We're delighted to announce the appointment of Ben Caldwell as the new Chair of its Board. He takes over later this year from out-going Chair Paul Lee who is to step down from the post after more than fourteen years.

BenCaldwell250by250pxA business angel investor, Ben Caldwell is a founder investor in the Homeless World Cup and a member of Ashoka – an organisation that supports social entrepreneurs.

Born in 1964, he grew up and went to school in Greater Manchester before reading history at Cambridge. After a brief spell in a touring theatre company he joined his 7th generation family business in Warrington, which manufactured and distributed tools and hardware. Over the next twenty-five years this evolved into an outsourcing company that is still based in Warrington. Three years ago Ben left the business to pursue other interests within the steel industry and property sector.

His love of the theatre began with a school trip to see THE DUCHESS OF MALFI at the Royal Exchange. From that point Ben grasped every opportunity he could, appearing at the Edinburgh Fringe in a four-man version of DR FAUSTUS, an award-winning production of THE ROSES OF EYAM and even Sir Not-A-Lot in the castles of Wales. But he always knew he was better suited to business than treading the boards, building an organisation from £1 to over £100 million.

His father gave him his love for rock-and-roll (Ben is somewhat obsessive about vinyl), his mother gave him his appreciation of art (she attended Manchester Art School and is a book illustrator and embroider), his sister is a highly regarded TV director who at one time directed Blue Peter, but it was his grandparents that encouraged him into the theatre.

Ben has always been committed to his local community, in the past acting as chair of the Warrington Youth Club and vice-chair of the Warrington Collegiate. His two daughters both went to school in the area and now live and work in Manchester.

He said: “The Royal Exchange is at the very heart of theatre in Manchester. It is a privilege to be entrusted with this role on behalf of our community of loyal supporters, and to be joining such a capable and committed team here at the theatre. I hope to live up to the marvellous legacy that Paul Lee has left and look forward to playing a part in what looks like being some very exiting and vibrant years for performing arts in the city.”
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Paul Lee who is stepping down as Chair of the Royal Exchange after fourteen years, said: “I congratulate Ben on his appointment as Chair to succeed me.

“His passion for the theatre and enthusiasm for the Royal Exchange mean I am confident that he will be an excellent chairman who will help to ensure that the company continues to go from strength to strength. I believe it is a first class appointment.

“I feel privileged and delighted to have been chair and have hugely enjoyed my time in the role. I am particularly pleased to be leaving at a time when the theatre is in such a strong position.”

The Royal Exchange’s Executive Director, Fiona Gasper, said: “I am delighted to welcome Ben as our new Chair. His passion for theatre together with his skills and experiences make him a perfect fit for the challenges that face us over the next years and I look forward to working with him as the theatre moves forward in exciting new directions.

“I would also like to thank Paul for the immense contribution he has made to the theatre over the many years he has been involved and wish him well in the future.”

Ian Tabbron, Senior Relationship Manager, Arts Council England, North West, said: “The engagement of Ben Caldwell as the Chair of the Royal Exchange is an exciting appointment. He is a dynamic entrepreneur who promises to bring exceptional leadership skills to the role, and will certainly be a great asset to the company and the arts across the North.”

A very big welcome to Ben! We're delighted you're part of the RET team!