Maggie Saxon, manager and consultant

 26 October 2012

From usher to finance director and beyond, Maggie Saxon just couldn't stay away from the Royal Exchange Theatre. She left her job as a banker to work full-time in theatre.

"I helped project manage the creation of a £3.2 million new build theatre."

Hometown?

I'm a Mancunian, born and bred.

What job do you do?

I'm a consultant working across the arts, mostly in performing arts.

I do all sorts – taking interim roles when theatres are between CEOs, doing organisational reviews, mentoring, evaluations, and business planning. It's quite a range of work.

I'm also the executive director of Skillscene, which is a national body representing most of the major players in technical live arts. It represents both individuals and organisations.

Skillscene aims to be the brains behind the continuing professional development needs of the theatre sector – we encourage the development of skills where they are needed.

What previous jobs in theatre have you done?

At school, I wanted to be an actor. I had a great teacher, who was an inspiration.

I was hopeless at sciences and maths, but loved the arts and literature. She totally supported me and had a huge influence on my future career path.

"I helped project manage the creation of a £3.2 million new build theatre."

My first job in the theatre industry was when I was an usher at the Royal Exchange Theatre in Manchester. I was going to college two evenings a week to study for my banking exams.  I did ushering on my free weeknights and at weekends. 

After an initial career in banking, I moved to the Royal Exchange as finance manager.

After five years I went on to become general manager of the Victoria Theatre, Stoke-on-Trent (now the New Vic Theatre).

I worked alongside the pioneering director Peter Cheeseman. I helped him project manage the creation of the New Vic. It was a £3.2 million new build theatre 'in the round' in Newcastle-Under-Lyme.

After 13 years I moved on to become managing director of the West Yorkshire Playhouse.

I've been working as a consultant since 2002. I've worked with Skillscene since it began in 2005.

What qualifications do you have?

Apart from my banking qualifications, I studied through the Open University Business School to take a certificate in management.

I never took a degree. I was always concerned that I ought to have some management qualification, though others at the time thought it was a bit unnecessary.

I think it gave me a good theoretical basis on which to develop for the future. 

What do you do at work?

It varies enormously. Sometimes I'm out and about, meeting people, running meetings, and doing interviews. 

Or you might find me doing some consultations with colleagues in technical theatre up and down the country, looking at National Occupational Standards and how they can describe what someone actually does.

Other times, I sit in my office at my computer writing things up and arranging things on the phone.

What’s the best thing about your job?

The people I work with.

And the worst thing about the job?

Motivating myself to get on with typing up reports!

How do I get into theatre?

Identify what it is you want to do, sort out your strategy, and be determined.

Don’t be afraid to move on when it doesn’t feel right for you.

Above all, whatever you do choose to do, enjoy it. Life’s just too short not to!

 

Maggie is part of our theatre experts panel. Ask Maggie a question about working in theatre.


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