Maddermarket in row over artistic director dismissal

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A Norwich theatre has terminated the contract of its 24 year-old artistic director after only eight months in the job, leading to a dispute over the reasons for her departure.

Genevieve Raghu, one of the UK’s youngest artistic directors when she joined the Maddermarket Theatre in February, said she was dismissed by the theatre’s board of trustees last month.

Raghu claims the board failed to provide her with adequate reasons for the termination of her contract. She said, after her dismissal, she was at first told there were concerns surrounding the quality of her productions, before the board retracted this and cited lack of competence instead.

When Raghu requested a full written statement of reasons for her dismissal, the theatre refused to provide one, offering a verbal debrief instead, she said.

Raghu believes she was told to leave before the end of her three-year contract due to the board’s “inward-looking attitude” about arts management and its “great resistance to change”.

She claims that her attempts to instigate change and take risks with the programming by inviting non-local directors were at odds with the board’s previous way of working, despite the initial job advert stating the need for an “ambitious” and “distinctive” programme that enhanced the theatre’s reputation at a “local, regional and national level”.

She said: “In my opinion, artistic directors must look forward, and with the board I encountered, their confidence in looking forward just was not there.

“For the Maddermarket, I knew that risk needed to be balanced with commercial viability – placing what the audience expects and wants alongside what the audience didn’t know they wanted.”

She added: “A trust needs to be hands off. They are not the theatre professionals. The changes in theatre in the last decade have been huge, and for a theatre to survive it needs to keep up with those changes and accept there are many ways of making theatre.”

Raghu also claims that the board told the local press that she had “left” the venue, which she said implied it was her own choice to do so.

A spokesman for the theatre disputed this and said no official statement was released because it was not agreed upon with Raghu.

Les Hoare, general manager of the Maddermarket Theatre, said: “The relationship between any employee and employer is one that is private and confidential, and must be respected.

“It is for this reason that I am unable to comment. I do not believe that this mutual respect should change simply because an individual’s employment has come to an end.

“While I respect Genevieve is free to express her opinions, neither I nor the chair of the board of trustees are prepared to enter into any discussion on the subject, for we genuinely believe it would be wrong for us to do so.”

Hoare said that the Maddermarket Theatre would not be replacing Raghu with a new artistic director for at least the next year, following a decision by the board to review the organisation’s structure.

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