Chris Sands

I was absolutely stunned to hear about the award. It is a great honour. The fact that I left school at 16 and went straight into work without touching university makes this event very special and I look forward to becoming an active ambassador for the University.

Chris is a branding expert and founder of the Totally Locally movement - a free, resource which helps towns to thrive and includes clever marketing campaigns, ideas to get people to work together and ways to nurture pride within communities. Chris says it is based on the “economics of being nice” and there have been impressive results, with many towns turning their fortunes from failing to thriving. Chris believes that it all comes down to people power.

Totally Locally was launched in 2009 in Calderdale, West Yorkshire, and now operates in over 50 towns in the UK, and within communities in France, Australia, New Zealand and the USA.  It has generated overwhelming interest, leading Chris, and business partner Nigel Goddard, to respond by creating a free downloadable resource, the Totally Locally TownKit. His talks on engaging communities have taken him as far as Australia and New Zealand, and his motto is “love where you live – you might just make it better”.

Chris’s ground breaking work has been widely recognised through a number of awards and in 2013, sister-project, The Valley of Lights, received the government’s Association of Public Services Excellence Award, having restored the flagging economy of the Upper Calder Valley, following the impact of destructive flooding.

Chris left school at 16 to briefly work in engineering before persuading a graphic design studio to offer him a week’s trial, which resulted in three further years’ employment. Thereafter, Chris set up his own business, designing for clients mainly in the arts and music sectors, and was also involved in the management of a record label in Manchester.

Subsequently, working as Creative Director for a Leeds company, Chris moved into branding, and now works with organisations and educational establishments to create campaigns that “really mean something”.

Last year Chris produced a book, One More Hill – A Cycling Journal, about one of his passions and based in the South Pennines.  It features tales of stunning landscapes, local manufacturing and the life stories of local people.

The award of Honorary Doctor of the University recognises the dedication that Chris applies to Totally Locally. His involvement with the Business School’s local town projects using the Townkit exemplifies our values of partnership, people focus, innovation and enterprise.

Chris said, “I was absolutely stunned to hear about the award.  It is a great honour. The fact that I left school at 16 and went straight into work without touching university makes this event very special and I look forward to becoming an active ambassador for the University.”