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 in 1976, Bruntwood offers office space, serviced offices, retail space and virtual offices in the north of England and Birmingham.
Chris and Kate were born in Scunthorpe, Lincolnshire and moved to Manchester at an early age in 1972. 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: commercial property specialists who manage office, retail and coworking workspaces that help businesses expand and thrive. Afflecks, 111 Piccadilly, Bloc, CityLabs, Neo and Manchester Science Park are among the many Bruntwood spaces in the city.
Every year, the Bruntwood Group and the Oglesby family shareholders invest over 10% of operating profits to support local communities and initiatives - which help create thriving cities.
Chris Oglesby is Chief Executive at Bruntwood. He grew up in Manchester and studied at London School of Economics (LSE) and City University, London. He worked briefly in the City before returning to Manchester in 1991 to join the company his father founded. 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 to creating thriving cities has led to Chris playing an active role in many public and private sector partnerships including, Manchester’s Oxford Road Corridor, Manchester Climate
Change Forum, the GM Local Enterprise Partnership and is a board member of the Northern Powerhouse Partnership. Chris is the Chair of the Manchester Business Sounding Board and interim Chair of Innovation Greater Manchester, a partnership of business, science, academia and local government, established to provide a blueprint for translational innovation between Greater Manchester and Government.
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. Chris is a Trustee of The Oglesby Charitable Trust.
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.
Kate Vokes is a Non Executive Director at Bruntwood. She studied at Leeds Business School before moving to London to take up her first job role as a buyer for Safeway. Kate returned to the region and achieved an MBA at Manchester Business School and then moving to Accenture.
In 2000 Kate joined the family business concentrating on roles in HR, customer services, marketing and brand. She has used her people-focused approach to property to pave the way for her current role working with 100s of partners in health, arts, sustainability and talent.
Bruntwood project - Trafford House Mural with artist Venessa Scott
Bruntwood project - 'With One Voice' at 111 Piccadilly
Kate is the Chair of the Oglesby Charitable Trust which supports charitable work to the value of £25m since its inception in the early 2000s and is a Board Trustee of the Royal Exchange Theatre, Young Manchester, The Shared Health Foundation and Focused Care.
Bruntwood project - Music in Hospitals & Care with RNCM
"As a business, we've always worked hard to help create places that are healthy, vibrant and culturally rich for colleagues, customers and local communities. A huge part of this is working with a wide range of partners who strive to do good and can demonstrate the positive impacts they have both now and in the long-term. Through our charitable donations and volunteering scheme, we want to ensure that everyone who lives, works and plays in our cities has a fair opportunity in life and by championing and supporting cultural, environmental and socially-focused charitable organisations, we aim to make a difference to those who need change most"
THE SHOOT: Neo, Manchester
The communal rooftop terrace space where the 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 its bright yellow seating and black surrounding walls being incorporated into the shots. Chris and Kate were very friendly and happy to be directed. Photographing two people at the same time was not easy. Trying to capture the best response from each of them in the same shot proved quite a challenge.
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 it began to rain.
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.