Page last updated at 10:43 GMT, Saturday, 5 September 2009 11:43 UK

Arts centre's head to stand down

Judith Isherwood in the Wales Millennium Centre
Judith Isherwood says her decision to leave is full of 'mixed emotions'

The chief executive of the Wales Millennium Centre is to quit her job to return to her native Australia after six years in the post.

Judith Isherwood joined the arts centre as it was being built in 2003, facing the challenges of it opening and the struggle to juggle its finances.

She leaves to become the new chief executive of the Melbourne Arts Centre.

The Millennium Centre's board chairman, Lord Rowe-Beddoe, said it had been a "stimulating" partnership.

"Judith returns to her home town to head up an exciting and challenging development project, as well as benefiting from being closer to her immediate family," he said.

Wales Millennium Centre
We've gone a long way to really dispel that myth that it was only about high art, about opera
Judith Isherwood

He added that she would leave with his "greatest appreciation" for her work at the centre in Cardiff Bay.

Announcing her intentions to leave, the chief executive said she had "very mixed emotions".

"I am as passionate and enthusiastic about Wales Millennium Centre now as I was on my first day. However, my desire to return now to Australia and explore new challenges is equally strong," she said.

However, her time at the centre has not been without challenges, and controversy.

The Queen, accompanied by the Duke of Edinburgh and Prince of Wales, officially opened the £109m performing arts centre in November 2004, as it became one of the most iconic buildings in Wales.


But three years later, there were warnings from auditors that it was in danger of insolvency.

In 2007, the assembly government agreed to wipe out a £13.5m debt, and treble its annual funding from £1.2m to £3.7m.

"I don't think it was a matter of anything going wrong," insisted its outgoing head.

"I think the experience of any of these sorts of projects, not just in the UK but anywhere across the world, is that once they are open you look at what you want to achieve with these sort of operations.

"There is a balancing out of support from government with the revenue that these sort of businesses can generate. Where we are now, that balance is right."

She also argued that the Millennium Centre's success in attracting 1.5m visitors a year showed that early detractors were wrong to voice concerns that it would become an opera house for the cultural elite.

"We've gone a long way to really dispel that myth that it was only about high art, about opera, because the truth is the breadth of the programme that we deliver is so much more than that," she added.

Print Sponsor

More money for 109m arts centre
26 Jan 09 |  Wales politics
Arts venue cost plan 'was flawed'
02 Oct 08 |  Wales politics
Arts venue debts to be wiped out
07 Nov 07 |  Wales
Arts centre's ticket 'landmark'
05 Sep 07 |  Wales
'Open house' at new arts venue
27 Nov 04 |  Wales
Gala opening at Millennium Centre
26 Nov 04 |  Wales


The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

Has China's housing bubble burst?
How the world's oldest clove tree defied an empire
Why Royal Ballet principal Sergei Polunin quit


Sign in

BBC navigation

Copyright © 2017 BBC. The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.

Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific