Claire Walker and Hannah Essex have been appointed the new joint Chief Executives of the Society of London Theatre (SOLT) and UK Theatre, in an innovative job share first for the two long-established theatre membership organisations.
Currently Co-Executive-Directors at the British Chambers of Commerce, Claire and Hannah are the UK’s most successful and high-profile job share partnership. With over 40 years of combined experience as senior leaders in a range of business and not-for-profit organisations, they are trailblazers in the concept of co-leadership, proving it can have significant benefits in terms of innovation, influence and relationships. They are regarded as two of the most effective, credible and tenacious influencers in Westminster and were both recently recognised as two of the Top 100 Women in Westminster by House Magazine.
Prior to their role at the British Chambers of Commerce, Claire and Hannah worked together as Co-Directors of Communications for Teach First, after Claire held this role for a year as Hannah’s maternity cover. This will be their third role together as a partnership.
Eleanor Lloyd, President of SOLT, said:
“I am delighted to welcome Claire and Hannah as the co-CEOs of SOLT and UK Theatre. They are inspirational leaders who will bring an outstanding combination of experience, dynamism and passion to both organisations. Their work at the British Chambers of Commerce, especially during the pandemic, puts them in a perfect position to support our members and champion the theatre industry in this new chapter.”
Stephanie Sirr MBE, President of UK Theatre, echoed her enthusiasm for the appointment:
“At this critical juncture for our industry, we are thrilled to be welcoming Claire and Hannah as our new Chief Executives. Not only are they hugely experienced with an exceptional track record of delivery, but they are also truly passionate about our sector and its importance.”
Built on a foundation of shared vision and values, Claire and Hannah have developed a ‘pure’ co-leadership model where they share the job in its entirety with a single point of contact and shared accountability for all objectives.
Reacting to their appointment, Claire and Hannah said:
“It is a huge privilege to be appointed as co-CEOs of SOLT and UK Theatre. As lifelong theatre fans, we believe passionately that a thriving theatre sector is crucial to improving social, cultural and economic prosperity in the UK. Having supported businesses large and small through the Brexit process and the pandemic, we are familiar with many of the issues facing SOLT and UK Theatre members in these challenging economic times.”
Commenting on the work of the organisation they would be leading, Claire and Hannah highlighted the great work being done and the opportunity to build on that legacy using their leadership framework of ‘purpose, partnership and people to drive positive change’:
“SOLT and UK Theatre do fantastic work to support, promote and develop British theatre. We are looking forward to getting started in September and working with our brilliant team, members and stakeholders to create the conditions for the theatre industry to thrive.”
Claire Walker and Hannah Essex have been appointed to the CEO role following the departure of Julian Bird, who left the organisations in May this year. They will be officially taking up their roles on 12 September.