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Meet our Conference Speakers!

Fri 4 Feb 22

We are excited to let you know more about our conference speakers for the Fife Tourism Conference: Turning Challenge into Opportunity which will be held at the Dean Park Hotel, Kirkcaldy on Thursday 10th March 2022.

Get your tickets here

See the programme here

Keynote speaker: Dr Karen Darke MBE

Karen could be described as a modern-day ‘Alchemist’: a learning & development specialist turned mindset- heartset coach, explorer, athlete, speaker and author, Karen’s purpose is about helping individuals and organisations ‘Find Inner Gold’: turning challenge into opportunity, turning ‘mud’ into ‘gold’. Karen started out as a geologist researching gold in the Bolivian Andes, but a life-changing accident that left her paralysed led her away from being a ‘rock-doctor’ to winning Paralympic gold in the sport of Paralympic hand-cycling in Rio 2016. It was the 79th medal for Britain, and 79 being the elemental number for Gold led to Karen creating Quest 79. The project has Karen cycling 7 continents in 9 iconic rides, raising £79K for Spinal Injuries and encouraging many people to step out of their comfort zones and discover passion, purpose, strength and other aspects of their ‘inner gold’.

She is a Guinness World Record holder for landspeed by armpower, has skied across icecaps, kayaked at extreme latitudes of the planet, and hand-cycled across the world’s biggest mountain ranges and alongside some of the longest rivers. These experiences combined with unique studies of mind, resilience and performance have led to helping people view life as an adventure, and to embrace all its’ experiences as opportunities to learn and grow. Karen has extensively studied what goes on ‘inside’: the power of the mind and language to positively impact emotions; improving presence, performance and wellbeing.

"I have a passion for helping others transform, move beyond perceived limitations and consider possibility. Ability is a state of mind not body: through my own journey, I have discovered the incredible power we have within us to change our thoughts, our emotions, and our energy. We can all learn to be our own alchemist, to transform unwanted emotions or experiences into gold, be creators of our reality and in doing so improve our performance, our wellbeing, and the world around us."

Her first book “If You Fall” tells the story of her accident; the second, “Boundless” is about her adventures in Greenland and climbing El Capitan. “Quest 79: Find Your Inner Gold” is a collection of short stories positive psychology tips. All are available at

‘Karen's captivating story shines a bright light on the meaning of challenge, and on the limitless capabilities of the human spirit.’ Sir Ranulph Fiennes, polar explorer

Karen has an MBE, a PhD in Geology, MA’s in Development Training & High Performance Coaching, and Diploma’s in Clnical & Pastoral Counselling, Hypnotherapy & Motivational Coaching. She has been awarded honorary doctorates from The University of Aberdeen, Leeds, Cumbria, Sheffield Hallam and Abertay Universities, in recognition of her accomplishments and contributions in adventure and sport. 

Marc Crothall, Chief Executive Officer of the Scottish Tourism Alliance 

Marc Crothall is 59 years young and started his working life in tourism, leisure, and hospitality industry at the age of 17 – He is a well-respected industry leader who has both lived and worked in many parts of the world undertaking many front- line senior management and executive positions across various sectors of the tourism, hospitality, and leisure industry. This includes time spent in the US, Sweden, France, Spain, Switzerland, South Africa, The Channel Islands, England, the Highlands of Scotland and in his home city of Glasgow where he has been settled with his family for the past 20 years.

His wealth of first- hand experience and knowledge about the industry has been gained from working for leading corporate and independent organisations both large and small including Gilbeys’ Hotels (SA), The Metropole Hotel Group, The St. Pierre Park, Sheraton Hotels and The Freedom of the Glen Hotel Group. In addition to having his own advisory consultancy he has also spent time working for leading contract and event caterers the Compass Group and Amadeus, plus has held senior posts at Alton Towers and with the David Lloyd Leisure Group. In May 2012 he was appointed as the first CEO of The Scottish Tourism Alliance (STA) acknowledged as the overarching trade body for the tourism sector. Marc chaired the national Strategy Steering Group that was charged with developing Scotland’s future tourism strategy Scotland Outlook 2030 which was launched on 5th March 2020 by Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon. Marc is the lead industry representative on the Scottish Tourism Emergency Response Group (STERG) and Scotland’s Tourism Task Force. He is a well-respected influencer spending much of his time engaging directly with senior ministers in both Scottish & UK governments making representation on behalf of the industry. He co-chairs the National Food Tourism Leadership Board is Scotland’s representative on the UK Tourism Industry Council is a board member of Apprenticeship in Hospitality Scotland Hoteliers Charter, Interface ,Springboard (Scotland) . He also a member of Scotland’s Railway stakeholder panel.

