As well as being ravaged by the pandemic, five North East theatres have seen changes at the very top of their organisations since the beginning of 2020.
Most recent – last month, in fact – was the announcement that Philip Bernays would be leaving Newcastle Theatre Royal at the end of September after 16 years in the post and that he will be replaced as Chief Executive by Marianne Locatori who comes to Newcastle from the Theatre Royal, Plymouth.
The first was Northern Stage where, in October 2019, Artistic Director Lorne Campbell, who had been in post since taking over from Erica Whyman when she moved to the RSC in 2013, announced that he would be leaving in April 2020 to take over as Artistic Director at National Theatre Wales. It was not until August 2020 that Natalie Ibu, who had been Artistic Director and Chief Executive of tiata fahodzi, the only black-led theatre company committed solely to producing new work in the UK for the past five years, was appointed to replace him. She announced her first season in January 2021.
In December 2020 Assistant Director Mark Calvert announced that he would be leaving Northern Stage to pursue a freelance career.
At Live Theatre in February 2020, just before the pandemic really took hold, CEO Jim Beirne MBE announced that he would be leaving the organisation after 20 years in post but in April that year he agreed to delay his departure until a replacement could be found. Then in August Artistic Director Joe Douglas announced his resignation so as to return to Scotland.
Jacqui Kell was appointed as Chief Executive / Joint CEO in December 2020 and in March 2021 Jim Beirne finally left. The following month Jack McNamara, Artistic Director of Nottingham-based touring company New Perspectives was appointed as Artistic Director / Joint CEO. He will take up his post in late August.
In January 2020 Gillian Hambledon, the founder of Amble-based Northumberland Theatre Company (NTC), announced her retirement. She was succeeded by her assistant director Louis Roberts.
Finally another company founder and Artistic Director, Cinzia Hardy of Morpeth-based The November Club, announced in April 2020 that she would be leaving at the end of the year. Freelance director Joe Hufton was appointed at succeed her and he joined the company in October to work alongside Cinzia Hardy, taking the reins in January this year.
The months since October 2019 have seen more changes in the leaders of North East theatre than at any other time that I can remember – and that’s a long time!