Eden Court’s chief executive officer will leave his post at the end of the year to take on a new opportunity at the Theatre Royal Plymouth.
James Mackenzie-Blackman is returning to his hometown to takeover the chief executive role at the UK’s largest and best attended theatre.
Don Robertson, chair of the board at Eden Court Highlands, said: “James has made an 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 on 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.
Mr Mackenzie-Blackman took on his role at Eden Court in December 2017 and has been credited with helping grow the business through a period of change and modernisation.
Eden Court said he has been influential in increasing audiences and income while embedding the venue and charity into the Highlands culture.
‘It has been an honour’
Mr Mackenzie-Blackman 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.”
He launched Eden Court’s flagship summer music festival, Under Canvas, broke box office records with pantomime ticket sales and secured the only Scottish dates for the Scottish Ballet’s 50th birthday celebrations with Carlos Acosta.
Eden Court has been recognised for its response to the pandemic by being awarded the prestigious Calouste Gulbenkian 2021 Civic Arts Award.
Mr Mackenzie-Blackman also helped Eden Court secure a £500,000 grant from the Garfield Weston Foundations’ Cultural Fund to help the business recover from a challenging year.
Mr Mackenzie-Blackman has been widely praised for his work in the Highlands by his peers and the wider industry. He was named as theatre’s “One to Watch” by The Scotsman in January and joined the influential The Stage 100 list.
Iain Munro, chief executive of 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.”
Mr Mackenzie-Blackman will leave Eden Court in December 2021 and the search for his replacement will commence in the coming weeks.
Mr Robertson said: “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.”