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Theatre Royal Bury St Edmunds boss Karen Simpson to step down after incurable cancer diagnosis

The chief executive and artistic director of Theatre Royal Bury St Edmunds who helped turn around the venue's fortunes is to step down after living with an incurable cancer diagnosis for the last two and a half years.

Karen Simpson joined the theatre in 2013 when it was in danger of closure with significant financial difficulties.

Since then, she has helped grow its audiences year on year, reconnected the theatre with the community and returned it to a sustainable financial position.

Karen Simpson, chief executive and artistic director of Theatre Royal Bury St Edmunds
Karen Simpson, chief executive and artistic director of Theatre Royal Bury St Edmunds

Her vision was to create a theatre for everyone and steer a new and more sustainable business model for the charity.

She said she 'leaves the organisation knowing that is exactly what is being achieved'.

Karen, who steps down in February 2020, has been living with an incurable cancer diagnosis for the past two and a half years and wants to spend more time with family and friends.

She said: "I would like to say thank you to everyone for welcoming me to the region and making this experience such a rewarding one.

"The support I have received from the board, staff, volunteers and the general public has been overwhelming and enabled me to continue to work through much of this period.

"I’m immensely proud of what we have achieved at Theatre Royal and know that I leave the theatre in a good place for future generations to enjoy."

Her other achievements at the theatre include directing the annual pantomime; producing work that reaches directly into schools and communities and directing Roy Hudd in Theatre Royal’s near sell out production of Goodnight Mister Tom in 2018.

This year marked Theatre Royal’s 200th anniversary with several events and activities as well as a fund-raising campaign to celebrate the milestone.

She joined the theatre at the same time as general manager Adrian Grady.

Roger Quince, chairman of the Theatre Royal board, said: "Karen has made a stunning contribution in her six and a half years with the theatre.

"As artistic director she has greatly broadened our programme and brought in new audiences, in particular young families, and increased the number and quality of our own productions.

"As CEO, very ably supported by Adrian, she has put Theatre Royal on a stable financial footing, and built a strong team, making us more resilient.

"Her clear direction, passion and ability to bring others along have inspired us all.

"Karen will be hugely missed, not least by me."

Mr Grady, who has been covering for Karen, continues as general manager/interim CEO aided by Marcus Romer as interim artistic director.

He will work closely with Mr Quince and the other board members to 'recruit a successor who shares the same passion for Theatre Royal Bury St Edmunds as Karen'.

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