Steering Group Biographies

Here are biographies of some of the wide variety of people in our steering group.

Robin Harper OBE
is an environmental campaigner and repeat charity board member, who was a Member of the Scottish Parliament (MSP) for the Lothians region(1999–2011). He was co-convener of the Scottish Green Party (2004–2008). He became an MSP in the first elections to the Scottish Parliament in 1999, the first ever elected Green parliamentarian in the United Kingdom. Robin holds many roles in public life, and has most recently been the chair of the Scottish Wildlife Trust.

Akiko Kobayashi has worked in architectural and engineering practice internationally across sectors for 25 years, and has been living near the Astley Ainslie since 2006. Commissions and voluntary involvement include Woodland Tribe self build adventure playgrounds, the Lothian Birth Centre co-designed with midwives and users, The People’s Money set of banknotes for RBS, and The Architecture Fringe festival. Current projects are focused on research and co-design for intergenerational living and collective self-build housing.

Julia Bouvy is an Architect and self-builder born in Brussels in a Scottish home. She has lived in Scotland for 20 years and is a mother and a keen gardener, cook. Julia is a frequent user of the Astley Ainslie parkland grounds, for
walks, foraging, and nature watch. Her children go the nursery on the site. Say hello if you see her with her whippets!

Stuart Buchanan is a father, software engineer, cyclist and microlight pilot who has lived within a mile of the Astley Ainslie for most of his life.  He is a key contributor to the FlightGear open source project and a STEM Ambassador.  He maintains the website for the AACT.

Michele Hipwell is an accredited health psychologist, teacher and trainer with over 25 years experience in higher education, the NHS and voluntary organisations. An environmentalist and experienced mindfulness practitioner, her recent work has focused on supporting grassroots communities to develop better living environments, creative solutions for preventative health and well-being and the application of mindfulness and contemplative education in higher education. 

Jamie Gilmour is a part-time retired sheriff with experience as a lawyer spanning almost fifty years. He has dealt with land matters including such issues as boundary disputes and rights of way. With the advent of the Land Reform (Scotland) Act 2003 he was involved in dealing with access rights. With the Community Empowerment (Scotland) Act 2015 coming into force, he has developed a knowledge of a ‘community right to buy’ and ‘asset transfer’ providing papers on these topics for use by AACT.

Photograph by Robin Gillanders

Sara Stevenson is a cultural historian and researcher, responsible for setting up the national photography collection in the National Galleries of Scotland. She is an amateur gardener and a convinced environmentalist, who lives close to the Astley Ainslie grounds.


With our Scottish Government Making Places funding, we have appointed a team of consultants to help us gather ideas from local people, and to put together a community vision that represents as many of us as possible.

Nick Wright is an independent trained facilitator, accredited mediator and chartered town planner. He has helped communities from Lerwick to Annan to explore, agree and implement future change. Recent work includes facilitating the ‘Action Westbank’ consultation events for Action Porty in 2018, a community vision for Nairn Links, and Community Action Plans in Moffat and Lockerbie.

Toni Dickson has worked as a freelance project/event coordinator, with an emphasis on community engagement and project development, for the past 6 years in Edinburgh. Organisations she has worked with include Edinburgh Mela, SHRUB Co-operative and Granton Community Hub (current).
She has an enduring belief in placemaking that is community driven and practical, sustainable action that enables this. Toni works with diverse groups and communities across Edinburgh, and has built up an extensive network within the community, environmental and arts sectors.

Esther Clayton is a graphic designer with 20 years experience in the design industry. Trained at Wimbledon School
of Art and Edinburgh College of Art, has worked in both a design consultancy environment and
within marketing and communication teams. Set up the graphic design company ec-designstudio
in 2005, clients have ranged from sole traders to plcs.