In 2020 he was awarded the “Fellowship” by the Scottish Hotel industry for his outstanding contribution to the industry.

Ninian Stuart, Chair of Falkland Estate Trust, a founding trustee of Falkland Stewardship Trust and Hereditary Keeper of Falkland Palace

Ninian Stuart is an estate owner with a commitment to reviving the relationship between people and land whilst addressing inequalities. Following many years in community care, advocacy and social enterprise, he’s co-founder of the Centre for Stewardship, Fife Employment Access Trust and a Thousand huts campaign. Ninian’s main focus is now on sustainable, community-based land management whilst teasing out the tensions of holding the Hereditary Keepership of Falkland Palace whilst working towards a just transition locally, regionally and globally.

Sara Ward, Development Officer, Fife Education & Children’s Services Directorate

Sara Ward, is the newly appointed DYW Fife, Development Officer with Fife Education & Children's Services Directorate. I have a diverse background and vast experience and have previously been employed as DYW Borders DYW Programme Manager, SDS Careers Adviser and DYW Consultant, as well as working in many different career sectors I am also a qualified chef. I have always been passionate about improving positive outcomes for young people and by being that link for businesses and education to engage and inspire I aim to develop the young workforce of Fife. All the roles that I have had have shown that I put people at the centre of what I do, and I am passionate about getting things done.

Craig Leitch, Senior Development Worker, Greener Kirkcaldy 

Craig joined Greener Kirkcaldy in 2019. He is now Senior Development Worker and leads on the climate change and waste programmes, organising and delivering events and activities with our community. He has been instrumental in bringing Climate Action Fife to people across Fife and organised the Kirkcaldy "line in the sand event" in the lead up to the UN climate conference Cop26. 

Craig loves nature, the outdoors and is happiest when visiting the Scottish islands. He spent 6 months living on the beautiful Isle of Colonsay. 

Joshua Ryan-Saha, Director of Traveltech for Scotland

Joshua is the Director of Traveltech for Scotland, a business cluster organisation getting behind Scotland’s Traveltech pioneers. He works at the University of Edinburgh where he leads on the application of data-driven innovation for the tourism and festival sectors. He previously worked at The Data Lab where he led programmers to improve data science skills across Scotland. He joined from Nesta where he established the £10m Longitude Prize, that featured on BBC Horizon’s 50th Anniversary Episode. Prior to joining Nesta in October 2013, Joshua worked in Bosnia and Herzegovina developing and delivering projects related to constitutional reform and reconciliation.

Ed Heather-Hayes, Head of Development at Fife Coast & Countryside Trust

My enjoyment of the natural world has led me to invest the last 18 years working in countryside and environment. I have spent 13 of those with FCCT where I have had the privilege of managing our teams and leading on several major projects including the Living Lomonds Landscape Partnership, the Fife Pilgrim Way, and latterly, The Leven Project. As Head of Development for FCCT my role is to build capacity across the trust and to develop and sustain initiatives that support of our mission to connect environment and people.

Marina Di Duca, Inclusive Tourism Manager at VisitScotland

Marina Di Duca, Inclusive Tourism Manager at VisitScotland is responsible for the development and management of an Inclusive Scotland programme aimed at engaging tourism businesses to provide more inclusive products and services and provide a quality visitor experience for all visitors to Scotland. Marina has spent her over 30 years working in tourism industry in a diverse range of roles such as membership, marketing, market intelligence, corporate communications and laterally in the area of equality and diversity. The Inclusive Tourism market presents a largely untapped and growing market for Scotland’s tourism industry. Contributing £1.6 billion annually to the Scotland’s economy, the Accessible Tourism market includes a wide range of customers, from people with sensory and physical disabilities to families with young children and senior travellers.

