Who We Are

FFL has a new team. Place making strategist Maria Adebowale-Schwarte joins FFL as executive director, while independent crossbench peer, Baroness Lola Young, and non-executive director of the Economist, Sir David Bell, been appointed as Co-Chairs.

  • Maria Adebowale-Schwarte

    Executive director

    Maria joined the FFL team as executive director in February 2019. Maria is a placemaking strategist with over twenty-five years of cross sector experience in improving urban places and green spaces.  She specialises in community inclusive cross sector strategy development, asset building, programme development of place-led grant making and genuine co-designed public/private space consultation. Maria joins FFL from Living Space Project, the urban placemaking think tank consultancy which she founded

    Maria sits on several governance boards of organisations and advisory groups which hold a strong place led, sustainable development, culture and heritage focus including the National Lottery Heritage Fund and the Mayor of London’s Sustainable Development Commission. She was awarded a Mayor’s London Leaders award for her work on jobs and training and is the recipient of the first environment and placemaking Clore social leadership fellowship. Her Clore research focused on using place led approaches to deliver innovative inclusive grant making and philanthropy.

    She has a Master’s degree in planning, environment and human rights law, and lives in south east London.

  • Baroness Lola Young

    Baroness Lola Young


    Baroness Lola Young is an independent crossbench peer, formerly professor of Cultural Studies at Middlesex University and head of culture at the Greater London Authority. Baroness Young has been on the boards of a number of cultural bodies, including the National Theatre and the Southbank Centre. She was instrumental in developing the Black Cultural Archives and oversaw for a time the Royal Commission on Historical Manuscripts. She was appointed a member of the House of Lords in 2004, and holds honorary doctorates from Middlesex University, the University of the Arts London and Sussex University. Baroness Young has chaired the judging panels of the Orange Prize for Fiction and the Caine Prize for African Writing.

  • Sir David Bell

    Sir David Bell


    Sir David Bell is a non-executive director of the Economist. He retired as a director of Pearson plc and Chairman of the Financial Times at the end of 2009 after thirteen years on the Board.

    David was appointed Chief Executive of the Financial Times in 1993 and became Chairman in 1996.  In July 1998, he was also appointed Pearson’s Director for People with responsibility for the recruitment, motivation, development and reward of employees across the Pearson Group & in June 2003 he became Chairman of Pearson Inc in New York.

    He is currently Chair of Council, Roehampton University, Senior Independent Director on the Cambridge University Press and Assessment Board, President of Coram (the oldest children’s charity in the UK) Chair of the National Equality Standard advisory board, Chairman, Rare Recruitment, Chair of Bath Mozartfest, Chairman of Chapel Street Community Schools Trust, and Chair of The Institute of War & Peace Reporting Europe.

    In 2011-2012 David was an Assessor on the Leveson Inquiry into the Culture, Practice and Ethics of the Press.  Between 1995 and 2002 he was Chairman of the Millennium Bridge Trust, responsible for conceiving the first new bridge across the Thames in the centre of London for 100 years and between 2002 and 2012 he was Chairman of the national homelessness charity, Crisis.  Between 2005 and 2016 he was Chairman of Sadler’s Wells Theatre, between 2008 and 2016 he was Chairman of the London Transport Museum and between 2011-2016 he was a trustee of the Esmee Fairbairn Foundation.

    David, born 30.9.46 in Henfield, Sussex, was educated at Cambridge University and the University of Pennsylvania, is married with three children and lives in Islington.

    David received his knighthood for services to industry, the arts and charity.

  • Gerry Murphy

    Gerry Murphy is Deputy Chief Executive for the London Legacy Development Corporation (LLDC).  Gerry joined LLDC in December 2014. 

    Prior to joining LLDC, Gerry was the Chief Operating Officer of the Olympic Delivery Authority (ODA) from April 2013 up until the ODA dissolved in December 2014, overseeing the transformation of the Olympic Village into East Village (incorporating a new school, health centre, 2,818 new homes for London and public realm) and delivering the subsequent sale of East Village to legacy owners.  She joined the ODA as Head of Finance in January 2009 and became its Director of Finance in February 2011.

    Gerry was previously at the BBC, where she was Finance Director of BBC Workplace, the body responsible for managing the Corporation’s property strategy and portfolio and, prior to that, Financial Controller of BBC Television.  She joined the BBC in 1992, having trained with KPMG. 

  • Marie Gabriel

    Marie is currently Chairperson of East London NHS Foundation Trust, a provider of mental health and community health services. Prior to that she was chairperson of health commissioning organisations with budgets up to £3bn, (NHS East London and the City from 2011; NHS North East London and the City from 2012; and NHS Newham from 2003). Before that she was Vice Chairman of Newham University Hospital Trust and previous to that Chairman of Newham Community Health Council.

    Marie's contribution to the London Borough of Newham was recognised in 2010 when she was awarded Honorary Freedom of the borough and in 2012 her contribution to health was recognised through incorporation on the Health Service Journal’s inaugural 'Inspirational Women' list.

  • Nii Sackey

    Nii Sackey is the Chief Executive of Bigga Fish, which he founded in 1999 when he was just 21 years old. Bigga Fish is a youth music enterprise that engages young people through media, large scale events and developing youth enterprise. Nii has and continues to advise a range of individuals, institutions and bodies on youth culture, education, emerging media and entrepreneurship. Nii also sits on the board for The Mayors Culture Advisory Group and the Artichoke Trust.

  • Sir Stephen O'Brien

    Stephen has lived in East London for many years. His great passion is for building the communities of East London through the provision of good healthcare, housing, education and employment.

    Sir Stephen O’Brien CBE is Chairman of London Works and a Trustee of the Mayors Fund For London, Barts Charity and Foundation For Future London. He is a Vice President of Business in the Community and is especially interested in mental health.

    Previously Stephen was Chairman of Barts Health NHS Trust, NHS Tower Hamlets, the University of East London, International Health Partners, London First, Teach First and Charles Fulton and Co Ltd. He was the first Chief Executive of Business in the Community and supports several charities in their fundraising.

  • Steve Stride

    Steve Stride is CEO of Poplar HARCA, and has worked in the housing sector for his entire professional career.

    Since 1998, he has led a £1 billion regeneration programme in the Poplar area of Tower Hamlets. He manages over 9,000 homes, twelve community hubs.

    In 2013 Steve was elected Vice President of the CIH and in 2014/15 became President. Having been a member of the CIH for 34 years he was privileged to represent the sector and housing people across the UK.