James Mackenzie-Blackman, Eden Court’s CEO, will leave his post at the end of the year following his appointment as Chief Executive of the Theatre Royal Plymouth, the UK’s largest and best attended regional theatre.
James has steered Eden Court during a period of substantial change and modernisation. During his tenure the business has grown its annual audiences, and income, and further embedded itself into the cultural life of the Highland region.
Specific achievements include the launch of Eden Court’s flagship summer music festival, Under Canvas, breaking box office records for pantomime and UK touring large-scale musical theatre, securing the only Scottish dates for world-class dancer Carlos Acosta MBE to launching the Scottish Ballet 50th Birthday celebrations.
More recently Eden Court has been recognised nationally and internationally for its response to the global pandemic leading to Eden Court winning the prestigious, and highly competitive, Calouste Gulbenkian 2021 Civic Arts Award. James was named by The Scotsman as the theatre industry ‘One to Watch’ in January 2021, joined The Stage 100, an annual list of the most influential people in the theatre industry, and was nominated as Outstanding Business Leader in the 2021 Scottish Development and Industry Council Business Awards.
James has also led the business through a period of significant growth of its fundraised income. In January 2021 Eden Court was awarded £500,000 from the Garfield Weston Foundation’s Cultural Fund to enable the business to establish a pathway to producing and recover from the pandemic, the largest grant in Scotland.
James also established clarity of Eden Court’s vision, mission and values and has been a fierce advocate for equality, diversity, inclusion and the organisations response to the climate emergency.
James will leave Eden Court in December 2021. The charities board of Directors will start the search for a new Chief Executive in the coming weeks.
Don Robertson, Chair of the Board, Eden Court Highlands said:
"James has made on 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. I have no doubt that he will be highly successful in his new role and 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.”
James Mackenzie-Blackman, Chief Executive, Eden Court Highlands said:
“It has been an absolute honour to lead Eden Court. 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. Given Eden Court’s current reputation and status in Scotland and beyond, I am confident the Board will attract an exceptional new leader.
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.”
Iain Munro, Chief Executive, Creative Scotland, 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 reigns at one of Scotland’s biggest and best arts venues.”
Councillor Bill Lobban, Convenor for The Highland Council 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 James and we wish you the very best of luck in your new role”.