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Jonathan Church appointed chair of new Marlowe Theatre Trust in Canterbury

By Chris Price

One of the country’s top stage directors and producers has been named as the first chair of a new trust set to run Kent’s largest theatre.

Jonathan Church will head up the Marlowe Theatre Trust in Canterbury, which is poised to oversea the management of the attraction if a transfer from owner Canterbury City Council is approved next year.

Known as the "turnaround king" in the industry, Mr Church was artistic director and joint chief executive at Chichester Festival Theatre and artistic director at Birmingham Repertory Theatre and Salisbury Playhouse.

He is credited with transforming its fortunes of all three.

He runs his own production company, Jonathan Church Productions, which was formed in association with Delfont Mackintosh Theatres.

He is also artistic director for the Theatre Royal Bath’s Summer Season and is on the board of the Almeida Theatre, London, and the National Youth Music Theatre.

In January, Canterbury City Council announced it wished to transfer the operation of the theatre to an independent trust, although it will still retain ownership.

A final decision about the transfer will be made at a meeting of the full council in January and, if approved, Mr Church and his shadow board will oversee the transfer of the theatre to a charitable trust in the spring or summer of next year.

The move will open up more funding streams available to charities, including from donors, trusts and foundations.

The Marlowe Theatre in Canterbury
The Marlowe Theatre in Canterbury

It would also allow access to a number of tax benefits not available to the council, which subsidises the loss-making theatre to the tune of £158,000 a year.

The 1,200-seater venue reopened in 2011 after a £25 million rebuild over

Paula Gillespie, acting director of The Marlowe, said Mr Church was “an inspired appointment”.

Council leader Cllr Simon Cook added: “It says so much about The Marlowe’s reputation in the industry that we have been able to attract such a? highly talented and? respected figure as Jonathan to become the Chair of the new trust.”

Mr Church, 50, who holds a CBE, said: “The rebuilding and revitalisation of the new Marlowe Theatre is one of the great regional arts success stories of the last decade.

“The combination of enlightened investment by Canterbury City Council, the hard work and commitment of the theatre staff and the passionate engagement of audiences has created a unique environment for future growth and success.

“I’m extremely honoured to be working with the theatre in this new role at such an exciting moment for the organisation.”

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