YORK Theatre Royal chief executive Tom Bird is flying off to take up the equivalent post at Sheffield Theatres.
He will migrate southwards from York in early 2023, replacing Dan Bates, who left Sheffield earlier this year after 13 years to become executive director of Bradford’s UK City of Culture 2025 programme.
“York Theatre Royal has been such a special part of my life,” says North Easterner Tom, who moved back north in December 2017 from his role as executive producer at Shakespeare’s Globe in London. “I’m enormously grateful to everyone at this outstanding theatre, and the wider community, for their support over the past five years.”
In South Yorkshire, he will work closely with artistic director Robert Hastie, interim chief exec Bookey Oshin, who will stay on as deputy CEO, and the senior team, pulling the strings of the Crucible, the Lyceum and the Tanya Moiseiwitsch Playhouse (formerly the Studio).
Together, these theatres make up the largest producing theatre complex outside London, presenting both in-house and touring productions.
“I’m totally thrilled to be joining Sheffield Theatres as chief executive,” says Tom, who was headhunted for a post he “just couldn’t say ‘No’ to”. “For many years, I’ve admired these daring and beautiful theatres, and the wonderful city they’re at the heart of. I can’t wait to work with Rob, Bookey and the whole of Sheffield’s exceptional team.”
In London, he directed the Globe to Globe Festival for the London 2012 Cultural Olympiad, before becoming executive producer at Shakespeare’s Globe, where he produced a tour of Hamlet to 189 countries.
In York, Bird ruffled feathers by implementing the Theatre Royal’s transition from the long-running Berwick Kaler era of pantomime to co-productions with Evolution Productions and met the challenges of the Covid lockdowns to staff, performers and theatregoers alike, while also changing his job title from executive director to chief executive.
On stage in York, in June, he arranged the first ever visit of Kyiv City Ballet to Great Britain, the dancers travelling over from France, where they had been based since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
In the first winter of Covid, he and creative director Juliet Forster oversaw The Travelling Pantomime, a socially distanced show taken by van to every York neighbourhood in December 2020, and his Globe years with Emma Rice led to the forging of a partnership with her new company, Wise Children, and in turn the Theatre Royal’s first co-production with the National Theatre for Rice’s adaptation of Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Heights.
What’s in store for Tom in Sheffield? Between them, the three stages welcome 400,000 people on average to performances each year. In addition, Sheffield Theatres runs community engagement and artist development programmes, notably the Sheffield People’s Theatre and Young Company, as well as the Bank Programme, whose purpose is to develops creative talent on a yearly basis.
Looking forward to Bird’s arrival, artistic director Robert Hastie says: “Tom Bird joining Sheffield Theatres as chief executive is great news. He brings a wealth of experience, most recently with our fellow Yorkshire theatre, York Theatre Royal, where he has led with ambition and aplomb. I can’t wait to work alongside him in Sheffield.
“Tom joins us at an exciting time, following our special 50th anniversary year and having welcomed so many people back through our doors to experience the magic of these very special theatres. As we look ahead, I know Tom will make such a positive impact on our work, both on our stages and beyond our walls.”
Lord Kerslake, chair of Sheffield Theatres Trust board, adds: “Sheffield Theatres is renowned for the quality and ambition of its work. It’s an organisation determined to serve its audiences, to deliver bold and brilliant theatre, to innovate, invest in talent and collaborate with its communities.
“In Tom we have appointed a driven, experienced and creative leader who will help shape the next chapter of this world-class organisation. Tom brings huge passion to this role, for the work on and off our stages. I’m excited to see what he, together with Rob and Bookey, and the fantastic Sheffield Theatres team, will achieve together.”