Liverpool businessman Max Steinberg has been appointed chair of the trust overseeing the £28 million Shakespeare North project, amid a period of turbulence that has led to a trustee resigning from their position.
Steinberg became chair of the Shakespeare North Trust earlier this month following the departure of Peter Scott, who had led plans to create the replica Jacobean playhouse in Prescot, Merseyside, for 15 years. He decided to step down last year.
One trustee, who has not been identified publicly, has resigned their position on the board following Steinberg’s selection as chair, the trust confirmed.
The Stage understands there to have been differences of opinion among some trustees over the future priorities of the organisation, however Shakespeare North’s chief executive Ian Tabbron stressed that no formal objection or complaint about the process had been registered.
Shakespeare North, which has the backing of Judi Dench as its patron, is being billed as a home for Shakespeare in the north of England, and it is hoped it will create a ‘Shakespearean Triangle’ with London and Stratford-upon-Avon.
Plans to create a Shakespearean theatre in Prescot have been in existence for several decades, and were revived in earnest in 2015. Construction has now begun on the 380-seat theatre, which is intended to open in 2022.
Steinberg takes over the chairmanship of the trust tasked with exhibiting “a clear focus on maintaining momentum and fundraising” as construction gets underway.
A well-known business leader in Liverpool, Steinberg is the former chief executive of regeneration company Liverpool Vision. He is also chair of several other Merseyside organisations, including the group that runs the city’s Arena and Convention Centre.
When complete, the theatre will house a flexible Jacobean-style playhouse, modelled on the 17th-century cockpit-in-court design. Plans also include a studio space and a Shakespeare learning and education centre.
Knowsley Council is providing the majority of the project’s funding, giving £12.2 million – double its initial contribution. This is supported by funding from the Liverpool City Region Combined Authority, which last year agreed to increase its funding by £4 million in order to support increased construction costs, and £5 million from central government.
High-profile backers include Dench, who earlier this month attended an event at the Houses of Parliament and said she was “completely behind” the scheme.
“My own career was inspired by visits to the theatre in Stratford-upon-Avon as a child and it is wonderful to imagine today’s young people being inspired in the same way. This project will be much more than ‘just’ a theatre and its impact will be seen for generations to come,” she said.
The project has also received a £250,000 donation from the philanthropic foundation set up in the name of the late Ken Dodd, who was also a patron. The money will help create an outdoor performance garden at Shakespeare North.