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Exeter Northcott Theatre Announce New Creative Director and Joint Chief Executive Leadership

  • Exeter Northcott Theatre appoint Martin Berry as Creative Director and Joint Chief Executive.
  • The Chief Executive role will be shared between three people with distinct areas of expertise: Martin Berry (Creative Director), Kelly Johnson (Development & Marketing Director) and Emma Stephenson (Finance & Operations Director).
  • Exeter Northcott Theatre has been governed at board level by co-leadership for two years. The Joint Chief Executives will report to Board Co-Chairs Becky Chapman and David Balcombe.

Exeter Northcott Theatre has announced the appointment of Martin Berry as its new Creative Director and Joint Chief Executive, from 20 November 2023.

Martin’s appointment to Exeter Northcott coincides with the theatre adopting a new senior leadership structure, in which three people will take the shared role of Joint Chief Executive.

With Exeter Northcott now managing two venues, including the Exeter city-centre Barnfield Theatre, Martin joins at a pivotal time for the organisation as it drives forward its aim to provide more creative opportunities for a greater range of people.

Martin will lead Exeter Northcott’s creative strategy, with responsibility for programming, producing and creative engagement. He will share the role of Chief Executive, responsible for overall strategy and general operations at the theatre, with Kelly Johnson, Development & Marketing Director, and Emma Stephenson, Finance & Operations Director.

Martin brings extensive community engagement and senior management experience to Exeter Northcott. In his current role as Director of Participation at Nottingham Playhouse, Martin created multiple performing arts groups for under-represented voices in Nottinghamshire. His notable achievements include establishing new groups for disabled adults and children, the award-winning Nottingham Queer Arts Collective, and Rootz Theatre Company for young people in care. Additionally, Martin has directed forty-nine productions, including seven new children and family productions for the Playhouse, performed for local libraries and outdoor spaces, and developed thriving partnerships with a wide range of regional and national organisations, such as the National Theatre and Nottinghamshire universities. 

Martin said:

‘I am absolutely delighted to join Emma, Kelly and all of the Exeter Northcott team at such a crucial and exciting time. There is massive potential here to diversify and develop the programme, to unearth and support artists and to create dynamic community hubs for the people of Exeter and beyond. Having grown up in the South West, I feel honoured and excited to co-lead the Exeter Northcott charity, in a city and region so steeped in history, innovation and wonderful stories.’

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

Embracing this new senior leadership structure is another transformative moment for Exeter Northcott. This model will enable the theatre to reduce senior workload pressures, diversify decision-making processes, and further innovate its programming and community engagement activities, enriching Exeter’s cultural landscape.

Becky Chapman, Co-Chair of Exeter Northcott’s board, said:

‘The appointment of Co-Chairs was driven by a desire 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. Exeter 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:

‘Having taken the first step towards a more discursive leadership culture, we 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.

The trustees agreed that the introduction of Joint Chief Executives marks an exciting step change – a change that recognises different areas of expertise and lived experiences, puts collaboration at the centre of the organisation and demonstrates a more robust and resilient example of sector leadership.’

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