New Chair and Vice Chair announced

8 Jun 2021
Bernard Donoghue (Chair, Bristol Old Vic) and Sado Jirde (Vice Chair, Bristol Old Vic). Photo by @JonCraig_Photos


Bristol Old Vic has announced the appointment of Bernard Donoghue and Sado Jirde as the new Chair and Vice Chair of its Board of Trustees. They take over in mid-June from out-going Chair Liz Forgan, who is to step down from the post after more than eight years, and Vice Chair Denis Burn who stepped down from the Board in 2020. Together with the Board and team of Bristol Old Vic they will help to shape the future of one of the most dynamic cultural institutions in the UK, leading a team committed to creating theatre with and for its community, and sharing that work with a national and international audience.

Bernard Donoghue
is the Chief Executive of the Association of Leading Visitor Attractions (ALVA) and is the outgoing Chairman of the award-winning London International Festival of Theatre (LIFT) which he has chaired since 2010. In May 2017 he was appointed to be a member of the Mayor of London’s Cultural Leadership Board and is the Mayor’s Ambassador for Culture. He has been a member of the UK Government’s Tourism Industry Council since 2015.

He is a Trustee of the People’s History Museum in Manchester, and a former trustee of The Museum of the Home, WWF-UK, Centrepoint and the Heritage Alliance.  

He said:
“I am honoured and delighted to have been appointed Chair of the Board of Trustees of Bristol Old Vic, alongside Sado Jirde as Deputy Chair. It’s a privilege to succeed Dame Liz Forgan, and I want to express my thanks, and those of the entire Bristol Old Vic family and community, for her outstanding leadership, tireless work and advocacy over many years. We wouldn’t be in the fit and healthy position we are without her.  

I’m hugely looking forward to working with Sado and the board, with Tom Morris and Charlotte Geeves and all the BOV team. Theatres and performance venues were the first to be hit by COVID, were hit hardest and will take the longest to recover, so our repair and recovery will take time and will be a truly collaborative effort. But we have also shown that we can be creative and innovative in times of challenge, adaptable and responsive to local, national and global issues and trends.    I look forward to welcoming everyone to our beautiful building and throwing open the doors, physically and digitally, so that as many people as possible can experience and enjoy our extraordinary productions.”

Sado Jirde
is the director of Black South West Network (BSWN), a charity focused on human rights, equality, access to knowledge and socio-economic inclusion within the framework of advocating on behalf of Black and Minoritised communities. Under Sado’s leadership, Black South West Network’s focus has shifted to developing a socio-economic strategy for implementing inclusive growth. She has worked tirelessly within the organisation to raise the profile of racial equality at strategic and policy levels regionally and nationally, on a firm foundation locally in Bristol.

Sado sits on various advisory groups and committees including the WECA Cultural strategy group, the Transatlantic Trafficking of Enslaved Afrikans Legacy Steering Group, Voice for Change England, The Baobab Foundation Steering Group, and the Coalition of Race Equality Organisations (CoRE) nationally.

She was awarded West Woman of the Year - Most Inspirational Role Model in 2019, and the African Achievers Award in 2015, was selected as one of the 100 Diaspora Change Makers to join the Global Women, Leadership and Change programme in 2016 and listed as a Women of Inspiration: 100 social enterprise leaders showing Covid who’s boss in 2020.

She said:
“I am delighted to be appointed as a Vice Chair of Bristol Old Vic Board. Years of experience in the racial justice sector has sparked a profound and genuine passion for the Arts, particularly around the role it can play in stimulating revolutionary debates, telling untold stories and building bridges across communities. An inclusive approach to arts can be a powerful and effective response to the polarising challenges facing our society. This is a great opportunity to help the Theatre build on its inclusion strategy. In a diverse society, coming together in meaningful ways with people who differ linguistically, religiously or racially is one of the most urgent challenges facing us and it is through art that we can challenge notions of who holds knowledge and where boundaries of inclusion might lie.”  

Bristol Old Vic’s Executive Director, Charlotte Geeves, said
: “I am delighted to welcome Bernard and Sado as our new Chair and Vice Chair respectively. Their passion for Bristol Old Vic, together with their formidable skills and experiences uniquely place them to lead us through the challenges and opportunities that will follow as we emerge from this pandemic and look towards the future. I look forward to working with them and the Bristol Old Vic team as the theatre moves forward in exciting new directions.”  

Tom Morris, Bristol Old Vic Artistic Director said: "
Bristol Old Vic’s transformation over the last ten years would have been impossible without the brilliant stewardship of our outgoing chair Dame Liz Forgan, for whom the city and the theatre will be forever grateful. Now, a new transformation awaits as we emerge from the COVID crisis, which will see a new business model addressing new marketplaces in a rapidly changing world, and which will be founded on accelerating change in representation and welcome to every community in our city.   

At this unique point in history, Bristol has the opportunity to rebuild its economy in a way that makes life for all in the city fairer, more representative and more sustainable and the Theatre is committed to playing a central role in that vision.  We could not imagine a better governance team to lead us towards that goal than Bernard and Sado. We are hugely lucky to have appointed them and cannot wait to continue our journey with them.”

Phil Gibby,
Arts Council England, Area Director for South West, said:“Arts Council England is absolutely delighted to learn of the appointments of Bernard Donoghue and Sado Jirde to the roles of Chair and Vice-Chair of Bristol Old Vic. Hugely significant achievers in their respective fields, they will bring new impetus and expertise to the organisation, as well as blending national and regional perspectives. It’s hard to imagine more appropriate appointments in succession to the excellent leadership of Dame Liz Forgan and Denis Burn. We wish them well.”    

For further information please contact Amanda Adams (Head of Communications) on 07957 438212 /    

Bristol Old Vic is the longest continuously running theatre in the UK, and celebrated its 250th anniversary in 2016. The historic playhouse aims to inspire audiences with its own original productions, both at home and on tour, whilst nurturing the next generation of artists, whether that be through their 350-strong Young Company, their many outreach and education projects or their trailblazing artist development programme, Bristol Ferment.

They use their funding to support experiment and innovation, to allow access to their programme for people who would not otherwise encounter it, or be able to afford it, and to keep their extraordinary heritage alive and animated.

On 24 Sep 2018, Bristol Old Vic completed its 2-year multi-million pound redevelopment project, which transformed its front of house space into a warm and welcoming public building for all of Bristol to enjoy, created a new studio theatre and opened up its unique theatrical heritage to the public for the first time.

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