Northern Stage announced the appointment of Natalie Ibu as their new Artistic Director and Joint Chief Executive. Natalie, currently Artistic Director and Chief Executive of tiata fahodzi, will take up the role in November 2020. She succeeds Lorne Campbell, who joined National Theatre of Wales in March.

Natalie Ibu has been Artistic Director and Chief Executive of tiata fahodzi, the only Black-led theatre company committed solely to producing new work in the UK, for the past 5 years. At tiata fahodzi, Natalie’s stand out piece of work was her direction of ‘good dog’ by Arinzé Kene, which was produced in association with Watford Palace Theatre and Tara Finney Productions and toured nationally twice to excellent audience and critical reception before being adapted for screen and shown on BBC iPlayer.

Prior to joining tiata fahodzi, her career includes time spent as Creative Producer at In Good Company, Derby Theatre; Programme Manager, Roundhouse; Resident Assistant Director, Royal Court and Assistant Director Glasgow Citizens Theatre. 

Natalie is devoted to artist development with a strong record in nurturing new talent, evidenced in her roles as consortium lead of the Artistic Director Leadership Programme and Trustee of the Regional Theatre Young Director Scheme.  She has a history of working with youth theatre and is passionate about working with local communities to ensure that work can be created in collaboration, to reflect the lived experience, hopes and ideas of the widest society. Natalie is a Fellow of the International Society of Performing Arts (ISPA). 

Chair of Northern Stage’s Board Simon Elliott said, “The time the panel spent reviewing nearly 60 applications and meeting many candidates in interview showed us all the high quality of the sector, both nationally and regionally.  Natalie emerged as the most compelling candidate from a high calibre field because we saw her as visionary, know that she understands and embraces the social responsibilities of theatre and is committed to developing talent.  Her track record is excellent and with her creative leadership I am confident she will enable us to ensure Northern Stage can be the theatre the region needs now and in the years to come. 

“Appointing an Artistic Director at this time is absolutely necessary.  We have an obligation to all the communities of Newcastle and the North East to create, develop and curate the most exciting, engaging and relevant theatre, so that when audiences, staff, theatre makers and participants feel safe, we can be there.  Natalie, working alongside Joint Chief Executive Kate Denby and with the entire team, will imagine and realise that future.

“And last but not least, I want to acknowledge the brilliant work by Kate who has had to be our sole Chief Executive in this most challenging period – and the whole Northern Stage Staff and the freelance community we work with for all they have done in the last 5 months.  I know that as Natalie takes up the role of Artistic Director and Joint Chief Executive, she will work collaboratively to create the possibilities of a better tomorrow.”

Natalie Ibu said, “As a 17 year old Black Scottish working class girl, I decided I wanted to be an Artistic Director because I longed to work in community – with a team, with artists, with a place and with audiences. Northern Stage is exemplary at this with its commitment to its local and regional community – from Wednesday shared dinners with its neighbours in Byker to the way it shares its building with local artists through the Spare Room programme. I am looking forward to working with the people and places across Tyne and Wear and beyond — where grit joins charm, where a spectrum of celebrations meet at the weekend and where the global is becoming our local – to make loudly relevant work that feels essential to helping us understand who we are, who we’ll be and who we want to be. I know first-hand the game-changing impact a venue like Northern Stage can have on individuals — artists and audiences alike - and it’s an absolute privilege to join this organisation as it continues to emerge as a beacon in these complex times.

Northern Stage’s Executive Director Kate Denby said, "I'm thrilled to welcome Natalie to Northern Stage as our new Artistic Director. Natalie and I had the opportunity to work together several years ago, and I've followed her career in the years since.  I'm very excited to now build a partnership as we lead Northern Stage into the future."

The tiata fahodzi Board of Trustees said, “The Board of Trustees and everyone at tiata fahodzi would like to congratulate Natalie on her new role and thank her for the inspiring work she has done as Artistic Director of our organisation over the past six years. From spearheading a new approach to audience engagement with the innovative Friendship Model, to championing inclusive imagery with The Stage photo campaign, Natalie has demonstrated time and again that her creative vision knows no bounds. At the heart of tiata fahodzi is our mission to help create a richer, more multiple mainstream theatre culture and as Artistic Director Natalie has pushed that agenda forward with thought-provoking productions and ground-breaking initiatives that will benefit the sector for years to come. We have no doubt Natalie will take the same unwavering drive and passion with her to Northern Stage and wish her the very best.

Photo credit: Mathieu Ajan