New Wolsey Theatre leadership duo to step down after 21 years

The New Wolsey's chief exeutive Sarah Holmes and artistic director Peter Rowe are stepping down from their roles next year

The New Wolsey's chief executive Sarah Holmes and artistic director Peter Rowe are stepping down from their roles next year - Credit: Mike Kwasniak

Two leaders of Ipswich's New Wolsey Theatre have announced they will be stepping down from their roles next March after an "exhilarating" 21-year career.

Chief executive Sarah Holmes and artistic director Peter Rowe joined the theatre in 2000 with the venue in "mothballs" after it had been closed for 18 months.

But the duo has overseen the theatre's growth over the last two decades, hosting hit shows such as Sweeney Todd, Guys and Dolls and the Ipswich Town-inspired Our Blue Heaven.

In a joint statement, Sarah and Peter said: "We have had an exhilarating time in Ipswich making popular, accessible theatre in this unique auditorium for over twenty years.

"When we arrived in the year 2000 the theatre had been closed for eighteen months and was in mothballs. We now go into our 2021 autumn season with a new community participation hub - NW2, an outdoor performance space - “the Bowl”, a re-modelled Front of House and a re-furbished auditorium once again full of life as we welcome audiences back to our opening production, Never Lost At Home.

"As the New Wolsey returns to full strength, and our industry emerges from the challenges of the pandemic, with arts organisations rightly looking to diversify their leadership, it is time to hand this opportunity on to a new generation of theatre makers.

"Next year is our twenty first birthday year, with a programme including new plays, a new musical, co-productions, a community play and our trademark “rock and roll” pantomime alongside an extensive new Creative Communities offer.

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"For the two of us this provides an appropriate anniversary to bow out and pass on a restored and refreshed organisation to a new team."

Richard Lister, chair of the New Wolsey's board of directors, said: "Sarah and Peter have run this operation with tremendous dedication, energy, flair and skill.

"As well as creating many memorable productions including world premieres of new musicals ranging from It’s a Wonderful Life to Midsummer Songs, 20th Century Boy to The Season, they have created and driven major national initiatives such as Ramps on the Moon, which has inspired an industry-wide change in the employment of deaf and disabled people.

"Under their stewardship, the New Wolsey has become an essential part of the local, regional and national theatre landscape.

"They have given Ipswich a theatre to be proud of - one of national importance.   We offer our thanks, wish them well and look forward to continuing the journey of this organisation with a new generation of cultural leaders."