Photography by Katie O'Neill and MJ Smith
Chris Oglesby and Kate Vokes are the brother and sister partnership who head-up the family-owned property company Bruntwood. Based in Manchester and founded by their father Michael Oglesby, Bruntwood offers office space, serviced offices, retail space and virtual offices in the north of England and Birmingham - 'dedicated to creating thriving cities'.
Chris and Kate were born in Scunthorpe, Lincolnshire and moved to Manchester at an early age in 1970. Over a 40 year period Michael Oglesby grew Bruntwood from modest beginnings to become one of the leading commercial property owners in the region.
Bruntwood describe themselves as: ‘The commercial property specialists led by one purpose: Creating Thriving Cities. Managing office, retail and coworking space, Bruntwood Works creates unique workspaces that help businesses expand and thrive’. The company is nationally recognised for its support of cultural and community initiatives, donating 10% of its annual profits to charitable causes.
Chris Oglesby grew up in Manchester, studied at London School of Economics (LSE) and City University, London, worked briefly in the City before returning to Manchester in 1991 to work for the company his father founded in 1976. He was appointed CEO in 1999 and has overseen the growth of the business to one that owns £1bn of commercial properties across the city regions of Manchester, Liverpool, Birmingham and Leeds.
Chris is the majority shareholder of Bruntwood, which remains a family-owned and run company founded on a belief that its success comes from the success of its colleagues, customers and the communities in which it operates. This commitment has led to Chris playing a leading role in many public and private sector partnerships, currently including Corridor Manchester, MIF and the Business Leadership Council, which he chairs.
Chris along with other Manchester business leaders launched the UnitedCity campaign campaign in 2021 to get people back into the city centre and the workplace post pandemic.
The city centre in particular needs life breathed back into it; it’s nothing without its people, and the culture, hospitality, retail and leisure businesses within it have helped create Manchester’s reputation as a hotbed of innovation and dynamism.
Chris is a Trustee of The Oglesby Charitable Trust, which works with more than 40 community based charities a year, is a board member of youth charity Onside.
THE SHOOT: Neo, Manchester
The communal rooftop terrace space where building's businesses and entrepreneurs can come together
Student reflection: Katie O'Neill
It was a pleasure to work with Chris and Kate on my first double person Greater Mancunians shoot. The rooftop terrace at Neo was an exciting location with bright yellow seating and black surrounding walls which we tried to incorporate into the shots. Chris and Kate were very friendly and happy to be directed. Photographing two people at the same time I found to be quite a challenge. The pressure to get the best out of each of them at the same time proved to be a learning curve.
We then split Chris and Kate to work with them individually before bringing them back together for the closing shot of the day set against an adjacent Bruntwood office block… just as the rain began.
Even though this was one of my more difficult shoots, I believe that I managed to capture a series of images which successfully reflects the close sibling friendship at the centre of this unique family run business.