Julian Bird has announced he is stepping down as chief executive of the Society of London Theatre (Solt) and UK Theatre after more than a decade in the role.
He will leave the position in May 2022 after delaying his exit in response to the coronavirus pandemic’s impact on the theatre industry.
A former chief operating officer at the Tate galleries, Bird joined Solt in November 2010 and is also producer of the annual Olivier Awards.
He said: “It had always been my intention to think about moving on around the 10th anniversary of my time in the role, which would have been in November 2020. As with so much, the pandemic intervened in that. However, by May 2022 I will have been CEO for over 11 and a half years, and then feels the right time to depart.
“Before then we have much to accomplish, not least whatever the pandemic throws at our industry this winter, the completion of a comprehensive economic impact study for the theatre industry and producing the Olivier Awards for the 11th time.
“There will be time to reflect on the past years in due course, but I would like now to express my enormous gratitude to both boards and the extraordinary team of staff that I have the privilege to lead.”
A global executive search and leadership adviser will be hired in the search for a replacement.
Bird’s successor will face the challenging task of helping the theatre sector recover from some 18 months of empty or socially distanced auditoriums, and the closure of some regional spaces.
Solt represents about 230 London-based producers, theatre owners and managers, including all the major subsidised theatrical organisations in London.
UK Theatre, meanwhile, represents about 240 theatres, concert halls, dance companies, producers and arts centres across the UK.
The president of Solt, Eleanor Lloyd, thanked Bird for his time at the organisation.
She said: “On behalf of the Board of Trustees and the entire membership of Solt, I would like to thank Julian Bird for an incredible tenure as our chief executive.
“He has transformed all areas of the organisation over the last 10 years and has led us with commitment, care and calm not least through what has undoubtedly been the most challenging period in the history of the theatre industry.
“We will miss him hugely and wish him very well for the future.”
Stephanie Sirr, president of UK Theatre, added: “Julian has been an extraordinary chief executive – UK Theatre has gone through enormous and very valuable change, but above all his tenacity, strategic thinking and drive have been tested during this pandemic.
“The industry is in a much better place than it would otherwise have been thanks to his incredible work and we all owe him a huge debt of gratitude.”