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Arts Council

About Us

The Grand Opera House is Northern Ireland's premier theatre, presenting an outstanding programme of drama, dance, opera, comedy, musicals and family shows. Our Vision and Mission Statements are:


Enriching Lives

Mission Statement

The Theatre is a meeting place for the community where culture, entertainment, experience and participation mix naturally and provide an enriching experience for everyone.

Aims & Values

The Grand Opera House aims:

  • To present a world class theatrical experience

  • To extend and enhance our reputation nationally and internationally

  • To exercise the responsible stewardship of our landmark building

  • To maintain a distinctive Education and Outreach Programme

  • To sustain and develop a successful organisation

  • To provide a positive experience whether visiting or working at the Theatre

The Grand Opera House's overriding principles are to respect and champion all arts activities, raise the profile of artists based in Northern Ireland among audiences and critics nationally and internationally, and bring the best national and international productions to Northern Ireland.

Chief Executive: Mary Clare Deane

Mary-Clare Deane took up post as Chief Executive of the Grand Opera House on 1 July 2014.

Prior to her appointment Mary-Clare was a Partnership Director with Capita PLC, where she spent two years leading a public/private partnership in West Sussex. Prior to this, she worked in local government in England and Northern Ireland. She has had extensive experience of working in both the public and private sectors, and brings a wide range of skills to the role.

Originally from Belfast, Mary-Clare was educated at the Queen’s University of Belfast and the University of Ulster.




Brian Forsythe, Programming Co-ordinator

Brian began his career with the Grand Opera House in 2001 and has worked in many aspects of the theatre during this time. He trained in Theatre Management from 2004 – 2006 on a course which he commissioned himself in conjunction with the Arts Council of Northern Ireland. Brian assists the Head of Programming and coordinates the programming process. He is fully trained in British Sign Language.



Sian Mawhinney, Head of Sales and Marketing

Sian took up the position of Head of Sales and Marketing in October 2010 and is responsible for ensuring the Grand Opera House’s success in the achievement of its attendance and ticket sales income targets.



Ross Hickey, Head of Sales and Marketing (Maternity Cover)

A Philosophy graduate of the Queen’s University of Belfast, Ross completed Parity’s Graduate Management programme in 2005 before becoming Box Office Manager of the Grand Opera House later that year. In June 2014 he was appointed as the maternity cover for the Head of Sales & Marketing position. As well as now leading the Box Office and Marketing teams, Ross has engineered ticketing partnerships with other organisations such as Camerata Ireland and the IFA.



Kathy Crozier, Finance Manager

Kathy joined the Grand Opera House in June 2014. Kathy is a fully qualified accountant and a member of the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants. Prior to joining Kathy gained extensive experience through senior roles in the not-for-profit sector and the management of an accountancy practice in Belfast. As a trainee accountant, Kathy achieved second place in Ireland in her technician exams. Kathy is responsible for overseeing the running of the finance department which has five team members. 



Gerard Lawlor, Customer Services Manager

Gerard joined the Opera House in 2008 and has progressed and developed in a number of roles within the Hospitality Department. Having worked in the Hospitality Industry for almost 20 years he provides a wealth of experience in many aspects of the industry. Gerard manages our largest department and his team is responsible for all Front of house areas of Customer service.



Aine Dolan, Community and Education Manager

Áine graduated from the University of Ulster with a BA Honours in Theatre & Media Studies. She worked in local government before joining the Grand Opera House in 2006 as Education & Programme Manager, running the new studio space, The Baby Grand. With twenty years experience in working in the Arts Sector, Áine has extensive experience in Project Management, Community Engagement and Creative Development. In 2011 Áine completed a post graduate Diploma in Arts Management. Aine also holds a teacher’s Diploma in Speech & Drama. Áine is responsible for all aspects of education, outreach and access.



John Campbell, Facilities Manager

John joined the Grand Opera House in 1999 and his first position in the Theatre was Handyman. He attained a Certificate of Management Studies at Queens University; he is a registered Advanced Environmental Auditor and an Associate member of I.E.M.A. John’s current responsibilities include overseeing all aspects of servicing, maintenance and building projects at the Grand Opera House including managing a team of Housekeepers and a Maintenance Assistant.



