The Watermill Theatre today announces that Claire Murray has become joint Chief Executive of the Berkshire venue. Having joined The Watermill as Executive Director in 2021, Claire will now share the role of CEO with the Theatre’s Artistic Director, Paul Hart.
The Watermill received the news that it would sustain a 100% cut to its funding from Arts Council, England in November last year. Despite this blow, it has continued to offer an ambitious and diverse programme both on and off stage. This has included producing The Lord of The Rings this summer, attracting 17,000 people, 47% of whom were new bookers.
Claire Murray said: “I’m delighted to be taking on the joint role of Chief Executive, continuing to work alongside Paul to make exciting theatre and participation opportunities that are open to everyone in our communities.
Losing our Arts Council funding has presented a significant challenge which we’ve faced head on. I’m proud of the resilience, courage and commitment the Watermill team has shown these last 12 months, and grateful for the support of so many including donors, trusts and foundations, sponsors and audiences. This has made it possible to sustain an ambitious programme and make a difference to over 20,000 people through our community and participation programme.
Whilst we have further challenges ahead as we adjust to a future without statutory funding, I’m looking forward to embarking on this new chapter with Paul whose creativity, vision and intelligence make him an exceptional collaborator.”
Murray joined The Watermill following 11 years as Communications & Fundraising Director at Sheffield Theatres (which included a short time as interim CEO). She has extensive experience of organisational development, fundraising and income generation gained over a 25-year career in producing and presenting venues and as a freelance consultant.
Paul Hart commented “It is the perfect time for us to shift the structure for the Watermill and it is the first time in the Watermill’s history that we have had a Joint CEO status here. This is a celebration of the brilliant work Claire and the team have done and a vital indication of the equal importance of both sides of the business. This has been even more crucial following last year’s Arts Council cut and I’m hugely proud of the work that has been done during that time and the ambition we have shown, particularly in launching The Lord of the Rings this summer.
On a personal note it’s a moment to celebrate the successful collaboration I have had in working with Claire over the last two years – she’s a dynamic and brilliant leader and makes impossible things happen every day. Her work for the Watermill continues to make us more resilient and ambitious; I am proud to work alongside her.”
Andrew Mckenzie, Chair of the Board said, “The theatre will always be judged on the quality of its productions and Paul has an exciting schedule planned for next year. However, the overall operation and all the support functions needed to enable great productions are also an enormous and critical factor in our success and the various funding challenges handed to us add a new level of complexity. With that in mind we were keen to bolster the leadership team to face the challenges ahead and maximise opportunities. I am therefore delighted to appoint Claire Murray as joint CEO to work alongside Paul. We are looking to the future with confidence with this dynamic leadership team in place.”
The development of the business model, particularly commercial growth and fundraising, are key areas of focus for the organisation moving forward which will be overseen by Murray. The theatre recently expanded its daytime offer to include the Riverside Café, and its use for private events including conferences, family celebrations and private dining continues to grow. Its PROPEL campaign which helps the theatre look to the future as an independent charity, aims to unlock £58,000 of match funding via the Good Exchange online platform. In addition, The Watermill is currently running the Emerald City campaign to enable school children and local families who wouldn’t otherwise be able to come to the theatre, to see this year’s Christmas show, The Wizard of Oz.