LEEDS Playhouse has announced that Sir Rodney Brooke CBE is stepping down as Chairman of the Board after nine years of dedication to the role.

The retiring chairman has overseen a tremendously successful period in the theatre’s history, including its renaming as Leeds Playhouse, its three most successful productions at the box office, and the growth and development of its award-winning Creative Engagement and Furnace artistic development programmes.

Sir Rodney also played a significant role in the recently completed £16m redevelopment of the theatre, which resulted in the Playhouse being named Theatre Building of the Year 2020 at The Stage Awards.

Sir Rodney took over as chairman from Brian Boutell in 2010, but his relationship with the Playhouse as a valued ambassador for the theatre began many years earlier.

He notably played an instrumental role in the development of the original building on Quarry Hill in 1990 as a member of West Yorkshire County Council.

As chairman of the Board at Leeds Playhouse, Sir Rodney helped to transform the theatre into one of the most important and vibrant producing theatres in the UK.

As a lasting legacy, the Playhouse has named a new hospitality room in the redeveloped building in his honour. The Brooke Room recognises the significant contribution Sir Rodney and his wife Dr Lady Clare Brooke have made over the years.

Sir Rodney has an impressive depth and breadth of experience in the public sector and is a highly respected public figure.

In 2007, he was Knighted in the Queen’s birthday honours list for his commitment to public service, having worked extensively in Yorkshire, throughout the UK and internationally. Alongside his leading roles in local government and for statutory professional regulators, he has also served on the board of English National Opera and been deeply involved with other cultural venues such as Wigmore Hall.

Sir Rodney said: “It has been a true honour to be a part of Leeds Playhouse. The theatre has community spirit at its heart and brilliantly creates work that represents modern society, giving voice to those who need to be heard.

“I’m immensely proud of the pioneering work the Playhouse has produced both on and off our stages, increasing representation in the stories we share with audiences, the artists we work with, and the meaningful way we work with the city of Leeds and the wider communities we serve. The dedication of the staff shines through and it is through that dedication that greatness is achieved.

“Most of all, this theatre has become my home and a place that I hold dear in my heart. I can’t wait to see what the next chapter for the Playhouse holds, as I enjoy the theatre as a member of the audience.”

Sir Rodney, who lives in Ilkley, began his career as the office boy at Morley Borough Council, eventually becoming Chief Executive of West Yorkshire County Council (1974-84). He then took on the challenge of leading the most high-profile local authority in the country as Chief Executive of City of Westminster Council.

He held this position for six years before becoming Chief Executive of the Association of Metropolitan Authorities, which represents big cities and metropolitan areas in relation to ministers, senior civil servants, parliament, the media and the public.

In 2001, Sir Rodney was appointed as the first permanent Chair of the General Social Care Council, a statutory professional regulator for the social care sector. In 2009, he became Chair of the Quality Assurance Agency (QAA) for Higher Education, a position he held for five years during a time of acute sensitivity in the sector. The QAA was responsible for auditing academic standards in universities and higher education institutions.

Sir Rodney chaired the Trust which took over the running of Ilkley Manor House from Bradford Council and is currently its President. He has also actively served on boards both regionally and nationally, including appointments as: Chairman of Bradford Health Authority; Chairman of both the National and Yorkshire Electricity Consumer Councils; and Vice-Chairman of the Dolphin Charitable Foundation.

Sir Rodney has written extensively on regulation, ethics, governance and public administration.

Leeds Playhouse Artistic Director James Brining said: “From the moment I arrived at the Playhouse, I have enjoyed the full support, encouragement and insight of Rodney who, through his own passion for arts, culture and the region, fully appreciates the way this theatre can change lives. His hands-on approach has led us to push the boundaries and strive for excellence.

“During his tenure, the Playhouse has grown in terms of its strength and resilience; becoming a world leader in terms of accessibility; developing the first ever programme of Relaxed and Dementia Friendly performances; becoming the first ever Theatre of Sanctuary for refugees and asylum seekers; and continuing to break down barriers.”

Leeds Playhouse Executive Director Robin Hawkes said: “Rodney’s wealth of knowledge and experience within the public sector meant he played an intrinsic part in the successful applications made to Arts Council England and Leeds City Council as well as a host of other funders for our recent redevelopment.

“Thanks to this, we now have a theatre building which matches the organisation’s outstanding and innovative work connecting communities and audiences, and changing lives. He leaves the Playhouse in an extremely strong position to continue to build on what has already been achieved.”

Cllr Judith Blake, Leeds City Council leader, said: “Rodney is an extraordinary character and has been a fantastic leader driving the Leeds Playhouse Board and senior management team to strive for excellence.

“Under his guidance, Leeds Playhouse has reaffirmed its position locally, nationally and internationally and I am proud that the theatre has really helped place Leeds on the map during his tenure.

“The Playhouse is a theatre with great artistic vision, a welcoming home for artists and an inspiration for all who attend.”

Leeds Playhouse is now seeking a new chair. Full information and how to apply for this role is on the Playhouse’s website at leedsplayhouse.org.uk.