CEO who transformed Opera House fortunes to quit post

The chief executive of Cork Opera House, who led the venue back from the brink of financial collapse, is to leave her position when her five-year contract expires later this year.

CEO who transformed Opera House fortunes to quit post

Mary Hickson confirmed last night she will not be renewing her contract in October. “I said it from the day I signed up that I would do five years and fulfil my contract. I also made that commitment to my family. And I meant it,” she said.

“That’s what I promised. I’m a woman of my word. I genuinely believe it’s the right thing to do, that it’s a positive thing for me and for the business though.

“It’s a three- to five-year benchmark in senior arts management and it’s there for a reason.

“People can get too comfortable. It’s a good thing to move on. People and buildings need to refresh.”

Ms Hickson stressed that she is still focused on programming for the rest of her contract and beyond. “There are exciting conversations under way right now for programming that will take place in 2016 when I’m not here,” she said.

“But the ship is steadied and it’s a good time for new energy and new ideas.”

Board chairman Damian Wallace said the board regrets but understands her decision. “It was a hugely demanding job and she displayed huge commitment and creative vision over the last five years,” he said.

“She was a complete breath of fresh air and made a great contribution to the house.

“She transformed the venue and we all owe her a debt of gratitude. But she remains in place until October and will oversee the theatre’s spring programme.

“She has given us plenty of notice of her intention not to renew her contract and we are thankful for that.

“It will take time to find the right person to succeed her.”

Ms Hickson, 39, a mother of two children under nine, was appointed chief executive of the Opera House in October 2010, just months after a financial crisis forced its closure for three months that summer.

A major cost- restructuring programme and strategic review was drawn up and Ms Hickson was charged with implementing it, overhauling the theatre’s artistic direction and spearheading its revival.

In 2013, the theatre posted a €260,000 profit for the financial year ending March 2013 — its first profit in five years and its largest in almost a decade.

Last September, the Opera House AGM was told that the venue had consolidated its financial recovery to record a €250,000 profit — its second profitable year in a row.

“I’m really proud of what we’ve achieved,” Ms Hickson said.

“Everyone rose to the challenge. There is an incredible team who are all in here for the love of the Opera House. They all came together to drive it forward.”

She is planning to launch the Opera House’s spring programme this month. It will include events to mark the theatre’s 160th anniversary.

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