We’re thrilled (if a little teary) at the news that Stella Kanu, Executive Director at LIFT for the past four years, is taking on the role of CEO at world-renowned theatre, education centre, and cultural landmark Shakespeare’s Globe this Autumn.
Stella has led LIFT through a challenging pandemic and leaves us in a stronger financial position, with renewed operational strength, exciting partnerships, and a dynamic team.
Stella Kanu said:
“It has been a valuable roller-coaster time at LIFT!
It has been really satisfying seeing the numbers and company fortune change in such a short space of time in recovery and stabilisation during my tenure.
While covid presented serious challenges – rebuilding the team 3 times in 4 years, helping LIFT back into the black with a surplus for the first time in 10 years; rebuilding processes and procedures; integrating the legacy of LIFT Tottenham into the new business model centralising placemaking alongside the festival, creating and co-designing LIFT the City and securing £250k, refreshing our values, humanising our HR systems and executive producing two biennial festivals including our flagship LIFT 2022 Golden Lions winner, Sun and Sea….there is so much to be proud of during my time here.
I like to think I leave with good memories , despite equal amounts of frustrations and periods of uncertainty and significant change.
I know I leave LIFT with a stronger, highly skilled team, who are hungry and ready for the next full phase of the company as we row towards LIFT 2024; better finances, a restored reputation as a grown-up festival with values and principles to match. A bright future still beckons!
I wish Rosie, Kris and the team the best going forward.”
As Executive Director at LIFT Stella has led the strategic strands of the business as well as executive producing the biennial festival. Negotiating global and UK partnerships in the subsidised and commercial sector including Young Vic, Barbican, Serpentine Gallery, Royal Docks, City of London Corporation, British Council, the NEST Collective (Kenya), ICA (South Africa), Tandem (Australia), and other international partnerships across Europe and festivals across the Global South. She has worked in the theatre, festival, and cultural sector for over 30 years. She founded The Pivotal Place, a coaching practice for creative leaders, in 2005.
Stella was previously Executive Producer at Ovalhouse (now Brixton House), Soundwave Cumbria where she was CEO, and held various senior and executive roles at well-loved organisations such as Theatre Royal Margate, Harlem Stage (NYC), Cardboard Citizens, as well as roles at Africa Centre, Bernie Grant Arts Centre, Clean Break Theatre. She also held interim roles at arts, culture, and community organisations in civic directorates across London and the Southeast. Over the past 6 years, she has sat on several strategic and governing bodies including All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) for Theatre, and in 2020 was a London Mayoral appointee to Arts Council London Area. She has been on the Advisory Board at Rose Bruford College, has been Trustee at New Writing South, member/Interim Chair at Creative Margate Taskforce, Co-Chair of Arts Council England’s Race Advisory Group (RAG) and Chair at Eclipse Theatre (Leeds).
An alumna of University of Wales, Aberystwyth; Middlesex University Writing Centre and Oxford Brookes University. She is a sought- after panellist, speaker, and writer, having contributed to TV, radio, national publications, podcasts and online exploring topics such as inspirational leadership, diversity and inclusion, women and power, and the future of theatre.
At the Globe, Stella has spoken at the Women and Power: Women and Leadership Symposium (2019) and led the iconic photoshoot in 2019 for ‘Black Women in Theatre’ gathering more than 250 black women and non-binary people working in theatre together on the Globe stage to celebrate their contribution to the industry. Stella spearheaded the #AllofUs Redundancy Care Campaign – an immediate response to support Black, Asian, ethnically diverse, and migrant arts workers facing redundancy. Stella is a Cultural Leadership International Powerbrokers Fellow (2008), an Honorary Fellow at Rose Bruford College (2021) and was named one of the Alfred Fagon Award 25 Black Theatre Champions (2022).
All of us at LIFT have benefited from Stella’s generosity in leadership and we’re grateful for her support, guidance and expertise. We’re excited to see how the next chapter of the Globe takes shape with Stella at the helm.
"I'm thrilled for Stella and Shakespeare's Globe. She will have a transformative impact there, I know her leadership will be courageous and empowering. Stella will bring tremendous vision, knowledge and strength to one of the world's most loved theatrical institutions. It's been a privilege and a pleasure to work alongside Stella these past four years and I am so excited for what she'll achieve next."— Kris Nelson, CEO & Artistic Director, LIFT
"Stella helped lead LIFT into a brand new, stable future. She rebuilt our finances and structured new foundations for the festival. We will miss her but are heartened by the fact that she's going to be just over the river at Shakespeare's Globe. She's an award-winning theatrical star with time for everyone and a crystal clear sense of mission and purpose. Go Stella!"— Rosie Millard, Chair, LIFT
Photo by Sarah Lee.
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