Northern Ballet boss marks 30 year milestone

Northern Ballet boss Mark Skipper has become the longest serving chief executive of any British ballet company.

Skipper, who is marking 30 years with the Leeds-based company, originally joined Northern Ballet in 1987 after previously working in the financial industry for Barclays.

An interest in amateur theatre led Skipper to become involved with several local theatres including the King’s Theatre in Southsea where he first came across Northern Ballet which had a vacancy for a deputy stage manager.

He has since held several roles at the company including stage manager, company manager and head of planning before becoming permanent executive director, later chief executive, in the summer of 1996.

Over the course of his career to date, Skipper has seen the company stage over 70 new productions.

During his tenure as chief executive, Northern Ballet has experienced growth in its financial turnover, fundraising capability and number of performances – in 2016/17 the company achieved a record £2.03m in net box office income, close to £1m in sponsorship, and gave 258 performances.

Skipper has also guided the company through challenging times including the loss of major corporate sponsors and a severe reduction in Arts Council funding for 2012-2015 which threatened the output of the company. His greatest success has been in securing a permanent home for the company in Quarry Hill, Leeds in 2010. The purpose-built, glass-fronted building is one of the best dance facilities in the country and boasts seven studios as well as a 200-seat studio theatre.

Recognised for his contribution to the arts, Skipper was invited to become a Deputy Lieutenant of West Yorkshire in 2010 and represents the Lord Lieutenant at several engagements throughout the year.

In addition, Skipper also uses his expertise to contribute to supporting and advising other cultural organisations such as balletLORENT, and is currently a board member of Northern Opera Group. Skipper was also involved in the Fundraising Strategy Group for Leeds2023, the city’s bid to become 2023 European Capital of Culture.

Skipper said: ”It is hard to believe where 30 years have gone but I am proud and honoured to have been associated with such an amazing company that consistently pushes the boundaries of what we can achieve creatively, and as an organisation. I am fortunate to work with an amazing group of people who are all focused on the same goals to create great dance and reach as many people as possible.
“An organisation can only be successful if it changes and adapts to the times and the fact that we have kept the company at the appropriate size, with a diverse business model has ensured that we can continue to create and innovate. In the coming years I am excited about our plans for a range of new productions and revivals, and particularly for the huge growth in our digital work whilst we maintain our position as the UK’s foremost company for touring narrative classical dance.”