Kenneth Branagh’s sister among Harrogate Theatre’s board appointees

Joyce Branagh.
Joyce Branagh.
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By Graham Chalmers

Kenneth Branagh’s sister and a nationally-renowned playright are among the new faces to feature in a major shake-up at Harrogate Theatres.

The board of what has become one of the largest arts complexes in the whole north of England in recent years has been strengthened to build on its burgeoning success.

The appointments to its board of directors include the most-performed female playwright in the country Amanda Whittington, executive director of Unlimited Theatre and former member of ACE Yorkshire senior management Mark Hollander, and writer and director Joyce Branagh.

Highly-popular pantomime director Phil Lowe also joins the board as artistic associate and part of a new programming team.

Harrogate Theatres’ chief executive David Bown said: “This is a very exciting time for Harrogate Theatres. It’s testament to our current success and future ambition that we are able to attract such accomplished practitioners as Amanda, Joyce and Mark onto the board.”

Director, playwright and actor Joyce Branagh has made a name for herself in the theatre world outside of the connection with her older brother Kenneth.

Fresh from directing Much Ado About Nothing this summer at Vienna’s English Theatre, she recently directed a new play The Ballad of Lennon/McCartney at Jermyn Street Theatre in London with a cast including Christopher Eccleston.

Joyce said: “Harrogate has such a beautiful theatre. I loved working here a few years ago and have had a keen interest in it ever since. I’m delighted that I may now play a significant part in forging its future.”

The most-performed female playwright in the country, Amanda Whittington’s 1998 play Be My Baby is now a GCSE set text.

Whittington has been described by The Guardian as Britain’s “most consistently popular female dramatist.”

In 2001, she won the Dennis Potter Screenwriting Award for Bollywood Jane, a work which she later adapted for stage.

Both Ladies’ Day and its sequel Ladies Down Under were written for Hull Truck Theatre and widely performed nationwide.

Amanda Whittington said: “I’m delighted to be joining the board of Harrogate Theatre, particularly at a time when the organisation is widening its reach across new venues.

“Its diverse artistic programme makes it one of the most dynamic theatres in the region and the growing audience is a testament to its success.”

Mark Hollander has worked on the senior management team for Arts Council England, Yorkshire, and has extensive experience as an arts practitioner, including his role as executive director of the award-winning Unlimited Theatre.

The changes reflect a period of huge growth for Harrogate Theatre in the five years which have seen it expand to programme four auditoria, including the Royal Hall and Harrogate International Centre.

It recently launched Hive, a new workshop space dedicated to education and outreach next door to the theatre.