Steve Freeman image credit Tony Bartholomew for Stephen Joseph Theatre 800X300 

The Royal Exchange Theatre is thrilled to announce the appointment of Stephen Freeman as the new Executive Director. Stephen will join the Company following his role as Chief Executive at the Stephen Joseph Theatre, an organisation which has thrived under his inspiring leadership and dynamic partnership with the Artistic Director Paul Robinson. Having spent several years as an Arts Council England Relationship Manager for Theatre in the North West, he has had a long association with Manchester’s vibrant cultural scene and with the work of the Royal Exchange. As such, Stephen has an intrinsic understanding of the Theatre’s creative development and its artistic journey. He joins the Exchange at a time when the work both on and off stage is growing in ambition, as audiences become more diverse and more representative of the city region, and as the Theatre deepens its relationships with communities across Greater Manchester. Working alongside Artistic Director Sarah Frankcom, Stephen will help shape an exciting future for this unique theatre.

Sarah Frankcom, Royal Exchange Artistic Director said of the appointment…
‘Stephen is passionate about theatre, he is an innovative, creative thinker with a unique insight into what it takes to make original theatre and develop strong, long-term connections with audiences. I am delighted that he will be joining us here at the Exchange. Stephen brings with him a huge amount of knowledge and a breadth of experience that will be invaluable to the future of the Royal Exchange. I look forward to working with him on the next stage of our journey.’ 

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Stephen began his career in the arts at Stafford Borough Council before taking up the role of Producer for Stafford Festival Shakespeare. He developed the festival’s flagship open-air production into one of the region’s most significant cultural events. Alongside this and his position at Arts Council England, his other roles have included Artistic Programme Manager for the Gatehouse Theatre, General Manager at the New Wolsey Theatre and Festival Director for PULSE Fringe Festival. In 2016 he joined Scarborough’s Stephen Joseph Theatre as Chief Executive. Stephen leaves the Stephen Joseph Theatre in an incredibly strong position, where audiences are growing and the work is flourishing. Stephen will take up his role as the Royal Exchange’s Executive Director in January 2019.

Stephen commented…
‘I am delighted to be joining the Royal Exchange, a theatre I’ve had strong connections to for over twenty years. The Exchange is creating energising and deeply engaging work with brilliantly diverse artists and is at the fore-front of changing the way theatre buildings work with their audiences. Making great, relevant art and understanding audiences are the central pillars of any producing theatre, and I find the way that the Exchange is interrogating and progressing this very exciting.

I’m thrilled to become part of such a dynamic organisation. I know that working alongside Artistic Director Sarah Frankcom and the Board to devise the next chapter in this prestigious organisation’s life will be a great adventure.’

Ben Caldwell, the Chair of the Royal Exchange’s Board concludes…
'Stephen is a highly regarded arts professional with a deep understanding of our unique theatre and the creative landscape of the Manchester city region. He is a fantastic addition to the Royal Exchange with the vision and acumen needed to help shape a vibrant future for our ambitious theatre. I’m delighted to be working with him.'