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Mark Skipper DL smiling and speaking with a group of people.

Chief Executive Mark Skipper DL to retire

Northern Ballet announces retirement of Chief Executive Mark Skipper DL after 35 highly successful years with the Company

Northern Ballet today announces the retirement on 30 September of Mark Skipper DL, its Chief Executive. Mark will go with our utmost gratitude for a job very well done and with our huge appreciation of everything he has achieved for Northern Ballet.

Mark Skipper joined Northern Ballet (then Northern Ballet Theatre) in November 1987 as Deputy Stage Manager; he became Company Manager in May 1988 and Head of Planning in January 1995. He was appointed Chief Executive in May 1996 and achieved 25 years in that role in May last year. In 2006 Mark was awarded the Manager of the Year Award by the Theatrical Management Association (now UK Theatre). In 2010 he was appointed a Deputy Lieutenant of West Yorkshire for his contribution to the county in a voluntary capacity.

During his tenure Mark has worked closely and successfully with three Artistic Directors – Christopher Gable (1987-1999), Stefano Giannetti (1999-2000) and David Nixon OBE (2001-2022). These partnerships have taken Northern Ballet to its current position as one of the small number of internationally-renowned ballet companies based in the United Kingdom. He is now collaborating with our newly-appointed Artistic Director Federico Bonelli on plans for the future success of the Company.

Mark masterminded, and was responsible for raising the financial resources for, two changes of location of the Company, from Halifax to Leeds in 1996 and in 2010 to its present home, a purpose-built headquarters containing the largest dance rehearsal space outside London, a 230-seat studio theatre and seven dance studios. He has led the Company’s relationships with Arts Council England and Leeds City Council, and dealt very adroitly with the significant cuts in Arts Council funding in the 2012-2015 round, being commended for that reaction by the allocation of a significant increase in Arts Council funding for 2015-2018. During these periods, as a result in part of Mark’s fundraising efforts from supporters and other non-public sources, the Company was able to maintain a full complement of dancers and a full range of performances.

Mark was instrumental in obtaining Arts Council Strategic Touring (National Lottery) funding for ballets specifically for younger children, all of which have been successfully adapted for BBC television by CBeebies, and some for cinema distribution. Mark has also taken the Company into digital production of our work. 

More recently, Mark has, with Artistic Director David Nixon OBE, faced and surmounted the challenges of Covid, a very wearing time with particular issues proving very challenging for ballet companies. Thanks to the huge efforts of Mark and David the Company has come through this difficult period in good shape financially and artistically and looks forward to a bright future.

A process for the appointment of a new Chief Executive will begin in earnest. 

Sir David Wootton, Chair of Northern Ballet, said:

“Mark Skipper has devoted his working life to Northern Ballet. He has been with the Company for two-thirds, and Chief Executive for almost half, of its existence; he is the longest serving Chief Executive of any UK professional ballet company. Mark’s tireless efforts to ensure a lean and efficient organisation which always delivers at the highest level have seen Northern Ballet recognised as one of the best managed arts companies, with a strong executive team well equipped to meet the challenges that lie ahead. During his 20-year partnership with Artistic Director David Nixon OBE Northern Ballet has become an internationally renowned dance company which has remained committed to extensive touring throughout the UK and has developed and nurtured a love of dance for a generation of ballet lovers. We are very grateful to Mark for all his achievements and we wish him well.”

Mark Skipper DL said:

“I have been in conversation with the Board of Northern Ballet since November last year about my desire to step down as CEO of Northern Ballet at a time that we would decide was mutually convenient for me and the Company. With a new Arts Council funding round on the horizon and a much younger senior team now leading the organisation, it is time for a younger person, with new ideas to take on the role of CEO.

Northern Ballet has been a huge part of my life and it will be sad to step down but I am happy that the Company is left in good shape and with Federico Bonelli as new Artistic Director, the Company will continue with the great legacy that David Nixon leaves behind artistically. I am confident that the Board will find a new CEO to take on the challenges that face all of us in the arts.”

Header photo by Brian Slater.

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