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Charcoalblue welcomes new Partners and looks to future growth


This June, we celebrated 15 years of growth and excellence, the announcement of Local Partnership Boards for the UK, USA and Australia as well as introducing three new partners at our AGM surrounded by the Prague Quadrennial.

Charcoalblue enjoying the sights at this years Prague Quadrennial

Currently, we operate six studios across the globe. Whilst the international teams often collaborate at some physical distance from each other, the group works hard to maintain a special culture which values the individual, close relationships and an ethic of shared ownership, responsibility and reward.

Charcoalblue Group Chair, Andy Hayles was delighted to announce a series of new partnership positions, promotions and board initiatives as the group looks towards future growth and sustainability, with further new partnership announcements to follow over the coming years as the operation and control of the Partnership is shared between the team.

The three new partners are:

Elena Giakoumaki

In her nine years at Charcoalblue, auditorium design specialist Elena Giakoumaki has contributed to over 25 completed auditoria around the world.

Qualified architect and set designer, prior to Charcoalblue Elena worked at RHWL Arts Team focussing her skills on theatre planning.

From the Bord Gais, Dublin and Manchester Home through to Theatr Clwyd and the refurbishment of the Theatre Royal Drury Lane; Elena is one of Charcoalblue’s brightest stars and mentors to our next generation of designers. Elena joins Charcoalblue’s new UK Partnership Board as its first new partner.

Rich Garfield

Current London Studio Principal, Rich Garfield will also join the new UK Partnership Board alongside Elena.

Rich leads a team of nearly 40 people, and has a background that includes dance and staging large live events around the world, including a stint at Brighton Dome & Festival as Head of Production.

Rich has recently led the Charcoalblue team for South-East Dance and the refurbishment of Ally Pally, most recently presenting the revitalised venue at this year’s ABTT Trade Show. Rich represents our next generation of ingenious production creatives on the new UK Partnership Board.

Eric Lawrence

'Charcoalblue has had to listen and learn a great deal entering the Australasian marketplace; but we are fortunate to have wonderful clients who have guided us at the same time as enjoying our international perspective. Our new theatre for Waikato in New Zealand will be a real show case for our Melbourne Team as Charcoalblue has led the project and employed the design team as part of our turnkey service. I’m delighted to be the first partner to the Charcoalblue Australia Partnership Board, and to report to the Senior Partners alongside Charcoalblue USA’s Partner, John Owens.’

- Partner & Melbourne Studio Principal at Charcoalblue

The third new partner is Eric Lawrence who will join the Charcoalblue Australian Partnership Board. Eric and Andy first met on the Royal Court redevelopment in 1996 and have worked together ever since. Eric has 30 years experience as an architect designing performing arts buildings and formally joined Charcoalblue in 2014, subsequently founding Charcoalblue’s Melbourne Studio.

From the RSC Courtyard Theatre, the Belgrade in Coventry to Chicago Shakespeare Theatre and the Lyric Theatre in NY for Harry Potter, Eric has designed auditoria internationally for his whole career and is now leading projects with Sydney Theatre Company, Melbourne Theatre Club and the new Waikato Regional Theatre in New Zealand

On top of the announcement of our three new partners, the first of the Local Partnership Boards to commence operation is in the UK and Gary Sparkes has been elected to the position of Managing Partner to lead the initiative.

Gary Sparkes

‘It’s a joy and an honour to be appointed Managing Partner to Charcoalblue UK. I look forward to continuing to bring the strength of our internationally experienced team to the UK and Europe. No job is too small for us to consider, and similarly no project too complex. From the Manchester Factory to the Centre for Music in London, our talented teams in London, Bristol and Glasgow bring their drive and design expertise to every challenge. It’s a privilege to lead the UK Partnership Board’.

- LLP Managing Partner at Charcoalblue

Formerly of Scottish Opera and the National Theatre and current board member of The Backstage Centre, Gary has been a partner at CB for four years.

Currently leading the Charcoalblue team for a new theatre for Leuven, Belgium; Gary is proudly European in his outlook and has also recently won commissions for Charcoalblue in Antwerp, Stockholm and Poland.

To further support the Local Partnership Boards structure, the existing Senior Partnership team formed a Group Board providing overarching governance for Charcoalblue. Andy Hayles has been elected to the position of Group Chair and together with Senior Partners Jon Stevens, Gavin Green and Katy Winter, will oversee Charcoalblue’s UK, USA and Australian operations.

‘This is a special moment in Charcoalblue’s 15 year history. While we still feel like the new kids on the block, it’s already time for us to address future leadership and to start planning succession to hand over responsibility and to share reward with our talented team.

The next 15 years will see our local partnership boards grow and become the powerhouses for Charcoalblue’s next stage of development. We still have plenty to learn and plenty to do; not least to try to improve diversity in our industry and to dedicate ourselves to environmental sustainability. This is a long term plan, and the senior partners and I look forward to focussing on nurturing and ensuring the healthy, sustainable growth of the expertise of our team; and to making further new partner announcements over the coming years. Our hearty congratulations to Elena, Rich, Eric and Gary!’

- Andy Hayles, Group Chair at Charcoalblue

Supporting the industry internationally since 2004

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