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Two Women Of Distinction Join The Ranks Of The Freemen

15th May 2023
Two Women Of Distinction Join The Ranks Of The Freemen
Two women who distinguished themselves in their chosen careers - one a top European marketing professional and advertising campaign strategist, the other a hospital sister and emergency nurse practitioner – have been sworn in as Freemen.

   Two Women Of Distinction Join The Ranks Of The Freemen

Globe-trotting Joanne Booth followed in the footsteps of her dad, John, the chairman of the wardens, while the installation of Sheila Kitson as a Lady Freeman was an honour afforded only twice in the past.

Fifty-year-old Joanne has worked with five of the country’s biggest companies – including Saatchi& Saatchi - and internationally branded products, among them Unilever, P&G, Philips, Samsung, Coca Cola and John West.

Her expertise has won her a string of honours across Europe, including gold and silver “Effie Awards” – prestigious accolades recognised as a symbol of global achievement.

“There are few parts of the world I have not visited and the ‘Effie’ awards are made after the evaluation and effectiveness of strategies in advertising. They are the equivalent of winning an Olympic medal,” said Joanne.

In the immediate future she will be one of five judges tasked with running the rule over the submissions of a dozen European universities – two of them in the south of England – who have been commissioned by Lego to focus on the creativity and effectiveness of marketing. The winners will be identified next week and attend the prestigious Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity.

Before stepping into the world of advertising she read English and History at London University before going on to complete a Masters’ Degree at Warwick University on the history of the Renaissance.

Joanne is now a freelance strategic director in marketing and lives in West Yorkshire. But she still finds time to indulge her personal passion in travel and anthropology.

Last year she spent time in the Sahara Desert living with the Wodabee tribe and in 2019 was a guest of sixteen native tribes gathered in the tiny West African country of Benin for their annual Ouidah Voodoo Festival. “It was truly fascinating, they were lovely people,” she said.

Despite the demands on her she is a regular visitor to her dad’s home near Durham where she happily lends a hand with the administrative chores which go with his office. Her younger sister Rachel is an NHS matron working in Northumberland.

For Sheila the invitation to become a Lady Freemen came “out of the blue” and was initiated in recognition of her work in academic research with the freemen’s local history group, as well helping husband Geoff with his extensive contributions as the freemen’s official photographer.

Although born in a maternity home in Croxdale, Sheila’s family hail from Gilesgate, her forebears in the Arckless family having ran a painting and decorating business in the city.

After leaving Durham Girls Grammar School, Sheila worked first as a nursing cadet at the then Dryburn Hospital and followed that with three years of formal nurse training at the Durham group of hospitals.

She retired from the now County Durham and Darlington NHS Foundation Trust at the age of 60 after completing 43 years of service. During her career she led a North-East group of nurses in a national project for emergency nurse competencies in practice, on behalf of the Royal College of Nursing and completed a Bachelor of Science Degree at Teesside University.

Sheila’s arrival as a newly installed Freeman boosts the family’s tally to eight.  She joins husband Geoff, son Leighton, daughter Alison, son-in-law Adam, brothers-in-law Stephen Kitson and Melvin Wortley and niece Katherine Wortley.

“I was absolutely delighted when I was invited to join the Freemen. It was something I never expected," said Sheila.