Paula Freeman, Technical Manager

Graduating from the University of Ulster with a degree in English Literature and Theatre Studies, Paula began working in the Grand Opera House in July 1998, after securing a technical bursary. She believes this has given her the necessary skills and experience for her current role, which primarily ensures the smooth running and physical changing around of productions. 


Stephen Prenter

Stephen Prenter, Chair

Stephen Prenter FCA is a former Managing Partner at BDO Stoy Hayward, the fast growing firm of chartered accountants and management consultants. He is one of Northern Ireland's leading corporate finance experts and business advisers.

Widely respected for his guidance on acquisitions and mergers, management buy-outs, development of growing businesses and active support in corporate recovery situations, he has extensive connections with the financial and government communities in Northern Ireland, London, Dublin and internationally.

Under his leadership, BDO Stoy Hayward has grown from a green field start-up in 1989 to more than 150 staff, and is recognised among Northern Ireland's foremost firms of accountants, business advisers and management consultants.

Stephen was Chairman of the Ulster Society of Chartered Accountants for the year 1998-99. His other roles include Honorary Treasurer, Queens University Belfast and Chair of the Trust at the Grand Opera House. He has long-standing involvement in the Arts having served for six years as a Director of the Ulster Orchestra. He was also a director in Craftworks Northern Ireland.

Stephen has played a key role in a number of government sponsored initiatives and research on venture capital, seed capital, financing for growth and strategy.

Alex Graham

Alex Graham

Alex Graham has been Chief Executive of the Ulster Reform Club since 1998 and the Company Secretary of the Ulster Reform Club Building Company Ltd since 1999.

He is responsible for all aspects of running Northern Ireland's premier business and professional persons club. In addition, Alex is responsible for looking after and ensuring the maintenance of its very significant listed Clubhouse, which is one of Belfast's most historic buildings.

Prior to running the Ulster Reform Club, Alex was involved in contract catering and facilities management at a senior level. He was Group Operations Director for Mount Charles Catering Ltd for eight years (Northen Ireland's leading independantly owned contract catering organisation) and was previously Operations Manager (West of Scotland) for Compass Plc.

Ann McGregor

Ann McGregor MBE

Ann McGregor MBE (BA Hons, MA Marketing) was appointed as Chief Executive Officer of the Northern Ireland Chamber in June 2008. She was formerly Chief Executive of Enterprise NI - the network of local enterprise agencies and a director with Business in the Community.

She commenced her career in the private sector working in production/materials management with Roche Manufacturing, Schering Plough and Bird's General Foods before moving into local economic development with the Local Enterprise Agency network specialising in small business development and support.

Ann is a current member of the Chartered Institute of Marketing and a Fellow of the Institute of Business Consulting. She is also a Trustee of the Grand Opera House, a member of the Arena Network Steering Committee and a Director of Young Enterprise.

In November 2011, Ann was honoured to win the Best Senior Marketing Professional in Northern Ireland at the Chartered Institute of Marketing Awards Ireland and an Award for Outstanding Management/Leadership at the Women in Business Awards. In June 2012, Ann received an MBE for services to small business development and enterprise in the Queen's Birthday Honours.

Mairead Regan

Mairead Regan

Mairead is Group Human Resources Director, UTV Media plc. UTV has undergone significant change, transforming itself from purely a regional television company into one of the most successful media groups in the UK and Ireland, with interests in television, radio and new media.

Mairead has been instrumental in implementing the successful integration of strategic acquisitions which have seen staff numbers more than quadruple to over 900.

Prior to her role in UTV, Mairead was Human Resources and Training Manager with CAPITA Management Consultants where she was responsible for CAPITA's training and human resource management activity. She was also Human Resources Executive with LEDU where she worked both internally with staff implementing change processes and externally, providing advice Client companies.

