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Stephen Joseph artistic director steps down as new chief executive joins venue

UPDATE This story was updated on June 18 following a conversation with new chief executive Mathew Russell.

Stephen Joseph Theatre artistic director Chris Monks is to step down after seven years, as the theatre implements a new leadership structure.

Monks, who succeeded Alan Ayckbourn as artistic director of the theatre in 2009, said that the arrival of new chief executive Mathew Russell made it the “right time to step aside”.

Russell has joined the theatre this week from the Southbank Centre in London, where he was an executive producer. Prior to that he was executive director of Watford Palace Theatre.

The appointment of Russell as chief executive marks the beginning of a new management model for the theatre, which has previously been jointly run by an artistic director and executive director. Stephen Wood [1] was most recently executive director, until standing down earlier this year. .

Russell said: “The board have decided that in terms of priorities in this business planning process that we are going to engage in, and because the organisation is ready for a bit of change, that it would be easier to be led by a single person. There are a lot of different models out there. It’s all to do with what the current priorities are.”

He said the plan was to appoint a new artistic director later this year.

“It gives me time to reflect on what we will be looking for from somebody in that role,” he said, adding that he would “work really closely with the artistic director” on the programme for the theatre.

“It’s really important…that the relationship is strong and you play off each other’s strengths,” he added.

Monks said he would now focus on working as a freelance director when he steps down in December, as well as his own writing.

“I have several sizeable theatre projects in development which I’m looking forward to realising in the coming months. I’ve spent seven years in Scarborough and made some wonderful friends. I’ve been very proud of the shows I’ve directed here and the significant progress we’ve made in widening the scope of our productions in a very challenging economic environment,” he said.

He added that he considered the success of the theatre’s community work through SJT Outreach and the opening of new outreach facilities as “two of the most significant achievements in my career”.

Russell praised Monks’ “passion for SJT” and added: “We will be careful to build on his artistic achievements and in particular his pioneering of SJT’s outreach work.”