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Honour for North East philanthropist Jonathan Ruffer

6th July 2018

The chair of two North East charities, which are helping to transform a County Durham market town, has been honoured by Northumbria University, Newcastle.

Jonathan Ruffer, who leads The Auckland Project and Eleven Arches, was made an Honorary Doctor of Civil Law in recognition of his successful business career as well as his passionate philanthropy, which continues to benefit Bishop Auckland and the wider region.Jonathan, who grew up in North Yorkshire and read English at Cambridge, trained as a barrister and then moved into the investment world, setting up Ruffer LLP in 1994.

In 2012, he purchased 900-year-old Auckland Castle, in Bishop Auckland, along with a series of paintings by Spanish artist Francisco de Zurbarán, Jacob and His Twelve Sons, which have been housed in the Castle for more than 250 years.

Determined to keep the paintings in trust for the people of the North East and to allow access to the Castle, which was once a private palace for the Prince Bishops of Durham, Jonathan established Auckland Castle Trust. 

The charity, now known as The Auckland Project, is conserving Auckland Castle and working to create an arts, faith and heritage destination of international significance, in and around the Castle grounds. 

This includes a Faith Museum, Spanish Gallery, Walled Garden, Auckland Tower visitor centre, Deer Park, a hotel and a number of restaurants, which will draw visitors from across the UK and further afield. 

At the heart of this long term ambition is a mission to revitalise Bishop Auckland, through employment, training and educational opportunities and use art and heritage as a circuit breaker to help bring about real change.

Building on this vision, Jonathan Ruffer also chairs Eleven Arches, a sister charity based in Bishop Auckland, that produces Kynren – An Epic Tale of England, the world-class UK, “must-see” spectacular live action show, set against the backdrop of Auckland Castle.The annual summer show is on track to have exceeded over a half a million visitors by 2020 and has provided training and skills development opportunities to more than 1,000 volunteer cast and crew.The Auckland Project opened its first new attraction, the Mining Art Gallery, in Bishop Auckland Market Place in October 2017. 

It provides a permanent home for more than 400 works by prominent local artists connected with the North East’s mining community, including Norman Cornish, who was also awarded an Honorary Degree from Northumbria University in 1995 and presented a body of his work for the University’s permanent collection in 1997. 

On receiving his own Honorary Degree, Jonathan Ruffer, said: “It is a great honour and pleasure to receive this award in the bright sunshine of a happy Newcastle.”

For more information about The Auckland Project please visit www.aucklandproject.org and for Kynren www.kynren.co.uk

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