Karen Simpson, the chief executive officer and artistic director at the Theatre Royal Bury St Edmunds, today announced that she will be stepping down from her role in February.
She has held the post for six-and-a-half years and joined, alongside general manager Adrian Grady in 2013 when the theatre was in danger of closure with significant financial difficulties.
Karen’s vision was to create a theatre for everyone and steer a new and more sustainable business model and in her own words she “leaves the organisation knowing that that is exactly what is being achieved.”
She has been living with an incurable cancer diagnosis for the past two-and-a-half years and now wants to spend more time with family and friends.
“I would like to say thank you to everyone for welcoming me to the region and making this experience such a rewarding one. The support I have received from the board, staff, volunteers and the general public has been overwhelming and enabled me to continue to work through much of this period,” said Karen.
Theatre Royal audiences have grown year on year, with a varied programme on stage. In addition to putting the theatre back into sustainable financial position, Karen’s own achievements include directing the annual pantomime which has become so much part of local family life; producing work that reaches directly into schools and communities and directing Roy Hudd in Theatre Royal’s near sell out production of Goodnight Mister Tom in 2018. This year has been Theatre Royal’s 200th anniversary and Karen wanted to celebrate its remarkable heritage and create a real legacy for the future.
She added: “I’m immensely proud of what we have achieved at Theatre Royal and know that I leave the theatre in a good place for future generations to enjoy.”
Roger Quince, the chairman of Theatre Royal Board, said: “Karen has made a stunning contribution in her six-and-a-half years with the theatre. As artistic director she has greatly broadened our programme and brought in new audiences, in particular young families, and increased the number and quality of our own productions. As CEO, very ably supported by Adrian, she has put Theatre Royal on a stable financial footing, and built a strong team, making us more resilient. Her clear direction, passion and ability to bring others along have inspired us all. Karen will be hugely missed, not least by me.”
Mr Grady, who has been covering for Karen, continues as general manager/interim CEO aided by Marcus Romer as interim artistic director.
Mr Grady will work closely with Mr Quince and the other board members to recruit a successor.