Eclipse Theatre appoints new senior staff ahead of move from Sheffield to Leeds

Picture by Sharron Wallace.
Picture by Sharron Wallace.

Eclipse Theatre, one of the foremost national touring companies led by black people in the UK, has made two senior appointments ahead of its move from Sheffield to Leeds.

The organisation, which develops new artists for theatre, film and radio across the country, has taken on Amanda Huxtable as artistic director and CEO, while Shawab Iqbal becomes executive producer.

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Ms Huxtable succeeds Dawn Walton, who stepped down in June after 10 years at the helm.

She is a theatre director based in the north of England who was artistic associate at Hull Truck Theatre and is chairwoman at RJC Dance in Leeds.

With more than 20 years directing and producing experience she has built her portfolio across the UK, USA and Canada, having worked with Belgrade Theatre, Red Ladder, Proper Job Theatre, Yorkshire Women’s Theatre, Chol Theatre, Virtual Migrants, Tayo Aluko and Vanitas Arts.

Her other work includes co-artistic director at Hidden Gems (with writer Marcia Layne) a touring company that presents Black British stories.

Together with Vanitas Arts she is also developing an immersive theatre piece based on Trumpet, the debut novel by Scottish Nigerian poet Jackie Kay.

Ms Huxtable is on the steering committee of Huddersfield Literature Festival and was the chairwoman of governors at Birkby Junior School in West Yorkshire.

She said: “I feel like a small yet proud nation who has just won an Olympic Gold medal. After winning this particular race I am both exhilarated and excited for future possibilities.”

Eclipse says its mission is to use the experience of anyone marginalised for their race or ethnicity to create new work to enrich the stories shared with theatre audiences nationwide, and to diversify those audiences.

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"It is important to pause and reflect before embarking on that future, so I want to thank our previous artistic director, Dawn Walton and all who supported Eclipse Theatre in its exceptional role of leading the way towards a more representative and inclusive cultural landscape.

"I am pleased to have built mutual understanding, respect and hope from the Eclipse Theatre Board. It is now time for me to continue building on this with our current and potential partnerships and all who support Eclipse. Our ultimate aim is to create outstanding work and experiences for all our audiences. I cannot wait to lead the team towards our collective powerful opportunities in the future."

Mr Iqbal was born and bred in East London and graduated with a first class honours degree in Sociology from the University of Kent.

He is an experienced producer, having worked across theatre and dance for over a decade and is currently senior artistic associate at Bush Theatre and learning and participation producer at hip hop dance company Boy Blue.

Prior to this, the qualified teacher and former ChildLine counsellor was a producer at Theatre Royal Stratford East and an administrator for Matthew Bourne’s New Adventures.

He has an extensive freelance portfolio working with established and emerging artists and is a trustee at Tamasha Theatre Company and an independent governor at Newham Sixth Form College

Mr Iqbal said: "I am thrilled to be joining Eclipse Theatre at this exciting time alongside the visionary Amanda Huxtable.

"We live in increasingly regressive times where divisive politics continue to take centre stage, making Eclipse and its unapologetic commitment to black and brown artists even more vital and important.

"This is also a significant moment in the sector, and the company will continue to be at the forefront of enabling a more equitable and representative theatrical landscape.

"I want to pay tribute to Dawn Walton’s work over the past ten years and her ongoing legacy, and look forward to building the next chapter with Amanda, the company’s talented team and its board of trustees."

The company is in the process of moving to Leeds over the next two months, with a view of opening a new office in January.