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News: Theatre Royal Appoints First Ever Life President

Theatre Royal Appoints
First Ever Life President

Newcastle Theatre Royal has announced the appointment of its first ever Life President, with retiring trustee John Ward OBE DL taking on the role.

A former regional director of Barclays Bank, based in Newcastle, John first became involved with the Theatre Royal in 1988, when he joined as a Trustee.  John said “my Grey Street office at Barclays overlooked the theatre and I really enjoyed my theatre-going visits, so when I was asked to join them as a Trustee I was delighted.”

During the past 25 years, John has served spells as Vice-Chair and Chair of our Finance and General Purposes Committee, but probably his most telling contribution was the part he played in the acquisition of the former Barclays Bank premises in Market Street.  Early information about the likelihood that the building would be for sale led to a visit to the Civic Centre to stress the importance of the site to the Theatre Royal, which was probably a “once in a lifetime opportunity” to extend its boundaries.  Following several discussions with City councillors and officials, it was agreed to purchase the building, but on condition that, if it was to be converted to theatre use, the Theatre Royal Trustees would be responsible for the conversion costs of some £7m and throughout this period, John chaired the committee that reached our target.

Since then, John has striven to ensure that Newcastle Theatre Royal, as a charitable trust, has continued to thrive and develop, despite facing challenging economic times. He said: “When the announcement came that Newcastle City Council would no longer be funding the Theatre, I was about to retire as a trustee, but I didn’t want to go until I knew that the financial future of the Theatre was in safe hands; those hands belong to Chief Executive Philip Bernays and he has done such a wonderful job to ensure the future of this fabulous asset.”

As John announced his retirement as a Trustee at Newcastle Theatre Royal, the board asked if he would agree to becoming the Theatre’s Life President. John said: “I was really delighted to be asked and it is a true honour to accept the position, at somewhere that I consider to be one of the most important cultural institutions in the North East. I feel greatly favoured and proud, particularly as this is the first time the Theatre has appointed a Life President.”

Philip Bernays, Chief Executive, said: “John has been such a stalwart supporter of the theatre, and invaluable counsel to me as Chief Executive, that we were all delighted when he agreed to our suggestion to become Life President; it is a way of our maintaining a really significant relationship, and of saying thank you to a true friend”

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