Our Team

The China Exchange staff team works to curate activities and experiences that offer people the chance to become more curious about China and to present an alternative perspective on Chinese culture. We maintain a network of skilled freelancers and specialists who work with us on specific projects. You can contact any member of the team using this email address: info@chinaexchange.uk

Along with our core team, China Exchange has a casual team of staff who work with us to deliver activities and events, and to staff our building when it is in use or open to the public.  Periodically, we are joined by project staff and freelance support with specialist skills and knowledge to support our work.

We run a paid internship programme allowing for people at an early stage in their career or at the start of a career change to work with us for three months. Our internships are competitive with many more applications than available placements. Many of our interns have gone on to work in cultural activities in China following the experience they gained at China Exchange.

All vacancies for roles in the team, internships, and volunteers are advertised on our website and announced through our newsletter. You can sign up for our newsletter here.

Freya Aitken-Turff, Chief Executive Officer

Freya has led China Exchange since September 2015. In 2017, she was awarded a fellowship by the Winston Churchill Memorial Trust to research how Chinatowns around the world are responding to the challenges which London’s Chinatown faces.

She started her career in public affairs working in Government Relations for financial service companies. In 2007 she studied Mandarin at Fudan University in Shanghai and then worked in a Mandarin-speaking environment for a small family business in the city. She returned to the UK to manage international public affairs for Prudential plc and ran the company’s engagement programme with the World Economic Forum and the Mayor of Shanghai’s International Business Leaders’ Advisory Council, among other projects.

During her time at Prudential, Freya was seconded to Asia House to develop the organisation’s communications and stakeholder relations activity as part of the senior management team. Her role at China Exchange blends the experiences of corporate life, charity management, building a small business and her passion for sharing Chinese culture.

Freya is a committee member of the Yan Kit So Memorial Prize for Food Writers.

Debbie Gerrard, Finance and HR Manager

Debbie is an experienced finance manager. She started her career within the finance team of Granada Group’s Retail division, working in a variety of finance roles for 15 years before moving across to the successor company, Boxclever. More recently she has worked as Financial Controller for an independent mortgage broker and for a media business before taking over responsibility for the finance and HR functions at China Exchange.

She lives in Bedfordshire and enjoys travelling, keeping fit, going to the theatre and spending time with her family.

Xiao Ma, Cultural Projects Manager and Researcher

Xiao grew up in Gansu Northwest China, an important stop on the Silk Road, the ancient network of trade routes connecting different cultures. She has a passion for promoting cultural understanding and has experience with cross cultural facilitation in different fields. Xiao worked as a multi-media journalist and news producer for Okhiwi Media, helping to deliver UK arts and culture events to a Chinese audience. She later explored the art market with work experience at Christie’s and leading British Asian art dealers before joining China Exchange where she enjoys sharing the vibrant Chinese culture, both old and new, in engaging ways. She manages China Exchange’s social media channels so you can say hello to her here.

Xiao holds a Master’s Degree in Creative Media and Enterprises from the University of Warwick (2013) and a Postgraduate Diploma in Asian Art from SOAS with distinction (2016). She has been conducting a PhD research project at the University of Westminster (2020-2024) and her research aims to demonstrate the cultural complexities of London’s Chinatown through critically examining the notion and practice of Chinatown heritage in global London.

She loves working within walking distance of the National Gallery and the Portrait Gallery where she likes to challenge her own way of seeing.

China Exchange is governed by a board of voluntary trustees. Our current board:

Mei Shui, Chair

Mei is Chief Executive of Virgin Start Up, a not-for-profit company within the Virgin Group that provides funding, business advice and mentoring to entrepreneurs; previously she served as Deputy Chairman of the Government’s Start-up Loans Company. In 2006 she was appointed Head of Protocol for London 2012 – the Organising Committee of Olympic & Paralympic Games – providing services to dignitaries, Heads of States and VIPs across 35 venues. From 2002 Mei was Head of Enterprise at The Prince’s Trust managing the Trust’s flagship Business Programme. She was voted Chair of China Exchange following the death of Sir David Tang in 2017.

Sir Tom Shebbeare, Trustee

For over twenty years Tom was The Prince of Wales’s principal adviser on charitable affairs. Appointed as the first Director of The Prince’s Trust in 1988, he became the Director of The Prince’s Charities (the largest multi-cause charitable enterprise in the UK) in 2004. The annual income of the group rose from £1m to £130m over this period. Between 1980 and 1987 Tom was on the permanent staff of The Council of Europe (Strasbourg).

He is currently Chairman of Virgin Money Giving, The Royal Park’s Foundation and Spring Films Ltd and a Director of CIM Investment Management Ltd. and Delphis Eco Ltd. He  serves as Trustee of The Prince’s Charities Foundation (China), Turquoise Mountain (Afghanistan), and is a Fellow of Green Templeton College, Oxford.

Tom was knighted in 2003.

James Furse, Trustee

James has enjoyed a long career with the John Lewis Partnership, which he joined in 1981, progressing through a series of roles to become Director of Card Services and then the founding Managing Director of greenbee.com, now John Lewis Financial Services. In 2010, James was appointed Executive Director of The Prince’s Social Enterprises Ltd and became a member of a number of related boards. James is a Non-Executive Director of NS&I and Chair of its Appointments and Remuneration Committee, and holds Non-Executive Directorships at South Devon Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust, Pukka Herbs Ltd and Ageas Insurance UK, and is an Advisory Board Member at Transform.