Meet the team

Danielle Smith is Sandblast’s Founding Director and the main driving force behind music empowerment project Studio-Live.

With a background in Anthropology and Arabic (she speaks Hassania, the Arabic dialect spoken by the Saharawis), Danielle has worked extensively as a freelance documentary filmmaker and photographer. Her award-winning film Beat of Distant Hearts about the role of the arts in the Saharawi struggle featured in festivals in the US, Africa and Europe. She was associate producer for the BBC 2 Correspondent program Western Sahara: A forgotten war. Danielle has been dedicated to promoting understanding and awareness of diverse cultures and has spoken widely about the Saharawi problem in places such as the UN and the British Parliament. Since her first visit to the camps in 1991, she has returned many times teaching English and working on projects related to women, children, oral histories and the arts.

In 2007 Danielle produced the Sandblast Festival at London’s Rich Mix, which brought over 20 Saharawi artists from the refugee camps for the first time and included the Tiris band, which she helped form through talent competitions. She also produced Tiris’s debut album, the critically acclaimed Sandtracks, which got a 5-star review in Songlines and a 4-star review in The Guardian for its digital re-release. The festival and success of the Tiris music in reaching audiences across the UK were important factors in the development of Studio-Live.

Violeta Ruano
joined the Sandblast team in September 2011 as Studio-Live Assistant Project Manager and has been working ever since on diverse aspects of the project, such as communications, fundraising, fieldwork assistance, research, general assistance for the Sahara Nights launch of Studio-Live, coordination of Run the Sahara 2013 and organisation of Sahara Live Week (April 2013).

Violeta is a musician and ethnomusicologist actively researching Saharawi music and culture, with a special interest in applied ethnomusicology and cultural advocacy. She also has experience in radio, music journalism and performance. Violeta studied her MMus Ethnomusicology at SOAS University, where she trained to do ethnographic research in music, completing her dissertation Polisario Vencerá?: The role  of music in conflict revolution and new identities in Saharawi culture with distinction in September 2011. She is now doing her PhD, also at SOAS, on Saharawi music, youth and politics. Her research is being funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC), SOAS and the British Library.

Ángel L. Martínez joined the Sandblast Team in September 2012 as Communications and Marketing Officer and works on all aspect related to communications, such as editing web content, updating the social media platforms, fundraising, outreaching partner and sponsorships, research and general assistance to promote Studio-Live and the Sahara Marathon.

Ángel is a freelance journalist actively researching on social movements and Saharawi activism. He has an extensive eperience in media both in English and Spanish working in radio, TV and websites as well as publishing in different newspapers such as Diario Jaén, The Malta Independent, The Malta Business Weekly or The Times of Malta. Ángel completed his MA in International Politics at City University, where he obtained a distinction mark and was awarded with the departmental prize for the best MA dissertation for his research on ‘The role of NGOs in the Western Sahara conflict’ in September 2011. He has also worked in the communication department of diverse international non-governmental organisations in London.

Other members since 2008:


Hamdi Mayub – Studio-Live Field Coordinator

Madlyn Ray-Jones – Events Coordinator

Nina Murray – Communications Officer

Rodolfo Cordova – Fundraiser

Tania Jackson – Marketing Consultant

Cathrin Lemoine – Web Developer and Communications Officer


David Thomas - Designer

Inma Laguna – Events Assistant & Web Developer

Meng Zhao – Designer

Alex Mackay - Run the Sahara Coordinator

Sabrina Tucci – Field Researcher

Sabrina Salis – Researcher


Craig Melson – Web Content and Research

Clare Scoltock – Social Media Officer

Rachel Zoldan – Press Officer

Amy Cash  – Arabic translator

Note: we’re only mentioning here the people who have been volunteering on a regular basis over time, fulfilling a specific role. There are so many more wonderful volunteers who have helped us over the years to support us on specific dates for different events. There are too many to mention, but we’re really grateful to all of them!

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