It is with great sadness that we received the news this morning that Michael Oglesby has passed away.
Mike was a passionate supporter of the Royal Exchange Theatre, he was an audience member, an advocate, a champion and a true custodian of all the work we do - from the productions we put on our stages (missing only a handful in over 40 years) to the work we do with communities across Greater Manchester. Mike had a deeply held belief in the power of theatre and live performance, in the influence it can have on individuals and communities and the potential it has to galvanise a city and directly impact the wellbeing of its residents. A belief we hold strongly in our hearts too.
His journey from audience member to creative partner has played a vital part in the development of our theatre. His support, both personally and through Bruntwood and the Oglesby Charitable Trust has had a fundamental impact on the way we challenge and progress theatre as a dynamic art form, that is essential in the growth of any city across the world. It is not an exaggeration to say that we would not be who we are today had Mike not challenged and encouraged us to be the best we could be.
We cannot talk about Mike’s impact without talking about The Bruntwood Prize for Playwriting and his fervent, unwavering belief in the power of new writing. The Bruntwood Prize began in 2005 and has grown from strength to strength across the years. It now holds a pivotal place in the cultural ecology of theatre across the UK and beyond and has fondly become known as The Bruntwood. This resolute belief in new writing has allowed us as a theatre to champion, celebrate and develop some of the UK's most original and inspiring playwrights.
This is only one way in which Michael Oglesby has supported our theatre. The Oglesby Charitable Trust’s generous gift earlier this year has allowed us to cement the work we are doing in communities across Greater Manchester via Local Exchange, it has enabled us to build and share our new pop-up theatre the Den and create innovative projects like the BIRTH Festival. We are very proud to have this remarkable relationship and are committed to ensuring that the legacy which Mike began is continued in the Royal Exchange’s work.
Mike and the Oglesby family have quite simply become part of the fabric of the Royal Exchange, and it is with huge respect that we shall miss him, his tenacity, his passion and his belief in the extraordinary power of arts and culture in making a better place for us all.
Our thoughts are with Jean, Kate, Chris and his family at this incredibly sad time.
Steve Freeman, Bryony Shanahan, Roy Alexander Weise and all at the Royal Exchange Theatre.