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Home News New board chairman's rallying call

New board chairman's rallying call

Home News New board chairman's rallying call
John Clarke addresses the audience at the summer party John Clarke addresses the audience at the summer party Photo by Jenny Woolgar

Sponsors and supporters of Rosehill Theatre enjoyed a summer party that doubled as a welcome event for a new chairman.

More than 120 guests attended the invitation-only gathering at the Whitehaven venue, which featured food prepared and served by The Green Room restaurant team.

There were performances by popular storyteller Ian Douglas, West Cumberland Choral Society, and pianist Anna Tilbrook and violinist Fenella Humphreys, who had given a classical performance at the theatre as part of a quintet just two days earlier.

For many people, it was a welcome opportunity to meet John Clarke, chairman of the Rosehill Arts Trust Board since May.

Addressing the audience and thanking them for their continued support, Mr Clarke applauded the Reimagined Rosehill development and highlighted much to be proud of, including the first-class Green Room restaurant, the dedicated team and the impressive contemporary building, in which the traditional auditorium has been retained.

He added that a volunteer had succinctly described Rosehill, “a local theatre of national significance”, as having “a new skin with an old heart”.

Giving a strong message, he said: “What we have here is fantastic. But we must not lose sight of the fact that what we need more of is bums on seats, particularly at a time when so many other venues are facing their own struggles.

“It's a wonderful place and we want even more people to see it for themselves.”

He thanked Roger Wilson, who had been acting chairman since Norman Clarkson retired last year, for his dedication, along with that of Mr Clarkson, and commended Rosehill director Richard Elder on his vision and ability to deliver such a stunning development for West Cumbria.

Mr Clarke added that he had been impressed by the quality of performances, from classical music to drama, comedy and community groups, and was looking forward to an exciting summer programme of entertainment and food. An enthusiastic observer of a wide range of the arts, visual and performing, he said it was this commitment to quality that had attracted him to join the board of trustees in February.

His role at Rosehill will be complemented by that of Andy Smith, chairman of the Rosehill Theatre Enterprises Board since 2017.

Mr Smith, a West Cumbrian, is a keen sportsman whose interest in the arts was strengthened when he married actress Emma Rydal. He joined the Rosehill Arts Trust Board in September 2015, entering as the capital build began, before being appointed to lead the enterprise board as well.

He said: “I'm a strong believer in the integration of business and cultural activity to the benefit of the communities in which they operate.”

Mr Smith is a chartered engineer who has lived and worked locally for most of his life, apart from periods in London and Manchester. He began working in nuclear reprocessing before moving into business management and strategy roles, and most latterly heading up the Sellafield Ltd Corporate Centre.

Mr Clarke spent his career in the nuclear industry, largely in the area but also elsewhere in the UK and overseas. He retired as chief executive of the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority in 2017 and now undertakes a number of non-executive and advisory roles across several industrial sectors and within the charitable arena. He has lived in West Cumbria for most of his life, marrying a West Cumbrian and raising four children in the area.

He said “Rosehill is an exceptional place with an astonishing heritage. As we approach its 60th anniversary next year our challenge is to make it even more accessible and relevant than it has been before, as part of which we will be recruiting new board members both for the arts trust and trading company.

“I would encourage anybody interested in knowing more about board membership to contact us at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it ; exciting times for which we need exciting and innovative people to deliver!”

We are grateful to the following organisations for capital funding:

We are grateful to the following organisations for revenue funding:


We are grateful to the following organisations for their in kind support: