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Eden Court announces the shock departure of chief executive James Mackenzie-Blackman who will leave the job after almost four years in charge to take over at the Theatre Royal Plymouth


By Scott Maclennan

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Outgoing chief executive James Mackenzie-Blackman.
Outgoing chief executive James Mackenzie-Blackman.

Eden Court has announced that chief executive James Mackenzie-Blackman is moving on.

He will leave in December after almost four years in charge, returning to his hometown to head-up the Theatre Royal Plymouth.

Much of his time in charge at Eden Court has been spent steering it through the challenges of the Covid-19 pandemic.

His move to repurpose the venue as a distribution hub for food parcels during lockdown as staff were seconded to man a regional Covid helpline drew praise.

Earlier, this year he was named “one to watch” by The Scotsman and was one of The Stage’s 100 most influential people.

Before lockdown, audiences and theatre income grew, with the outdoor Under Canvas summer music festival – recently back in Inverness for a third year and embarking on a Highland tour for the first time this time round as well – a particular success.

“It has been an absolute honour to lead Eden Court," he said.

"Even in the most challenging of circumstances I have been amazed by the skill, resilience and creativity of my exceptional team.

“We have achieved so much, together, and there is much opportunity to still be maximised and developed.

“I grew up in Plymouth and the Theatre Royal provided me with opportunities that set my life in a clear direction.

"Returning as the venue’s new chief executive feels like the best way possible to repay the debt of gratitude that I owe the city and the theatre.”

Chairman of the board of Eden Court, Don Robertson, said: "James has made an outstanding contribution to Eden Court and he will be sorely missed. However, I recognise that he is leaving for a role that offers unique benefits, both professionally and personally.

“On behalf of the board, and all Eden Court staff, we offer him our sincere thanks for all he has achieved and our best wishes for the future.

“Eden Court is an extraordinary organisation in a stunning location.

"I look forward to working with our partners at Creative Scotland and The Highland Council to find James’ successor.”

Chief executive of Creative Scotland, Iain Munro, said: “James has brought enormous energy and impressive leadership to bear during his time at Eden Court, including widening its relationship with diverse communities, and taking work out beyond the venue itself.

“The period of the pandemic has brought unprecedented challenges which James has navigated with great sensitivity and resilience and is leaving Eden Court in good shape.

“He will be missed, not just in relation to his impact at Eden Court, but also because of his generous and collegiate contribution to the wider performing arts in Scotland and we wish him well for the future.

“There is now a huge opportunity for the right person to take up the reins at one of Scotland’s biggest and best arts venues.”

Councillor Bill Lobban, Highland Council convenor said: “On behalf of the Highland Council, I would like to thank James for his work within our communities and for his engagement with the council during his tenure.

“The pandemic has been a particularly difficult and challenging time for residents and businesses.

"However, it also established a ground-breaking partnership between the council and Eden Court as staff came together to redeploy their key skills and experience to support our resilience response.

“This is a great example of the fantastic partnership working between both of our organisations and is something I will look forward to continuing with his successor.

"Congratulations to James and we wish you the very best of luck in your new role”.

Related Story – Inverness theatre Eden Court's Under Canvas outdoor summer music festival is going on tour


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