North East Connected

‘Four-midable’ line-up of patrons unveiled by leading autism charity

A LEADING charity has unveiled a quartet of patrons with a wealth of experience in the North-East.

The North East Autism Society (NEAS) already had world-famous artist Mackenzie Thorpe as its patron, and he has now been joined by award-winning television presenter Pam Royle, business leader Bob Cuffe, and journalist Peter Barron.

Pam stepped down from her role as the main presenter for ITV News Tyne Tees and Border last year after a career spanning nearly four decades.

She said: “NEAS has been empowering and supporting autistic people and their families for more than 40 years and I am delighted to be one of the new patrons for this wonderful charity.

“I am enjoying being part of the team, helping to raise awareness and acceptance of autism, and highlighting the life-changing work carried out NEAS through its schools, centres for adults, and community services.”

Pam, who is also a Deputy Lieutenant of County Durham, is now running her own freelance business.

Bob has spent more than 30 years working in the regional media, most recently as Regional Managing Director at the Gazette, Chronicle, Journal and Sunday Sun. He now works in a non-executive capacity with a number of organisations, notably as Vice Chair of Darlington Building Society. He was awarded the MBE for services to business and economic development in Teesside in 2019.

Bob first became aware of NEAS in the 1990s when his son, Liam, was diagnosed as autistic at a time when support for autistic children and their families was almost non-existent. Liam is now 29 and has been in residential care with the charity since 2016.

Bob said: “Liam is living his best life. He’s happy, safe and a very settled part of the NEAS family – as well as our own. The care during the Covid-19 pandemic was exceptional and I no longer worry about Liam and his future.

“I am genuinely delighted – and humbled – to be asked to be a patron of NEAS. If I can help the charity in any way, it will be a privilege and, if he could speak, Liam would certainly echo my support.”

Peter has nearly 40 years’ experience as a journalist in the North-East. His first editorship was at the Hartlepool Mail and he went on to become the longest-serving editor in the history of The Northern Echo. Now running his own media business, he was awarded the MBE for services to journalism and North-East life in 2014.

Peter said: “Having supported NEAS with its public relations over the past six years, I have come to appreciate what an outstanding, passionate, and caring organisation it is. It is, therefore, an honour to become part of such a great team of patrons.”

Middlesbrough-born Mackenzie was named as patron of NEAS in 2019 and described himself as “the proudest man in the world” when a new school for autistic children on Teesside was named in his honour earlier this month.

NEAS chief executive John Phillipson said: “It is an absolute joy to have four such fantastic ambassadors for the North-East as our patrons. They have all achieved so much in their lives and it is hugely exciting to be able to tap into the wealth of experience, ability and unrivalled connections they bring to our charity as we expand our services across the region.”

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