Breaking: French fire British arts chief

Breaking: French fire British arts chief


norman lebrecht

August 28, 2020

Le Figaro reports that the Théâtre du Châtelet has dismissed its British artistic director Ruth Mackenzie, following an audit which revealed ‘managerial and financial problems.’

Mackenzie, who arrived from the Holland Festival in 2017, previously headed London’s 2012 Cultural Olympiad, Manchester’s International Festival and, a long time ago, Scottish Opera.

UPDATE: Mackenzie has told the Guardian her dismissal was ‘brutal and inexplicable’.

‘I can’t believe it was done in such an unbelievably brutal way. A letter was sent to my lawyer terminating my contract and telling me I was to vacate my office, my email was being cut off and my salary stopped.’


  • Walter Brumley says:

    All these revelations about how poorly British women manage their affairs from this sad sack to the grotesque BBC and PROMS nightmare of their own doing makes one wonder how dim these bulbs are to be in positions of trustworthiness.

    The whole lot of them keep turning out unfit after short runs.

  • Kenneth Griffin says:

    How sad.

    Ruth Mackenzie has now commented, to New York Times and Liberation.

    I hope BBC Front Row has had time to cover this story tonight.

  • Julien says:

    You can say it’s sad, rude and unfair the way she was fired.
    But her first season in 2019/2020 was really a shame. Everything except good theatre, music and opera.
    “My vision is a citizens theater, it’s an activists theater,” she said. Some people want to make art in theaters and others want to make human rights and politics. Her programmation was a caricature, poor and pretentious.
    Even if she was not fired for artistic reason, good for The Chatelet she doesn’t stay any more.
    The sooner the better.

  • Cynical Bystander says:

    I’ m sure that she will be welcomed back into the bosum of our own cultural establishment. Her work in Paris, or should that be woke?, stands her in good stead to take over one of the citadels of inclusivity that stand empty and not just due to Covid. Why, what better place than London’s South Bank complex? She sounds just the person to go through millions of £’s of other people’s money in search of an audience that shows no interest in going there whilst driving away the one that does, or did.

  • Guus Mostart says:

    Not enough French? Probably still trying to master the Dutch language.

  • Sanity says:

    So her crime was that she didn’t say ‘bonjour” to everyone, yet the Chatelet employed Bruno Michel for 22 years…

  • Mary Westmacott says:

    Any person who accepts an senior arts management job in France should know that these sorts of things may happen and probably will happen. The cultural sector in France is a giant political machine, still run like the Court of Louis XIV, with those in favour at ‘The Court’ and those not in favour. I can not pass judgment on Ms. Mackenzie’s tenure, which was far too short and undoubtedly impacted by the covid-19 shutdown and everything that came with it. What I will say, after 45 years working as a financial advisor/consultant to many global arts institutions, is that France is a complete waste of time for any person who is not political, small-minded and mean-spirited. It simply is not interesting on a home-grown creative level. The only interesting things that they do are 75% imported. It has actually always been that way, more or less and it is only getting worse there, as their poor education system churns out mentally deficient uncreative types at an alarming rate, the vast majority of them showing little or know intellectual curiosity and still, in 2020, not able to speak coherently in English or any other language other than French. This myth of believing that France is a beacon of culture and cultural institutions is today only a myth and probably died just after the Second World War. Today you find far more dynamic, creative, international and well-managed arts institutions in the most unlikely of places: in Iceland, in Luxembourg, in Slovenia, in Finland, in Poland, in Mexico and in many other places. Sadly, in the cultural sector, France is an anachronism, with politicised bureaucratic managers who can operate ONLY in France, have extremely poor communication, human and managerial skills and have that unique French trait of extreme arrogance and stupidity.
    Reading the article about Ms. Mackenzie’s dismissal I had to laugh, as she was told that one of the reasons that she was being dismissed was because she didn’t say “bonjour” enough! As outlandish and stupid as that may sound to the non-initiated in French reasoning, it actually could be, in their narrow and very provincial minds, a reason to dismiss a senior manager. I think that alone should make people realise that something is just not right in that country.

  • Iain Scott says:

    She left ScottIsh Opera in a financial mess.