Chichester duo Jonathan Church & Alan Finch to leave

Jonathan Church and Alan Finch.
Jonathan Church and Alan Finch. Image David Jensen.

Jonathan Church and Alan Finch, who, over the last decade, have steered Chichester Festival Theatre to become the most important regional venue in the UK, have announced their shock departure.

Artistic director Jonathan Church and Finch, the theatre’s executive director, announced today that they are to step down from their respective roles at the end of September 2016, following Festival 2016.

Both Church and Finch joined Chichester Festival Theatre in 2005, overseeing the organisation’s 50th anniversary in 2012 and the recent £22 million redevelopment of the Festival Theatre.

Under their tenure, the company has produced over 100 productions including 22 new plays, winning over 40 awards for the work and more than doubling audience numbers, playing to 95% capacity in 2014.

The Theatre has also enjoyed significant success beyond Chichester during their leadership with 48 productions transferring to the West End or securing international and UK tours.

These include Lucy Prebble’s ENRON, Macbeth with Patrick Stewart, Singin’ in the Rain, Sweeney Todd, Private Lives, King Lear with Frank Langella, The Pajama Game and, more recently, Jonathan Church’s production of Taken at Midnight and Gypsy directed by Jonathan Kent.

Jonathan Church said: “It has been a privilege and a joy to have been the custodians of this very special theatre for the last decade and to have worked alongside some of the country’s most skilled actors and creative teams.

“I hope, between us, we have helped contribute to the current strength of British theatre and demonstrated the important role of subsidy in creating vibrant regional arts organisations that are rooted in their community but also have the ability to provide national and international impact.

“It will be painful leaving a theatre that feels like our creative home but regional theatres thrive on new ideas and new energies.

“I like to think we will hand this wonderful theatre over to its next caretakers in an excellent position to build further on its extraordinary history.”

Alan Finch said: “We are incredibly fortunate to have some of the most loyal audiences, generous supporters and sponsors I have ever come across.

“Without their support, Jonathan and I would never have been able to achieve what we have. I’m immensely proud to have led the team that delivered our renewed Festival Theatre and Steven Pimlott Education Building, both on time and on budget.

“These past ten years have been the most exciting and rewarding of my career but it’s the right time for us to pursue new opportunities and pass the baton to a new leadership team.”

Sir William Castell, chairman of Chichester Festival Theatre, said: “Jonathan Church and Alan Finch have led Chichester Festival Theatre to extraordinary levels of success, and our artistic standards and reputation have never been higher.

“They are inspiring leaders and it has been a pleasure to work with them both. We will be sad to see them leave but they are committed to our phased succession plans and will deliver the next two Festivals to ensure a smooth handover as we head into the Theatre’s next chapter.”

The formal process to appoint a new artistic director will begin in August with the Board expected to announce a successor at the end of 2015.

The new executive director will be appointed once the artistic director designate is in place. The selection committee will be advised by Genista McIntosh who has worked extensively with the RSC and National Theatre.

Jonathan Church arrived at Chichester in 2005 and has directed some of its great successes, including Taken at Midnight, Amadeus, The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui, Singin’ in the Rain, The Grapes of Wrath, The Circle, Hobson’s Choice, Pravda and, co-directed with Philip Franks, The Life and Adventures of Nicholas Nickleby.

West End productions include Taken at Midnight (Theatre Royal Haymarket), Singin’ in the Rain (Palace Theatre), The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui (Duchess Theatre), Of Mice and Men (Savoy Theatre and The Old Vic), The Witches (Wyndhams Theatre), A Busy Day (Lyric Theatre) and The Life and Adventures of Nicholas Nickleby (Gielgud Theatre).

Alan Finch joined Chichester Festival Theatre in 2005 and, together with Church, has been responsible for the programming and management of the Festival and Minerva Theatres since Festival 06.

He has spearheaded the £22 million RENEW project to refurbish and develop the Festival Theatre, culminating in its reopening during Festival 2014.

He has also played a pivotal role in building CFT’s reputation, facilitating production transfers to the West End, Toronto and New York, as well as national tours.

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