Aonghus Gordon MEd, OBE
Founder and Executive Chair of Ruskin Mill Trust
Aonghus has a distinguished track record of development and leadership of several ground-breaking charities that provide high quality environments and opportunities for people with disabilities. He is passionate about the need for people to break out of dependency and marginalisation, believing that everyone has the potential to shape their own future.
After training as a potter, Aonghus started Ruskin Mill Trust in 1981 as a centre for cultural development, a small project linked to a nearby specialist school in Gloucestershire. It is now one of the UK’s leading educational charities working with learning disabilities, with twelve centres across England, Wales and Scotland. Aonghus has pioneered its unique method of Practical Skills Therapeutic Education (PSTE), inspired by Rudolf Steiner, John Ruskin and William Morris’s ideas about social renewal, healthy human development and the importance of art, crafts and land work, all undertaken through a therapeutic lens. Thousands of young people have benefited from this integrative education method.
Aonghus is the founding Trustee of both Ruskin Mill Trust and Ruskin Mill Land Trust, which has an impressive reputation for acquiring and restoring redundant iconic industrial buildings and transforming them into educational and cultural centres, winning many awards and commendations. The Trust has acquired and been gifted over 600 acres of farmland, woods and gardens, all looked after using biodynamic principles, a strong area of interest for Aonghus who has championed biodynamic food ecology for children and students.
In 2013 the Trust’s research centre was launched in a bespoke building whose design was informed by the Trust’s PSTE method, and drawn from the foundation stone mosaic in the Ruskin Mill Gallery, a project that was put together by unemployed youth and students with learning differences in 1982. The Field Centre sponsors extensive research into the benefits of craft, biodynamic agriculture, holistic care and support, Goethean Science methods, leadership and management and the outdoor curriculum in education through action research, and the therapeutic approach to specialist education.
Aonghus has forged many international partnerships, including the development of a Master’s degree in collaboration with Lillehammer Inland University, Norway and, with American colleagues, advised and led on the establishment of a college for young people on the autistic spectrum near Sacramento, California, at the Meristem Centre.
Aonghus is a Trustee and Board Member of numerous charities and was awarded Social Entrepreneur of the Year by Ernst and Young in 2005. He is a charismatic motivational speaker and is not afraid to challenge his audience, which has led to frequent requests to lecture and run workshops in the USA, Europe, China, Russia and the Middle East. He is a Companion of Ruskin’s Guild of St George, works with an aesthetic drawn from Ruskin’s concept of Vital Beauty and, like Ruskin, has a fascination for meteorology and geology.
In 2022 Aonghus was awarded an OBE for services to cultural heritage and education.