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Northcott Theatre Announces New Leadership Structure with Search for Creative Director and Joint Chief Executive

  • The Chief Executive role will be shared by three people with distinct areas of expertise.
  • The Northcott has been governed by a co-leadership model for two years. The Joint Chief Executives will report to Co-Chairs Becky Chapman and David Balcombe.
  • Emma Stephenson (Finance & Operations) and Kelly Johnson (Development & Marketing), currently Interim Co-Chief Executives, will share Chief Executive responsibilities once a new Creative Director is in post.


The Northcott Theatre in Exeter has announced a new leadership structure which will see three people share the role of Chief Executive. Emma Stephenson, Finance & Operations Director and Kelly Johnson, Development & Marketing Director, will share the role once a Creative Director is appointed.

The re-structure follows a series of strategic developments at the Northcott over the past few years. In 2021 a significant drive to diversify the board led to the appointment of six new trustees, with two sharing the position of Chair. In 2022, the Northcott took over the management of the Barnfield Theatre in Exeter’s city centre to expand its work with young people, artists and local communities, and offer a creative platform for more people in the region. 

Becky Chapman, Co-Chair of the Northcott board said: 

‘Creating a Co-Chair model was a positive decision to be led by a conversation rather than an individual. It emphasised the core values of listening and dialogue – the coming together of different perspectives to drive good decisions. The Northcott is an organisation working with many different communities at the Northcott Theatre, the Barnfield Theatre and in other locations in Devon. Our role is to make accessible spaces where dialogue can happen with everyone, and that requires new ways of thinking.’

David Balcombe, Co-Chair added: 

‘The Co-Chair model was a first step towards a more discursive leadership culture. It also recognised that a sole leader carries a lot of weight, and it is better for the wellbeing of the individual and the organisation if this is distributed. Research tells us that burn-out rates are soaring, so our sector urgently needs to find better structures that inspire the next generation of creative leaders and offer them broader career pathways.

After much consideration, the trustees agreed that we have an opportunity to make an exciting step change with a Joint Chief Executive model – a change that recognises different areas of expertise and lived experiences, puts collaboration at the centre of the organisation and delivers a more robust and resilient leadership model for our sector.’

Recruitment for a Creative Director & Joint Chief Executive commences today. The Creative Director & Joint Chief Executive will lead the Northcott’s creative strategy with responsibility for programming, producing and creative participation. More information can be found at