Anna Black - Owner, Lindores 

Anna Black is Manager of award winning Lindores - Stay Ride Relax and Lindores Equestrian.  She has a passion for innovation and collaboration. She has embraced diversification within the family farm business to build sustainable enterprises for future generations.  Former consultant for a TRKR, a market insight agency delivering innovation workshops.  She worked in Business Banking for over a decade for both Barclays and Tesco Bank HQ, most recently in Commercial roles managing product strategies and budgets, and Marketing positions managing multimedia campaigns. Member of the North Fife, Local Tourism Authority and Scottish Agritourism. Alumni of the Scottish Enterprise Rural Leadership Programme and Oxford Farming Conference Emerging Leaders Programme. Graduate of The University of Edinburgh and schooled at The High School of Dundee.  Anna, with her husband and business partner Richard, has a burning passion to deliver wow moments for customers, always improve, have fun and make the most of Fife life on the family farm. Growing up on a busy livestock and arable farm Rosie has gained an insight into food production from its origin. This background in agriculture has driven Rosie’s passion for Scottish seasonal local produce leading her to the role at Bowhouse. Bowhouse creates habitat for food and drink business to flourish. Whether it be the use for a market stall or production unit or funding we aim to support food and drink business to reach their potential as well as show case their produce to our followers.

Jason Byles, Owner / Operator, East Neuk Seaweed

Jayson has been seeking and finding ways to connect with Scotland's land and waters since arriving on these bonnie shores over 11 years ago from his homeland New Zealand. Organically, this has led him to work with people and nature in the open air. A lifelong forager, Jayson has a particular interest in the coast and seaweed. He is never happier than when ankle-deep in a rockpool observing the natural world; sharing some hard-won knowledge or enjoying a freshly cooked meal under a shifting sky to the sound of crashing waves. Many years working in commercial kitchens and edible gardens has given Jayson practical skills and a love of all things food; it also means he can rustle up a tasty snack in most situations! Jayson is passionate about education, advocacy, and empowering people through reconnecting them to places and sources of sustenance. Respect for the environment and curiosity are at the core of what he wants to pass on into the local culture and beyond in fun and practical ways. 


Mike Woodcock, Director of Corporate Communications – The R&A 

Mike Woodcock is the Director of Corporate Communications at The R&A. He has worked in golf for 17 years and the media for 25 years. Mike leads the media operation at The Open, golf’s original championship, and is heavily involved in the AIG Women’s Open, the Senior Open presented by Rolex and the series of prestigious international amateur championships and matches run by The R&A. He has worked on championships on five continents and oversees The R&A’s corporate communications as well as its digital and social media channels and publications.

Angela Howe, Museum & Heritage Director – The R&A World Golf Museum

Angela has worked in the museum and heritage industry for over 20 years. In 2009 she was appointed Director of what was then the British Golf Museum, recently re-named and re-branded as the R&A World Golf Museum, following a complete redevelopment, which was planned and delivered during the pandemic. As well as having responsibility for running the museum, she holds the position of Golf Heritage Secretary of The Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St Andrews and also undertakes heritage activity on behalf of The R&A.

Stuart Gray, Director of Events and Marketing at Knockhill Racing Circuit

Qualified with degree in Sports and Recreation Management, Stuart initially worked Knockhill from 1986 when Knockhill was a part time business with 6 full time staff, then full time from 1989 after obtaining his Degree. Career progression moved him from Senior Racing Driver Instructor, Circuit Manager then ultimately becoming a Director with Knockhill now recognised as Scotland's National Motorsport Centre, employing 35 plus staff with an annual visitor number in excess of 175 000 (pre covid). As an amateur racing driver, he raced single seaters and sports cars, mainly at Ingliston and Knockhill, but had a number of events at the major circuits in England and Ireland.


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