Canterbury City Council has formally handed over the running of the Marlowe Theatre to a new organisation.
Part private company and part charitable trust, The Marlowe Trust is chaired by Jonathan Church, one of the country’s leading theatre directors.
The council says there are numerous advantages to the new arrangement.
These include saving the authority money and allowing the trust to use its charitable status to attract tax breaks, gift aid, donations, grants and legacies.
The trust will also have extended artistic and creative freedom plus the opportunity to be enterprising.
Mr Church said: “Thanks to the extraordinary efforts of Canterbury City Council, The Marlowe Theatre is a state–of–the–art theatre, has an exceptional staff and a very well-deserved reputation as one of the country’s flagship regional theatres.
“Everyone connected with the trust is proud and excited to be taking The Marlowe on to the next stage in its development.
“We hope to build on the great work that is already being done by The Marlowe and provide the best work and experiences for all of the many audiences and communities we serve.”
Staff at The Marlowe will transfer straight to the trust and keep their existing employment terms and conditions.
Trust chief executive Deborah Shaw said: “As an independent, self-funding charity, we are now able to invest directly in developing our programme on stage and in our creative work for and with the communities of Canterbury and east Kent.
“These are exciting times for The Marlowe as we redefine what a major regional theatre can be.”
The trust will lease the theatre, and the Marlowe Kit in the former Poor Priests Hospital in Stour Street, from the council for 25 years.
Formerly a cinema which closed in the early 1980s, the current Marlowe opened in 2011 after a £26.4m remodelling project.
Canterbury City Council Chief Executive Colin Carmichael said: “Although the new theatre has thrived with the council taking a hands-off but supporting role, we all believe the time has come for a new trust, dedicated to The Marlowe’s success and development, to take on those challenges.
“The Marlowe has become the heart of the city and east Kent’s cultural life and we want to work closely with the amazing trustees and theatre staff to take that on to new levels.”
Councillors made the decision to relinquish control of the theatre in January.
Council leader Simon Cook said: “More than 10 years ago the council had the confidence and vision to invest in a new theatre for Canterbury.
“It has succeeded more than we could have imagined and The Marlowe has now established a firm foundation and stellar reputation to build on for the future. We are so proud of what The Marlowe has become.
“A team, whose sole focus is the theatre, will have the time and space to be creative without the distraction of being part of the council.
“We know the new trust will ensure that The Marlowe will continue to go from strength to strength and we wish them every success.”