This much I know: Neil Constable, chief executive, Shakespeare's Globe
09 March 2015 -
The boss of the venue for April’s CMI President’s Dinner talks us through the stagecraft behind his management training, and the challenges of leading one of London’s top theatres
Neil Constable is one of the UK’s foremost leaders in the Arts, with more than a quarter of a century’s experience in some of Britain’s most beloved cultural organisations. With Shakespeare’s Globe on London’s South Bank under his management for almost five years, the Unilever-backed venue has garnered consistently high acclaim for its ambitious productions, featuring some of the finest acting talent of the modern age. Here, he gives us a few insights into how he does it…
It has been great to work on Shakespeare productions again. I joined the Globe in 2010 after working as executive Director of the Almeida Theatre in London for seven years. Prior to that, I had worked at the Royal Shakespeare Company for 16 years.
Managing the Globe is always a challenge. We don’t receive any money from the Arts Council, which was part of the deal when we received a lottery award. Unlike some theatres, we have to run the Globe as a viable business. We are lucky to have been supported by Unilever for more than 30 years.
My interest in Shakespeare goes back to school in Bristol. The flame was lit by my English teacher Christopher Jefferies, who was recently libelled by a number of newspapers over the murder of his tenant Joanna Yeates.
I trained as a stage manager. The stage manager’s relationship with the director is key. You are the person making sure the director’s vision is being delivered when they are not around.
Challenges early in my career helped me develop management skills. I was RSC London manager when the RSC withdrew from the Barbican and had to keep productions running through a difficult nine months when everyone knew we weren’t going to be there long.
I travel a lot. We put on productions all over the world and I always make sure I see all our work. I was in New York twice this month. It can be quite tiring but I think it is important for the chief executive to turn up.
I have a number of heroes in the arts world. Firstly, I admire Sir John Tusa and the way he turned the Barbican around from being a building people didn’t want to visit to getting a reputation for presenting the best work. Tony Hall did a great job at the Royal Opera House, and does so now at the BBC. Also, Michael Lynch, who oversaw the transformation of the Royal Festival Hall and Southbank in London.
My management role is enmeshed in my personal life. I am lucky, because my work is what a lot of people do socially. The hairs on the back of my neck still rise when I see a production for the first time. I am having a holiday to Miami later this year but will see some donors while I am down there.
Neil Constable shared lessons in leadership at the Chartered Management Institute (CMI) President’s Dinner 2015, held at the Globe Theatre on 13 April.
Image of Neil Constable courtesy of Simon Kane / Shakespeare's Globe.
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