Please ensure Javascript is enabled for purposes of website accessibility

Commonwealth Day Conference

Monday 13th March - 9.30am - 2pm - Alderley Park Conference Centre, Congleton Road, Alderley Edge, SK10 4TG

Celebrate the diverse network of values, characteristics and interests that the Commonwealth of Nations has to offer and to realise the benefits for business within Cheshire and beyond.

With speakers ranging from large, multi national corporations to entrepreneurs that have learnt the value of international trade, you are sure to enhance your own export journey into the Commonwealth.

Panel members will also be available to answer your questions and queries.

For more information about the Cheshire Commonwealth Association, please visit our website.


09:30 - 10:00


10:00 - 10:10

Opening Remarks – David Briggs CVO, M.B.E., KStJ CCA Patron

David is the former Lord Lieutenant of Cheshire and Patron of The Cheshire Commonwealth Association. As the Queen's representative in the County, it had been David's initiative to set up the Cheshire Commonwealth Association. ​ In this role he took a keen interest in the business and industrial life of the County and he hopes that this Association will help Cheshire businesses to grow and to increase their trade with Commonwealth countries. ​ Since becoming Lord-Lieutenant in 2010 he has supported many Cheshire charities, and in particular has tried to act as a connector between the voluntary and the commercial worlds, and also to encourage the agencies which help those most in need to work together. He was instrumental in setting up Cheshire Community Foundation as well as Cheshire Connect – a charity which now supports more than 200 Cheshire charities each year with business advice and support.

10:10 - 10:20

Welcome - Lady Redmond, M.B.E. - Lord-Lieutenant of Cheshire, CCA President

Enjoy a welcome from the current Lord Lieutenant of Cheshire. Lady Redmond MBE came into office as HM Lord-Lieutenant of Cheshire on 25 August 2021. She is a chartered accountant and spent several years in the accountancy profession before establishing, with her husband Phil, one of the largest independent television drama production companies in the UK. ​ She has held many senior non-executive, governor and trustee positions including National Museums Liverpool, Riverside Housing Association, Liverpool John Moores University and Alder Hey Hospital NHS Children’s Charitable Trust. She continues to support many charitable and not for profit organisations. Including being the President of the Cheshire Commonwealth Association.

10:20 - 10:30

Alderley Park Speaker - intro to the venue

10:30 - 10:40

‘UK Trade Agreements’ - Tricia Francis, Department for International Trade

Tricia is DIT’s Export Manager for the Cheshire & Warrington LEP region and will present on UK Trade Agreements, the benefits to UK businesses and where are we up to.

10:40 - 11:00

Speaker: Richard Cowin Consul General

Consul General for Queensland & Northern Territory and Director of Trade for Australia

11:00 - 11:15

Driveworks - Maria Sarkar, Owner and VP

Maria Sarkar from Driveworks presents 'The How and Why of Digital to reach new markets and take your Business Global'. DriveWorks Ltd are a software development company, receiving two Queens Awards for Enterprise under the categories for Innovation and International Trade. They have established a highly effective sales and technical support channel across North America and Europe to sell and support their design automation and sales configurator software. With the support from DIT, they are growing in Australia, New Zealand and India. Their software opens new opportunities and new markets for SMEs and multi-nationals who design and manufacture customisable products. The technology enables sales and engineering teams to work together more effectively.

11:15 - 11:45

Coffee Break

11:45 - 12:00


12:00 - 12:15

‘Trading with the Commonwealth’ - Playdale Playgrounds CEO Barry Leahey MBE

Playdale is a family-owned company operating in the Playground Equipment market. The decision to begin exporting was made in 2011 and the plan was to reach 40 countries in seven years. Playdale Playgrounds has featured as an Export Champion for a number of years and is now a familiar face of British exporting which currently has 37 distributors globally and operates in 50 countries. Playdale’s equipment can be found in Europe, North America, Asia, Africa and Australia.

12:15 - 12:25

Kirstie Simpson, Deputy Dean & Associate Professor, University of Chester

'Stakeholder engagement: connecting with Universities and their students' Within Chester Business School, I have overall responsibility for colleagues engaged in strategic economic development. Alongside my academic role, I oversee a number of significantly-sized externally funded projects, totalling almost £40m. This means my work day-day is particularly varied but the outcome is always on ensuring excellent student experience and outcomes. More recently my work has focussed on the Industrial Decarbonisation Challenge and the requirement and importance of the development of skills throughout the decarbonisation supply chain. I am the chair of the Skills, Learning and Equality, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) subcommittee for the HyNet project and am therefore leading the charge for a more inclusive and diverse workforce. I am very keen on maximising academic - stakeholder interaction; enhancing these relationships to create flexible and accessible learning opportunities for students

12:25 - 12:55

Export Champions Panel

A chance to ask your questions and queries to our panel of Export Champions

12:55 - 13:00

Closing Remarks - David Briggs

13:00 - 14:00