Meet The Team

The FPA Naturally Birmingham Project team a small team of talented professionals with a wide range of skills and experience. We love what we do, and we do it with passion. We look forward to working with you.

Hamira Sultan

I graduated from Sheffield University with a degree in Genetics, after which I joined a a large pharma, Pfizer, discovering drugs against obesity, HIV and pain. I decided to study a Masters In Public Health as I felt quite passionate about focusing more on prevention of ill health, and have never looked back. I secured a place in Public Health Specialty training, and qualified as a consultant in 2014. I’ve worked in Derby City Council and Walsall MBC on a range of portfolios before joining BCC.

Role: I’ve been recruited to lead Naturally Birmingham, a programme all about embedding the value of green spaces in our City. Many of you won’t know but Birmingham has 591 parks and open spaces. My role involves helping citizens and officers get the most out of these assets.

Specialism: ask me about Public Health or volunteering!

Hobbies & Interests: when I get some time between being a CPH, a Mum and Step Mum, I enjoy reading, getting out into green spaces whether walking, cycling or running and learning languages. I’m also Chair of Friends of Swanshurst Park. Playing and cooking with my four yr old son is one of my favourite things to do.

Coffee or Tea: coffee! And preferably a cappuccino.

Favourite Place… New York – whether upstate with my family or in Brooklyn having an amazing brunch.

Fun Fact: I’ve done a 10 mile swim in a local swimming pool for charity.

Nick Grayson

Role: Green City Manager at Birmingham City Council; part-time Senior Research Fellow at University of Birmingham, and Advisor to the Future Parks Accelerator-‘Naturally Birmingham’

Specialism: Master of Horticulture with the RHS; Landscape Architect; Post Graduate Diploma in Public Service Management. Former Climate Change & Sustainability Manager for 10 years; Research on Sustainable Cities, Urban Green Space and Air Quality.

Hobbies and Interests: Cricket is first love; enjoy world music – community choir, gardening & reading; all forms of natural world.

Coffee or tea?: Both!  Favourite tipple- Real Ale.

Favourite place: Japanese Temple Gardens

Fun fact: World Of Music And Dance (WOMAD) is my favourite festival

Sophie Hislam

Role – Public Open Space Innovator, Jobs and Skills.  

Specialism – An Innovator is someone who is inqusitive, always looking to try something new and inquisitive and that is Sophie. Sophie is very much a people person and loves the buzz you get from people (she cannot wait for the pandemic to be over so we can all work together.  It gives me great satisfaction to support people in a role they are passionate about and that’s why I am enjoying my role within the FPA and getting everyone excited about the green sector as well as supporting young people in to work. 

Hobbies – Hockey, Hiking and Reading 

Coffee or Tea? – Coffee, always. Ginger nuts often accompany the afternoon coffee.  

Fav Place – Bavaria  

Fun Fact: I’ve waited on Zara and Mike Tindall, Jamie Cullum and Frankie Dettori.  

Rupi Chawlia

Role: Landscape Architect, Landscape Practice Group (LPG), Birmingham CC 

Specialism: As a Chartered Landscape Architect, I have had the opportunity to work both, within public and private sectors, to develop fantastic landscape schemes ranging from play areas to quarry sites. My jobs have given me a breadth of experience in planning, designing and implementing schemes, whilst building strong relationships with communities, partner organisations, contractors, and other professionals to successfully develop the projects. Working for Groundwork Birmingham & Solihull (as it was called at the time) in 2002, sealed my passion for ensuring the development really met end user/client’s needs and help to protect and enhance the natural environment. 

Hobbies and Interests: Trekking is my sanctuary, and I first took arms to walking poles and Gortex shoes (and a jacket that keeps you cosy at -25degrees) back in 2004 walking at high altitude in the mist of Nepal’s luscious Langtang Trail and breath-taking Mount Kailash in Tibet. I have since walked the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu and Great Wall of China for charity. Mt. Kilimanjaro is next on the cards. Oooh and absolutely adore dancing, acting and making people laugh – it makes me happy! 

Coffee or tea? Prefer water and a lovely Pina Colada 

Favourite place: Roseisle, Morayshire, Scotland – A deep mixed pine and deciduous forest, where families play and enjoy warm lunches using the existing built-in barbecue stands, followed by a lovely walk up the adjacent moderately steep sand-dune bank (to burn off the burgers), that frames and opens stunning views and access to a bright, gorgeous sandy beach! 

Fun fact: Always up for a challenge, even if it is out of my comfort zone – Ski-diving (freefalling was the best bit), Jet-skiing when pregnant (really didn’t know I was expecting at the time), Sharon Osborne bumped into me at the Mailbox, B’ham (she said sorry to me with a sort of American twang). 

Deborah / Debbie Needle

Role:  Community Facilitator  for the FPA Naturally Birmingham Project

Specialism: Started her own company, Sylvanus llp, in 2015 which is dedicated to helping people connect with their natural environment. Previously Deborah worked for Birmingham City Council Parks Department as a Park Ranger working closely with Friends Groups in both Country Parks and inner-city urban parks in Ladywood and Perry Barr. She advised the Ranger Service in the creation of a programme of outdoor education for primary schools and supported many, community led, environmental events in parks and green spaces. She is a qualified project manager, has a BSc in environmental science and is a trained Forest Schools leader and still takes groups of preschool children and their families out into parks to build dens, make flowers crowns and splash in puddles. 

Hobbies and Interests: Science Fiction, photography, dragonolgy 

Coffee or tea? Tea in the morning, Coffee in the afternoon. 

Favourite place: Bartolomé Island 

Fun fact: Sang for the queen and Prince Philip. 

Daniel lloyd

Role: FPA Project Officer 

Specialism: My background is in Geology and Nuclear Decommissioning, but I eventually decided to move into local government because I really wanted to make a more direct positive impact on people’s lives. As FPA Project Officer it’s my role to manage the day-to-day project management and administration of the programme, which means my role can be really varied (something I really enjoy!). I also lead on a few other workstreams, such as our upcoming Green Champions Programme and the ‘Green Birmingham Website’. You may have also seen our FPA newsletter! 

Hobbies and Interests: Music is a big interest of mine – anything from funk and soul, to 80s/90s music, to indie. I also like to say I’m a big fan of books… though I don’t read nearly enough these days! 

Coffee or tea? As much as I like coffee… you can’t beat a good cup of tea – no sugar of course.   

Favourite place: I think it’s a split between The Alps and The Lake District, I just love the breath-taking scenery of both. 

Fun fact: While studying, I worked part time at the Black Country Museum and had to dress as a Victorian every day – when I left it took a while to get used to not always having a pocket watch to hand!  

Samantha / Sam Hall

Role – Corporate Parenting Coordinator – The Birmingham Children’s Trust

Specialism –   I Love people and being involved  in this project, it is such a pleasure being part of this project which has inspired me in the green area of my life working with passionate people who love their green spaces, nature and want to make Birmingham a City of Nature, my role is to ensure that our young people of Birmingham Children’s Trust and communities have the opportunities to love the outdoors as much as I do whether this be education, play or health and wellbeing. I am supporting the community to engage with local parks to ensure they get the best out of them.

Hobbies and Interests – Dancing, Walking & Socialising – I love to get my glow sticks out when doing clubbersize (fitness class)

Fun fact: I have been presented with a Shining Star award by Simon Weston CBE (British Army veteran)

Want to speak to us?

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