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Lancaster’s Dukes Theatre to restructure leadership in response to funding cuts

Artistic director Sarah Punshon is leaving the Dukes Theatre in Lancaster
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The artistic director of the Dukes Theatre in Lancaster is leaving the venue as it announces plans to restructure its leadership team to weather recent funding cuts.

Sarah Punshon is leaving the venue to become freelance, but her role will be merged with that of the chief executive to create a new ‘director’ position, who will run the building.

The Dukes, which is Lancashire’s only professional producing theatre, is currently transitioning to a new business model following several years of funding cuts. This has largely consisted of reductions to local authority funding: the theatre now receives 24% of its annual income from public subsidy compared with 66% in 2006/7.

Earlier this year, the Dukes warned that redundancies would be necessary in order to implement the new business plan and “secure a sustainable financial future”.

Punshon joined in 2016 and as she leaves will hand over the building’s leadership to current chief executive Victoria Firth, who will become interim director. The Dukes has now begun the search for a new leader to take the reins later this year.

Punshon said: “It’s been an enormous privilege to work with the brilliant team at the Dukes. I’m so proud of the fantastic work we’ve created together on stage, in Williamson Park, and with the young people and communities across Lancashire.”

Punshon will return to the theatre later this year to direct its Christmas production of Cinderella.

Alison Clark, director north at Arts Council England, said Punshon’s tenure had seen the theatre “becoming a significant venue to see new work in development”.

“There are companies across the country who owe a real debt of gratitude to Sarah for her support and encouragement. We’re very pleased that her relationship with the Dukes will continue when she returns to direct the Christmas production.”

Sarah Punshon: ‘At Lancaster Dukes, we live on a knife-edge of survival’

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