Former Really Useful Group CEO Bill Taylor (pictured) has today been appointed CEO of Stage Entertainment UK, as part of the Dutch-based company’s aggressive plans to increase its rate of West End productions and gain a foothold into UK venue ownership.

Appointed by Stage Entertainment founder Joop van den Ende, also the creator of Big Brother TV production company Endemol, Taylor will begin his new role next month. He recently left Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Really Useful Group where he was chief executive from 1997 to 2005, having previously been CFO from 1990 to 1997.

According to a press release, Taylor’s appointment “underlines the company’s commitment to establishing the group as a world player in the theatre and entertainment business”. He will be responsible for the development and production of theatre and other live entertainment content in the UK and US as well as seeking to acquire related and complimentary entertainment businesses and properties and bringing Stage Entertainment’s existing European business operations and productions into UK and US markets.

Already huge on the continent, a spokesperson today told that, “in the next few years, you’ll be seeing a lot more of Stage Entertainment in the UK”. The company has previously co-produced West End productions of West Side Story, Tommy, Fosse, Spend Spend Spend and The Full Monty and is currently producing Blue Man Group at the New London Theatre.

Commenting on Taylor’s appointment, Joop van den Ende, who has presented more than 80 stage productions globally, said: “We are delighted that Bill is joining us and I am certain his experience and reputation in the theatre and entertainment industry will enable Stage Entertainment to have a major presence in London and New York, the two theatre capitals of the world.”

Taylor said: “Stage Entertainment is renowned around the world for the professional and first-class quality of its productions and operations and is the predominant theatrical producer and venue owner in continental Europe.” Speaking to, he added: “I am looking to establish a real presence in the UK and US market for Stage Entertainment through both acquisition and copyright arrangements for major theatrical productions. This is an exciting challenge which I am looking forward to getting underway when I join Stage Entertainment in mid-March.”

Formed in 1998, Stage Entertainment employs 4,700 people in eight countries, focusing on three core activities: ticketing and marketing, venue ownership and production of musicals, plays, concerts and other events. The company currently owns a network of 29 venues, predominantly in continental Europe, including 11 in Germany.

In other industry appointments, black theatre company Talawa has announced its new artistic director while Watford Palace has announced the departure of its incumbent artistic director.

At Talawa, Pat Cumper, who was one of Jamaica’s leading playwrights before she moved to Britain, will begin her role in March, taking over from acting artistic director Ben Thomas, who stepped in when Paulette Randall quit the company last year following funding disputes with Arts Council England (See News, 14 Jul 2005).

Cumper has established herself in the UK as a writer for theatre, television and radio. In 2002, her play The Key Game was produced by Talawa and her BBC Radio 4 drama series One Bright Child won the RIMA radio drama award. She commented: “I am delighted to be appointed the artistic director of Talawa Theatre Company and relish the many creative challenges and opportunities for excellence this appointment brings.”

Joy Nichols, who took over from Baroness Howells as chair of the company in December 2005, said: “Pat brings with her a high level of experience and the capabilities needed to sustain the high standard already set by Talawa. I am absolutely positive that Pat will rise to the many challenges that theatres in general and Talawa in particular are facing in responding to the needs and aspirations of the community.”

Talawa’s restructuring comes after a mass exodus of staff and board members last year, when ACE removed £4 million of funding from its plans to found the UK’s first black-led, black-built theatre in Westminster. The project has since collapsed as other funders also removed support. However, at the end of last year, ACE confirmed that it would continue to supply £420,000 of revenue funding to the company until at least March 2007. It also encouraged the organisation to “submit robust plans for change” (See News, 20 Oct 2005).

In Watford, Lawrence Till, artistic director of the Watford Palace Theatre since 1999, is leaving to pursue a freelance career. Till was previously artistic director of the Octagon Theatre, Bolton which he ran for eight years. He led the Watford Palace through a period of change unparalleled in the venue’s 98-year history, including playing a central role in the £8.8 million two-year refurbishment of the theatre, which reopened in October 2004. He has championed new plays by writers such as Sarah Daniels, Charlotte Jones and Tanika Gupta, and much of this work has toured nationally.

Till, who is returning to the venue in March as a freelance director with his production of One Last Card Trick, said: “I am proud of my achievements with new plays and the development of work with, and for, young people. However, the greatest achievement has to be the refurbishment of the building itself. I will look back on my time in Watford with pride; with admiration and excitement at the skills of the people I have worked with and wonder at the generosity of individuals and groups who contributed to its success. I have been an artistic director for over 15 years, and I feel that it is now time to proceed towards a change”.

- by Caroline Ansdell & Terri Paddock