The Team

The AHS is run by student volunteers, and consists of two groupings: the Executive, who are elected during the AGM, and in who in turn appoint Officers. Below are the current holders of each position – we also have the previous position-holders.

Executive

President

Richard Acton

Richard Acton

Richard has just graduated from Nottingham University with an MSci in Biochemistry and Genetics and is undertaking a second master’s degree at Birkbeck University of London next year, because – you know – you might need a spare.

He intends to specialise in ageing research, because clearly there is a great deal that needs fixing and he won’t have time to do it if he’s dead. Religion was essentially irrelevant to Richard's upbringing. He attended a total of 7 different schools in 3 different countries: one of which was a vaguely CofE primary school, at which he was more likely to be made to sing Beatles songs than hymns.

Richard read The God Delusion in his early teens and decided something had to be done about this religion stuff. He was president of UNASH for 2 years. Richard professes himself a jack of all trades (except dance) and master of none, as of yet. He enjoys wildlife photography, cooking, listening to audiobooks and wearing 3 piece suits all the time. He is purported to be setting in motion many schemes for the betterment of The AHS.

Secretary

Caitlin Greenwood

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Caitlin is about to start her PhD in archaeology at the University of Bristol, having previously graduated from the University of Bristol and the University of Oxford, in Archaeology and Ancient History; and Roman History, respectively. As you can tell from the previous sentence, she has also studied just enough Latin to want to stack clauses in English, but not enough to know better. She is very happy to listen to any and all questions you might have about the Romans in Britain, and will politely explain to you why these are the wrong questions. She hopes to make a career out of this ability.

Caitlin attended Catholic school ages 11-18, and like most Catholic school attendees, she was a firm atheist by the age of 14. She joined the Atheist Agnostic and Secular Society at Bristol Students Union, and was vice president in her final year of undergrad.

Caitlin’s hobbies include: sewing, knitting, cooking, folk singing, metal music, church architecture, and Viking re-enactment.

Treasurer

Luke Dabin

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Luke studied Biochemistry at the University of Birmingham, Japanese in Japan and is currently a PhD student of Neuroscience at UCL. All of these seemed like good ideas at the time. He was raised Catholic but didn’t care for it much. If you want to put a label on his belief position, the best would probably be “agnostic atheist”. Luke enjoys interfaith because he finds the thought distortions required to reconcile scripture with reality fascinating, and also enjoys talking to new and unusual people.

Luke has been involved with the AHS for some time. Initially a member of Birmingham ASH, he interned with Dogma Debate radio whilst living in Japan. On repatriation he adopted the role of AHS communications officer from 2015-2016. This year Luke is events coordinator at UCL AHS as well as being in charge of AHS finances as part of the National Federation’s executive. As 2 Chainz attests, “If you know him then you know he thinkin’ Franklin: money; thousands”.

Just some of Luke’s many interests include bears, prion/prion-like diseases, his massive cat, comedy, carousing and inanity. He has written a book about geese and the Sassanid Empire, and can accurately be described as "high on life".

Officers

Campaigns Officer

This position is currently vacant.

Communications

This position is currently vacant.

Head of Membership

Adam Carnall

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As well as his responsibilities with the AHS, Adam is the current president of Durham Atheist, Secularist and Humanist Society. As a fourth year Astrophysics student, Adam has been an atheist for several years, having been forced to confront the big questions of the Universe every day whilst studying for his degree! He believes secular politics and a sceptical, freethinking worldview are absolutely vital to our progress as a species and that with them we can achieve amazing things which transcend the problems we face today as a society.

He hopes to study for a PhD on completion of his degree, and so will hopefully be involved in the AHS for a few years to come. In his rapidly diminishing spare time, Adam enjoys distance running, rowing and reading science fiction, as well as occasionally dabbling in folk dancing when pressed by his somewhat obsessed housemates.

Education

Helena Siggins

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Helena has been involved with the University of Liverpool Humanist Society since approximately thirty seconds after she heard it was a thing back in 2012. She has returned to being committee member for the society there, after living abroad for a year as part of her work towards a BA in Hispanic Studies.  She considers herself an atheist, humanist and secularist. Helena is from Dorset but frequently tries and fails to make out she’s from Bristol.

