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Jersey Opera House quarrel settled as director replaced

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Jersey Opera House has appointed a new theatre director, as its board reached a settlement with previous incumbent Ian Stephens, who was dismissed from the post earlier this year.

Jasmine Hendry, currently Chester Gateway Theatre’s chief executive, will take up the role from January. She replaces Stephens, whose dispute with the Opera House’s board was concluded this week in a confidential settlement. His employment tribunal had been halted after its chair advised Stephens and the JOH board to resolve their disagreement by alternate means and the settlement was reached outside the tribunal.

Earlier this year, the theatre was plunged into crisis when Stephens was sacked and board member Michael Vardon quit because of the decision. At the time, the director was accused of “gross misconduct” over disputed payments to a theatre technician.

However, a joint statement issued by the JOH this week explained: “The board acknowledges that there was no financial impropriety whatsoever on the part of Mr Stephens. The board further acknowledges the commitment Mr Stephens has shown and the contribution he has made to the redevelopment of a first-class community theatre in Jersey.

“Both parties recognise that the pursuance of a resolution of this dispute through the tribunal was not in the interest of Mr Stephens or of The Jersey Opera House Limited. For these reasons, the parties have entered into a confidential accord which will allow all concerned to put this matter behind them.”

Stephens said he was glad the board had acknowledged there was no financial wrongdoing. He added: “I can now put all this behind me and get on with what I want to be doing, which is to return to directing again.”

Meanwhile, it has been confirmed that deputy director Irene Hamilton will be leaving the venue. Hendry will be charged with finding a replacement deputy when she takes up her post next year.

Hendry commented: “I am looking forward to working at the Opera House and becoming part of the Jersey community. My experience in managing venues across the British Isles will enable me to make a difference at the Jersey Opera House. I look forward to working with the board to develop further the programme.”

Opera House chairman Christopher Lakeman also revealed that the make-up of the board would be re-considered in 2007, when he would be talking to the theatre’s funders about securing a “wider skills mix” for the organisation.