more information or to book tickets for specific events visit