Web Officer

Sam Whitehall

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Since starting university in Southampton, Sam has started saying he comes from "near Manchester", as only fans of Joy Division or football have heard of Macclesfield – and he only hangs out with the former. His earliest memory of questioning religion was challenging a reverend's literal interpretation of The Feeding of the 5000 in primary school, by calculating the per capita volume of bread.

He was President of the University of Southampton Atheist Society from 2013-2014, whilst studying Computer Science. He has since graduated, and is working in Oxford. When not working, can be found reading (too much), drinking tea (too often) and running (not enough). As well as speaking "computer", Sam can also speak German, because it seemed like a good idea at the time.

Social Media and Marketing

Cloe Ansari

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Cloe is the founder and ex-president of London South Bank University's Atheist society. After a shaky start, the society went on to win two awards at the 2014 AHS conference. She has a deep and profound love of both Christopher Hitchens and whisky – on a good day, mixing them. Cloe also has started to blog for Atheist Republic and believes it's essential to spread secular speech.

Recently gaining her English degree, she hopes to put more time into writing and supporting atheism. You may see her wearing parrot glasses and frightening Anjem Choudary, or making people very uncomfortable with pasta posters. She enjoys cycling and stroking stranger's dogs in the street.

Design Officer

Sylvia Broeckx

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Originally from Belgium, where she studied Art History at the Catholic University of Leuven, Sylvia came to the UK in 1999 to study Film at Sheffield Hallam University. After working for 11 years as a freelance filmmaker, which included being the director of the documentary Hug an Atheist, she went back to university in 2014 to do an MA in American History at the University of Sheffield. Her dissertation will focus on atheist activism in the USA after 1945. Sylvia is currently the president of the Secular and Atheist Society at the university. When she isn’t occupied with anything related to history, atheism or film, she’s likes to spend her time cooking and baking, binge watching TV series or travelling, and she’s a self-confessed Disneyholic.

Lead Researcher

Russell Byford-Harding

Mr Mormon

Contrary to the seemingly entrenched view that being an atheist is a part-time job, Russell takes the opposite approach, making this a full-time thing.

Co-founding a Humanist society at his Sixth Form, he has been involved in secular activities for quite some time. Now a proud member of the University of Nottingham’s Secular society, he spends more time on being a thorn in the side of religion (amongst other things), as opposed to actually doing his degree – which is plain old history if anybody should ask.  (Martin would never approve of this description, mind you!)

Besides being an unabashed critic of all things authoritarian, censorious, regressive and bossy (a portfolio which all religions fit), Russell likes to spend his free time riding his motorcycle, or on a boat chillin like a villain.

When not out for a spin or a float, he may not be too hard to find; usually in a room ranting about something political or maybe even economic (if the conversation is tropical enough). He resides either in Nottingham, or his home of South-East Cambridgeshire - where there tends to be a lot of tractors, but little more exciting than that.

Regional Development Officers

Scotland

This position is currently vacant.

North East England

Terry Waites

Terry Waites

Mr Terence Waites (Terry) is a retired British Army Officer and Communications Engineer who recently studied at the University of Durham.  He received his BSc(Hons) in Mathematics and Computing from the Open University and an MSc in the Design of Information Systems from Cranfield University.  He has had experience all over the World producing secure Communications and Information Systems under extreme and dangerous conditions and within tight deadlines.  He is a Fellow of the Institute of Engineering and Technology and is an Incorporated Engineer and mentor for young engineers in the IET.

When eventually retiring from the Army he decided to teach Physics and Mathematics and undertook a Post-Grad Certificate in Education at the University of Durham where he first made contact with the AHS.

Volunteer work in support of Humanists and sceptical societies forced a choice to be made between teaching and volunteer work. Teaching took a back seat.  Mr Waites now assists with the North East Humanists organisation in Stockton-on-Tees and fills the role of North-East Development Officer for the ASH.  In addition he is the Veterans representative at the UK Armed Forces Humanists Association.

