Board of trustees

Pete Widlinski

I have worked with refugees for over 30 years and been involved with Race Relations issues for over 40. I retired from wage slavery in 2018.


I was secretary of Teesside Anti-Apartheid for 5 years in the late eighties/early nineties and worked for the Race Equality Council Cleveland for 18 months, after 9 years as a volunteer, assisting people with race discrimination cases.

I worked at the North of England Refugee Service for nearly 20 years: as the Tees Valley office manager and regional Information and Communications Manager.

I established the North East Coalition for Asylum and Refugee Rights (Teesside) in 1992, that campaigns for refugee rights and chaired it for around 25 years.

I ran the first full blown anti deportation campaign in the North East in 1996, and 5 further campaigns. I was on the board of the National Coalition of Anti-Deportation Campaigns for 4 years and was the vice chair and national spokesperson for a couple of years.

I jointly established the Mary Thompson Fund in 2001, a hardship fund for people seeking and refused asylum, and settled refugees and their families in the Tees Valley. The fund raises around £40k per annum, mostly from local people and organisations, and for the past three years received grants from the Jill Franklin Trust totalling £70k. I have been the chair for around 6 years.

I jointly established Justice First in 2006, that supports and advises people refused asylum to re-engage with the legal process, being on the board for 8 years then the manager for 4 years before my retirement.

I established Tees Valley World Drummers and raised £25K for drums and a PA, that encouraged local people and the refugee communities to meet once per week for a drumming circle (50 people at its peak), and performed at a number of community events across Teesside, as well as a local prison.

I established Tees Valley of Sanctuary in 2010 and was the coordinator for 10 years and remain one of the officers.

I was a board member of the Methodist Asylum Project (for about 5 years), Show Racism the Red Card (for about 12 years), Tyne and Wear Anti-Fascist Association (for about 34 years), Teesside Positive Action - HIV / Aids campaign (for about 8 years), Middlesbrough Voluntary Development Association (8 years).

I have been an active trade unionist for over 40 years, and was secretary to two local trades councils and the county association of trades councils for 15 years and president for 10 years. In 2009 I was awarded an honorary doctorate from Teesside University, and a lifetime achievement award from the BME Network.

I am a member of the International Brigades Memorial Trust, British Humanists Association, Ryedale Natural History Society, The Yorkshire Moors Association, Ryedale Beekeepers Association, the British Trust for Ornithology. I support a number of national and international campaigns including Medical Aid for Palestinians, Reprieve, Palestine Solidarity Campaign, Cuba Solidarity Campaign, CND, Stop the War, The Good Law Project.


In my spare time I ride a motorcycle and play African drums (but not at the same time). I am an amateur beekeeper, part time shepherd and tractor driver, developing a wildflower meadow and a small area of woodland, and renovating an off-grid derelict cottage to develop a sustainable, low environmental-impact lifestyle.

If you feel like you can contribute to The Mary Thompson Fund, please get in touch.