The Stage’s research into the demographics of theatre leadership was prompted by the unusually high number of senior job changes and appointments over the past couple of years.
There is a new guard at London theatres such as Hampstead Theatre, the Bush Theatre, the Donmar Warehouse, the Lyric Hammersmith Theatre and Battersea Arts Centre and in major regional venues such as Birmingham Rep and Manchester Royal Exchange.
These changes have rightfully added some new faces to theatre leadership, but we wanted to investigate what impact this has had on the make-up of the organisations in receipt of the most public funding from Arts
We also wanted to track what changes have occurred within this group over the past decade, when conversations about representation and equality have really come to the fore.
The resulting research is a snapshot of three years – 2019, 2014 and 2009 – and lays out the trends and developments among the subsidised sector’s top players over that time.
47 White executive directors
44 White artistic directors
35 Male artistic directors
31 White, male artistic directors
31 Female executive directors
17 Male executive directors
16 Female artistic directors
7 Minority ethnic artistic directors
1 Minority ethnic executive directors
Number of white, male artistic directors
“The stats on the female to male ratio in leadership positions raises more than a smile, but we have a long way to go for the rest. Being the only executive director of colour in the top 50 national portfolio organisations does not make me proud, it makes me despair for the theatre sector.
“Decades of significant investment in leadership potential has not resulted in black and brown people coming through the ranks. The brain drain of theatre leaders of colour should alarm us – we are using large volumes of ‘diverse’ labour at entry-level jobs, earning many organisations inclusive credentials, but potential leaders have nowhere to go and we are unable to retain the expertise of black, Asian and minority ethnicity established leaders. In all this, those occupying senior positions and hiring on boards remain unchanged.
“These figures tell a stark story, it is a layered narrative that may in fact whisper something not many people want to hear. We all have a responsibility to address this today and not tomorrow.”
Stella Kanu is executive director of London International Festival of Theatre
National Theatre: Rufus Norris – RADA
Royal Shakespeare Company: Gregory Doran – Bristol University, Bristol Old Vic Theatre School
Royal Exchange Theatre: Bryony Shanahan – East 15; Roy Alexander Weise – Rose Bruford
Royal Court Theatre: Vicky Featherstone – Manchester University
Curve Theatre: Nikolai Foster – Drama Centre London
Birmingham Rep Theatre: Sean Foley –Oxford University
Young Vic: Kwame Kwei-Armah – London College of Communication
Chichester Festival Theatre: Daniel Evans – Guildhall School of Music and Drama
Northern Stage: Lorne Campbell – John Moores Liverpool University, Royal Conservatoire of Scotland
Leeds Playhouse: James Brining – Cambridge University
These are the artistic directors of the 10 highest-funded theatre NPOs
The organisations selected are drawn from Arts Council England’s published list of national portfolio organisations for the period 2018-22. This was filtered by those that are categorised as theatres, and then the 50 organisations in receipt of the most subsidy from ACE over the funding period were selected.
Research was carried out in the fourth quarter of 2019, with organisations counted based on their leadership teams in post during November 2019. We then looked at the same month for previous years – 2014 and 2009.
Where an organisation did not have someone who fulfilled one or other of the roles, for example if they were between tenures, this was left blank.
Organisations’ leadership was categorised based on the people whose responsibility covers the artistic leadership of the theatre and the executive or business leadership. If one person held both of these responsibilities, their name was included in the artistic director category.
In instances where the leadership team’s roles were not clear from staff lists on theatre websites, individual theatres were contacted to clarify.
Historic data was sought through a combination of online research and direct contact with individual organisations.
On this occasion, the methodology of the study did not allow us to capture the disability representation and the socio-economic background of all individuals covered by the research.
Correction 2/1/2019: In our initial research, we mistakenly reported that there were no artistic directors from a minority ethnic background in 2009 running any of the top 50 best-funded NPOs. This was incorrect. There was in fact one – Kerry Michael at Theatre Royal, Stratford East. The results of the research have now been updated (2/1/2020) to take into account this error, for which we apologise.
The research was conducted by Matthew Hemley, Georgia Snow, Giverny Masso and Ruth Comerford