Mr Waites is enthusiastic about sport, keen on cycling and skiing, and enjoys following top class rugby and cricket. He currently resides in Thornaby-on-Tees with wife, Catherine and daughter Bethany.  He can be contacted at tpwaites@iee.org.

West Midlands

Benjamin David

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Benjamin is currently the president of the AHS-affiliated society 'Warwick Atheists, Secularists and Humanists' (WASH) – a society that has, during his tenure, achieved significant success in terms of engagement, having hosted numerous events with 100+ attendees and establishing a strong atheist, secularist and humanist presence within the local university area. What is more, he is also the chairman and founder of the Warwickshire Humanists – a society that holds regular events throughout large stretches of the Midlands.

He has also had significant engagement with the AHS for a very long time through his involvement with the BHA, IHEU (for which he participated in the most recent Freedom of Thought Report) and Warwick Atheists, Secularists and Humanists. He is currently studying philosophy at the University of Warwick. He looks forward to undertaking the duties of Regional Officer for the West Midlands and to augment the goals of the AHS therein.

Wales

Tom Stitfall

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Tom is currently studying International Politics at Aberystwyth University. It was during his first year at Aberystwyth Tom met some brilliant like-minded individuals and helped start Aberystwyth Atheist, Secularist and Humanist Society (AASH) and has been on the committee ever since.

Tom had a very Catholic upbringing, but his use of reason, empathy and compassion highlighted the abhorrent values of the Church of which he is no longer a follower. Tom is a committed secular humanist and republican who wants to get more involved with the AHS and  to demonstrate Wales really is the most secular nation in the UK.

South East England

Sean Oakley

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Sean was the founder and 3-year president of Reading's AHS society, as well as being President of the Buddhist Society for 3 years. In terms of the AHS, he is a former press officer and contributor. He's interested in left-wing political, social, and ethical commentary, so is striving to be a part of in-depth journalism. (In Sean's short absence Caroline Haigh is responsible for the region)

Greater London

Emma Bell

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Emma Bell is a founding member and the current Chair of Imperial Atheists, Secularists and Humanists. In the lead-up to the World Humanist Congress 2014 Emma sat on the Congress’ Organising Committee as Web Manager, managed social media and also acted as a volunteer captain during the event itself. In her spare time she pursues a PhD studying how gene expression is regulated in the early embryo and sings with Lips Choir, London’s favourite all-female feminist pop-choir.

East Midlands

Hari Parekh

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Hari is a third year Psychology and Criminology student at the University of Northampton. He felt there was a strong emphasis towards religious societies at the university, so the need to meet like-minded individuals meant he established an AHS society. During his second year at university, Hari realised that Hinduism was unable to provide answers to understand the empirical world, and neither had Hinduism evolved to support the discoveries of science and reason. He aims to engage with student AHS societies across the region. Further engagement with religious societies at universities can provide a valuable opportunity to raise an awareness of the AHS and provide the chance to communicate with individuals that have not got an AHS society at university.

Yorkshire and the Humber

Sylvia Broeckx

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Originally from Belgium, where she studied Art History at the Catholic University of Leuven, Sylvia came to the UK in 1999 to study Film at Sheffield Hallam University. After working for 11 years as a freelance filmmaker, which included being the director of the documentary Hug an Atheist, she went back to university in 2014 to do an MA in American History at the University of Sheffield. Her dissertation will focus on atheist activism in the USA after 1945. Sylvia is currently the president of the Secular and Atheist Society at the university. When she isn’t occupied with anything related to history, atheism or film, she’s likes to spend her time cooking and baking, binge watching TV series or travelling, and she’s a self-confessed Disneyholic.

South West England

Benjamin Lewis

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Ben was a (re-)founding member of the Durham University Humanist Society (now Durham University Atheist, Humanist and Secular Society) and served as it's first Secretary. After completing his first degree at Durham, he migrated south to the warmer climate in Exeter and was again a founding member and, this time, Treasurer of the Exeter Atheist, Humanist and Secular Society. After a sojourn to Melbourne, he has returned to the UK as a Regional Officer for the AHS.When not founding AHS societies, Ben is studying for a Ph.D. in Theoretical Astronomy.

