Lancaster theatre’s artistic director to leave - but she’ll be back for Christmas show

Departing artistic director Sarah Punshon.Departing artistic director Sarah Punshon.
Departing artistic director Sarah Punshon.
The artistic director of Lancaster’s The Dukes is to leave the venue as part of a restructure – but she’ll be back later this year to direct the Christmas show.

The Dukes is currently transitioning to a new business model that will enable it to survive recent reductions in funding and thrive into the future.

As part of this the previous roles of artistic director and chief executive will be combined into one director position which will shortly be advertised.

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As a result of this restructure the current artistic director Sarah Punshon is leaving the Lancaster venue in order to pursue other opportunities.

However, she will return in a freelance capacity later this year as the director of its 2019 Christmas show, Cinderella: A Fairytale.

This will be the first new version of Sally Cookson and Adam Peck’s adaptation of the classic tale since its initial production by Tobacco Factory Theatre and Travelling Light in Bristol. The Dukes will be producing this exciting show for an extended run of seven weeks.

John Chell, chair of The Dukes board, said: “We are delighted to be welcoming Sarah back to direct our 2019 Christmas production of Cinderella, which we’re sure will continue her run of record-breaking Christmas productions at The Dukes.

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“During her time with us Sarah has overseen a 20 per cent increase in audiences for our live programme at The Dukes, and her first park show, The Three Musketeers, was shortlisted for Best Show for Children & Young People at the UK Theatre Awards.”

Under Sarah’s leadership, The Dukes has built new relationships with co-producers including the New Vic Theatre, Tobacco Factory Theatres, Red Ladder, Tamasha and One Tenth Human, and dramatically increased the diversity of artists with which it works.

Alison Clark, director north at Arts Council England said: “Sarah’s generosity with artists led to The Dukes becoming a significant venue to see new work in development.

“There are companies across the country who owe a real debt of gratitude to Sarah for her support and encouragement. We’re very pleased that her relationship with The Dukes will continue when she returns to direct the Christmas production.”

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Sarah said: “It’s been an enormous privilege to work with the brilliant team at The Dukes. I’m so proud of the fantastic work we’ve created together on stage, in Williamson Park, and with young people and communities across Lancashire. I look forward to being back at The Dukes this Christmas for Cinderella.”