Children’s Quarter is a co-operative with members which are groups and organisations that provide services to children, young people and families; and supporters, who are individuals who support its aims and co-operative principles.  The members decide what Children’s Quarter does at General Meetings throughout the year.  At the Annual General Meeting in the Spring, members elect a Board of Directors to manage the work of the Co-op between General Meetings.  The Board does this with reference to an Executive Committee which involves a wider set of interests including people who work and volunteer for Children’s Quarter.


Board Members elected by the Members are:

Les Lawrence is Director and Chair of Children’s Quarter. He leads the review of policy and strategy of the new organisation and brings experience and know-how from a number of sectors.


Les Lawrence 

Les Lawrence is the Chair of the Children’s Quarter Board.

He is a former chair of the Heart of England NHS Foundation Trust and past chair of the Royal Orthopaedic Hospital NHS Trust. A former Birmingham city councillor, he served as cabinet member for children, young people and families on Birmingham City Council for 8 years.  He also served as the chair of the children and young people board of the Local Government Association.

Les has two children.



Liz Garnham 

Liz Garnham, MBE has spent 25 years in Birmingham advocating, often case by case, for children and families at risk of social exclusion and supporting specialist education and associated organisations through chairing, governance, development work and fundraising. She is a mother and has supported community youth inclusion groups to help address the gap in services for older children, managed school inclusion outreach projects and been a director of Dens of Equality. She is presently the treasurer of Birmingham Parent Carer Forum who were successful in receiving the Independent Support Grant which supports families through the transition from Statements to Education Health Care Plans. The Forum is the recognised body by the NNPCF for parent consultation in Birmingham.

Liz is ex-Chair of Governors at Uffculme School the largest Autistic Specific School in Europe who have been considered outstanding by OFSTED for the past 9 years, and supported boards at Hamilton and Selly Oak special schools and Trinity Specialist College. Liz is also an independent rep on the SENDIASS management board. She has chaired the Birmingham Governors Network and sits on Schools Forum and has been a key contributor to citywide strategy groups supporting vulnerable children.


Kristin Sanders

Kristin Sanders settled in Birmingham from the Southern United States 10 years ago and is a mum to a 17 year old daughter with ASD and epilepsy. Kristin is the previous chair and a current board member of Birmingham Parent Carer Forum, the parent forum for consultation in Birmingham. Kristin has been on the governing body of a federation of special schools for eight years. She has instigated and supported inclusive play sessions through her church and been a dedicated advocate for disabled children and their carers on strategic boards across the city. She has inspired colleagues by her commitment to ensuring disabled children and young people’ voices are heard and provided informal support for numerous families.

Kristin was instrumental to Parks for Play’s campaign for specialist playcare to enable parents with disabled children to have equal access to training and work. In 2011 Kristin became a foster carer specialising in caring for children and young people who have special needs and disabilities.


They have co-opted a further (non-voting) Board member who represents Birmingham City University with whom Children’s Quarter has a partnership: 

Clair Meares

Clair Meares has lived in the West Midlands for the last 25 years, completed an awarded MA thesis in 2015, and is currently working towards her PhD which is around developing ‘visual methodologies in the context of playfulness, and practitioners working with children who perform recalcitrant identities’. Clair has worked alongside children and young people with complex needs for 30 years and is a passionate advocate for the value of intrinsically-motivated play in all its myriad of forms. Working environments have included drop-in children’s play centres, schools, community sites, parks and open spaces and adventure playgrounds.

Clair was employed in Birmingham City Council’s ‘Youth, Community and Play’ sector for 22 years as a frontline Principal Play Worker and Service Manager.  During the last few years she has also worked across Dens of Equality, Seven-Up and Parks for Play as a Play Lead, Trainer and Playwork Mentor, as a trainer for the Play Resource Company, and as a play researcher on specific research projects. Clair has two children.


