Curtain opens on new future for theatre


The curtain opened on a new act in The Marlowe Theatre’s story on Saturday (1 December).

Canterbury City Council handed over management of the theatre to an independent charitable trust and private company chaired by Jonathan Church, one of the country’s top theatre directors, and led by new Chief Executive Deborah Shaw.

The advantages of trust status include:

  • Saving the council money in terms of day-to-day running costs and the cost of the building’s upkeep
  • Allowing the trust to use its charitable status to attract tax breaks, gift aid, donations, charitable grant funding and legacies
  • Giving the theatre’s management increased artistic and creative freedom
  • Allowing theatre management increased opportunity to be dynamic and entrepreneurial 

The Marlowe Theatre

The Marlowe Trust Chairman Mr Church said: “Thanks to the extraordinary efforts of Canterbury City Council, The Marlowe Theatre is a state-of-the-art theatre, has an exceptional staff and a very well-deserved reputation as one of the country’s flagship regional theatres.

“Everyone connected with the trust is proud and excited to be taking The Marlowe on to the next stage in its development.’We hope to build on the great work that is already being done by The Marlowe and provide the best work and experiences for all of the many audiences and communities we serve.”

The existing staff at The Marlowe will transfer straight to the trust and keep their existing terms and conditions.

Trust Chief Executive Deborah Shaw, former Head of Creative Direction and Innovation at Historic Royal Palaces and former Associate Director of the Royal Shakespeare Company, said: “As an independent, self-funding charity, we are now able to invest directly in developing our programme on stage and in our creative work for and with the communities of Canterbury and east Kent.

“These are exciting times for The Marlowe as we redefine what a major regional theatre can be.”

The cast of this year’s Marlowe panto, Cinderella

The trust will lease the theatre, and the Marlowe Kit in the former Poor Priests’ Hospital in Stour Street, from the council for 25 years. The current theatre opened in 2011 following a £26.4m remodelling project.

Canterbury City Council Chief Executive Colin Carmichael said: “Although the new theatre has thrived with the council taking a hands-off but supporting role, we all believe the time has come for a new trust, dedicated to The Marlowe’s success and development, to take on those challenges.

“The Marlowe has become the heart of the city and east Kent’s cultural life and we want to work closely with the amazing trustees and theatre staff to take that on to new levels.”

Councillors made the decision to relinquish control of the theatre in January of this year.

Council Leader Simon Cook said: “More than 10 years ago the council had the confidence and vision to invest in a new theatre for Canterbury. It has succeeded more than we could have imagined and The Marlowe has now established a firm foundation and stellar reputation to build on for the future. We are so proud of what The Marlowe has become.

“A team, whose sole focus is the theatre, will have the time and space to be creative without the distraction of being part of the council. We know the new trust will ensure that The Marlowe will continue to go from strength to strength and we wish them every success.”

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