North West England

James Smith

BLANK FACE

James Smith is a first year student studying Dentistry at the University of Central Lancashire. As an agnostic skeptic, he is one of the founding members, and current working within his University’s AHS society. He has helped UCLan organise its first skeptics week, as well as organise the start up of a skeptics pub in Preston.

As a child, he attended Church of England schools, which was his first encounter with religion. Upon growing up, he was eager to question the legitimacy of infamous stories surrounding religious texts; such as the virgin birth, which was one of the catalysts for his movement towards skeptisism. Motivated by the unknown, his passion for science is reflected in his movement towards humanism.

With an interest in open debates and talks, he loves spending time watching them and actively taking part in events up and down the country. A strong believer in equality for all, he strongly believes in a humanist outlook on life.

East of England

This position is currently vacant.

Republic of Ireland

This position is currently vacant.

Northern Ireland

This position is currently vacant.

Board

Richard Acton

Richard Acton

Richard has just graduated from Nottingham University with an MSci in Biochemistry and Genetics and is undertaking a second master’s degree at Birkbeck University of London next year, because – you know – you might need a spare.

He intends to specialise in ageing research, because clearly there is a great deal that needs fixing and he won’t have time to do it if he’s dead. Religion was essentially irrelevant to Richard's upbringing. He attended a total of 7 different schools in 3 different countries: one of which was a vaguely CofE primary school, at which he was more likely to be made to sing Beatles songs than hymns.

Richard read The God Delusion in his early teens and decided something had to be done about this religion stuff. He was president of UNASH for 2 years. Richard professes himself a jack of all trades (except dance) and master of none, as of yet. He enjoys wildlife photography, cooking, listening to audiobooks and wearing 3 piece suits all the time. He is purported to be setting in motion many schemes for the betterment of The AHS.

Andrew Copson

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Andrew Copson became Chief Executive of the British Humanist Association in January 2010 after five years coordinating the BHA's education and public affairs work. He is a former director of the European Humanist Federation (EHF) and is currently a Vice President of the International Humanist and Ethical Union (IHEU), where he leads on strategic alliances and is a member of the growth and development committee. Andrew has supported the activities of the AHS since inception and was a member of the AHS's old Board of Trustees, before the AHS was reconstituted at the 2010 AGM.

This position is currently vacant.

This position is currently vacant.

Jenny Bartle

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As with any good whirlwind romance, Jenny went from attending her first AHS event to hosting the AGM only 3 months later. Since then she has fulfilled several roles: President, Head of Education, and presently Board Member.

Living in Bristol, she still frequents the student society she helped to run so many years ago. She works as a software engineer and can usually be recognised at Humanist events by her elaborate dresses.

Mike Paynter

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Mike was the Secretary for the AHS, having been the Head of Membership and South-West RDO, and both Academic Secretary and Treasurer of the University of Bristol Atheist, Agnostic and Secular Society (AASS). He has helped Bristol join the AHS, have its first Reason Week and build connections with the local Humanist, Secularist and Skeptics groups.

Mike has finished a PhD in Communications Engineering at the University of Bristol. He loves cycling and cooking, but has not been able to combine them ... yet.

This position is currently vacant.

Ruth Haydock

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Ruth was the Publicity Officer of The University of St Andrews Atheist Society 2012/2013 and had been active in helping the society win two awards at the AHS convention in March 2013. In December 2012 she was appointed Press Officer and then in July 2013 she was elected the AHS Secretary.  Christianity had a massively negative influence on Ruth’s life and as a result, she is incredibly passionate about promoting humanism as a valid way of life, one which is free of guilt and fear. In April 2013, Ruth set up the first Recovering From Religion group in Scotland, which helped those who are in the process of giving up on a belief in a higher power but also those who are still dealing with the emotional scars from believing in a god.