In addition to the Board members above, the people below are members of Children’s Quarter Executive Committee:

Simbi Folarin has a particular interest in what small community providers like Seven Up – which she represents – can do
Simbi Folarin

Simbi Folarin, a Birmingham- born, head girl (Aston Manor), MA Transformational Practice; has been a  Director of Dens of Equality a not-for-profit community inclusion development agency since 2001 working in partnership with citywide, family- owned grassroots organisations to raise  over four million pounds to create thousands of inclusive community play leisure  and learning opportunities prioritising access for disabled and disadvantaged children. Professional background  in the field of Youth, Community & Play work specialising in race equality, disability and gender;  has included Youth Work with Young Women; Staff training and development; International Youth Work; development of Youth Leadership Programmes for Birmingham Youth Service.  Work in Higher Education  includes development and delivery of the Playwork BA at UCB; Youth and Community BA’s University of Birmingham and Newman University ; currently working at Coventry University Community Development lecturing in Fundraising Skills and Sociology.

Simbi is founder of the Glue Collective that seeking to address current and emerging, social, health and economic challenges in local communities. She is a mother and grandmother, committed to informal community education with over thirty years’ experience of engaging marginalised groups.


Emma Payne

Emma Payne is Business Development Manager at Birmingham Playcare Network –  a third sector organisation passionate about promoting the importance of play and high quality play opportunities for children and young people which is a member of Children’s Quarter.


Kelly Round is the representative of Our Place in Sutton Coldfield and was one of the group who set up Children’s Quarter.
Kelly Round

Kelly Round is the Founder and Chief Executive of Our Place Community Hub in Sutton Coldfield which is a member of Children’s Quarter.  She has worked with children and young people for 12 years – nine of which have been in the third sector – in both front-line and strategic roles.   Our Place provides advice and support services to children and families and operates a Schools Mentoring Programme offering 1-2-1 and group work mentoring to children and parents during times of difficulty.

Kelly is a Parent Governor at Thorns Primary School and served as a Governor at Hollyfield Primary School in Sutton Coldfield.  She is passionate about helping and supporting people to make positive changes and is a strong advocate of the profound and valued contribution voluntary based organisations make to the well-being of communities.


Laura Watts 

Laura Watts is the Chief Executive and Development Director of Children’s Quarter and represents Dens of Equality which she helped to set up 17 years ago.  Her background was in running arts and media businesses in London before moving to Birmingham to set up and manage an Arts Council agency for image makers in the West Midlands. Motherhood shifted her professional focus from adult artists towards the infinite creativity in children. After a short period of employment with local government to support play and expand children’s services her attention turned to the extensive inequality of opportunity for children with any additional needs.  She gathered support from friends and colleagues to found Dens of Equality to grow those children that did not thrive in mainstream boxes.

Laura has worked for twenty years supporting inclusive provision for children and young people. She is driven by a commitment to the bottom -up development of community organisations that can deliver responsive services and become building blocks for healthier democracy.


Beryl Bateson

Beryl has been a teacher in primary and secondary schools, in Birmingham and 2 years in Kenya, and involved in training for Playgroups. After her appointment as a Community Education Development Officer with schools and a focus on supporting schools’ partnership with parents, she then managed a large Family Learning programme for Birmingham Local Authority. Although now retired, she is still committed to maximising the understanding, knowledge and experience that parents, communities and schools have of the extra essential needs of vulnerable children and families, to make sure that they really are included in our communities.


Martin Straker-Welds

Martin serves Moseley ward in Birmingham as a Labour councillor. Before that he was an external adviser for heads’ performance management, a chief inspector of schools, a school improvement adviser, a secondary teacher, a VSO in Nigeria.  He is committed to the service of children, families and communities.


Nasreen Hussain

Nasreen is Head of Service Birmingham Special Educational Needs & Disability Information, Advice and Support Service (SENDIASS).


Sherri Zakariyyau

Sherri is the Membership Manager at Children’s Quarter and is the Company Secretary.