Theatre boss bows out as Comar’s leading man

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Arts boss Alasdair McCrone is quitting his top job at Comar on Mull.

News that Tobermory-based Mr McCrone is leaving his role as the organisation’s chief executive comes almost four years after he and another director, Gordon Maclean, were ‘let go’ because of cost-cutting measures.

Their job losses as directors resulted in more than 250 people at a public meeting on Mull voting no confidence in the Comar board at that time and calling for the sacked directors’ reinstatement. The actors’ union Equity also hit out.

A shadow board was then set up to oppose the jobs being axed and the redundancy process was halted, followed by open recruitment for a new convener and board members. Then, in December 2015, major changes were announced, including Mr McCrone becoming the new chief executive.

Mr McCrone’s departure was officially announced last week, saying he will be going this spring so he can ‘focus full-time on his creative work’ instead of balancing it with a desk job.

His employment at Comar cost £38,010 last year, according to the charity’s financial statement ending March 2018.

The online announcement described Mr McCrone’s career  at Comar as ‘memorable’.

He will leave in June after a ‘mutual agreement’ was made, said Gordon Dougall, co-chairman of the Comar board.

The online statement read: ‘After 24 years of balancing acting and directing with a desk job, Alasdair McCrone will be leaving Comar this spring to focus full-time on his creative work. His career with Mull Theatre, and subsequently with Comar, the Mull arts organisation, has been memorable.’

Mr McCrone has directed 63 new productions for Mull Theatre, commissioned or presented more than 30 newly commissioned plays, sent out 66 major tours or residencies in other theatres and appeared as an actor in 30 separate productions. He also forged co-production partnerships with other companies and creative producers and he says he has given paid professional work to more than 300 people.

‘After the collapse of the previous Comar board and management in late 2015, I was asked to step up and take on the role of acting CEO because there was no realistic alternative. In the year following this, we stabilised the company and submitted a successful application to Creative Scotland for continued core funding. Now it is time for me to leave that desk and get back to what I love doing most,’ said Mr McCrone.

Two years after Comar was virtually reinvented, it was awarded £1,250,000 from Creative Scotland for 2018-21, working out at just over £416,000 a year. A creative spokesperson confirmed Mr McCrone’s departure had been communicated to them.

The Comar statement continued: ‘Alasdair was instrumental in growing Mull Theatre from its foundation as a tiny and unfunded theatre to one of Scotland’s foremost professional touring theatre companies and has latterly been Comar’s CEO. The board of Comar thank him, and wish him well for his next creative projects.’

Mr Dougall said Mr McCrone was currently directing and acting in Mull Theatre production Unspotted Snow and would be taking it on tour across Scotland. ‘We hope he will continue to bring further projects back to us at Comar,’ he added.

Mr McCrone told The Oban Times: ‘Fundamentally, I’m an actor and director who loves making theatre and taking it out to audiences around the country. I’m currently directing my 63rd and final new production for Mull Theatre, Peter Arnott’s brilliant new play, Unspotted Snow, and we’re having a great time doing it.’

Comar’s next board meeting will be on April 16. Any announcement about Mr McCrone’s replacement will be made after that.