Mairead is a Board member of Northern Ireland Screen, Chair of the Industry Advisory Board for the NI Skillset Media Academy and a member of the Skillset Northern Ireland Skills Panel.

Peter Johnston

Peter Johnston

Peter Johnston was appointed Controller of BBC Northern Ireland in October 2006 and following a structural realignment of BBCNI within the wider BBC, he was appointed Director BBC NI in April 2009.

He is a member of the BBC's Direction Group chaired by the Director-General, Mark Thompson and of the BBC's Journalism Board chaired by Deputy Director-General Mark Byford.

Peter has overall editorial and managerial responsibility for BBC NI and leads 650 staff. Under his leadership, this team produces over 8500 hours of local radio and television content each year and a range of online content. He provides the vision and creative leadership necessary to deliver BBC NI's portfolio of multiplatform programmes and services and is responsible for maximising public value through creativity, innovation and efficient use of resources.

Peter Johnston was born in 1966 and educated at Ballymena Academy and Imperial College London where he completed a Master's Degree in Chemical Engineering and Management.

He is also a member of the Council of the NI Chamber of Commerce and Chairman of Skillset NI.

Tim McGarry

Tim McGarry

Tim McGarry is a former solicitor who specialized in anti-discrimination law. In 1996 he became a full time writer, comedian and broadcaster.

His television credits include Give My Head Peace, Dry Your Eyes, Hearts and Minds and The Blame Game.

Tim has produced and appeared in numerous shows at the Grand Opera House over the last decade. He is much younger than he looks.

Dr Joe McKee

Dr Joe McKee

Dr Joe McKee OBE has spent most of his professional career in education and music, at different times being Director of Music at Methodist College and Principal of the City of Belfast School of Music.

As a radio producer and presenter, he has been a familiar voice on BBC Radio Ulster for the past 25 years. Joe is Chairman of the Northern Ireland Fire & Rescue Service and was elected Chair of the NI Chairpersons' Forum in January 2012.

He is Deputy Chair of the Grand Opera House Trust, was a Director of the Tyrone Guthrie Centre at Anaghmakerrig, and has served on the Central Advisory Panel of the Arts Council of Northern Ireland for many years.

During the past year Joe has been Acting Organist and Director of Music at St Patrick's Church Of Ireland Cathedral, Armagh.

Jon D'arcy

Jon D'arcy

Jon is a Partner in KPMG Ireland and Chairman of firm's Belfast Office. KPMG is a global network of professional firms providing Audit, Tax and Advisory services. KPMG operates in 146 countries and has 137,000 professionals working in member firms around the world. The firm in Ireland has 81 partners, employing 1,800 people in its offices in Belfast, Dublin, Cork and Galway.

Jon joined KPMG in 1983 with a First Class Honours degree in Economics and Accounting and a Diploma in Accounting, both from Queens University Belfast. Jon became the Head of the Audit and Transaction Services departments in KPMG in Belfast in 1998 and became the Office Chairman in 2003. As well as working in KPMG in Belfast, Jon worked for 18 months in KPMG in Philadelphia and for 12 months in KPMG in Dublin.

Jon's business and financial experience is extensive, with more than 25 years working with some of Northern Ireland's largest business organisations. His portfolio of clients covers many industry sectors including, banking, insurance, pensions, health, IT, technology, manufacturing, education and utilities.

Jon's audit clients include many well known household names, including Phoenix Natural Gas, Coolkeeragh ESB, Northern Bank, Regus plc, Harland and Wolff Group PLC, United Drug plc, First Derivatives plc, Norfolkline Group, H&J Martin Group, JP Corry Limited, McAleer & Rushe Group, Kingspan plc, Diageo Plc, Fyffes plc, the University of Ulster, Trinity College Dublin, University College Dublin and a number of further education colleges.

As well as audit, Jon has an extensive range of Transaction Services experience. In particular he has worked on initial public offerings for companies listing on the London and Irish Stock Exchange, AIM listings and other public reporting assignments. He has also worked on disposals and acquisitions across a broad range of industry sectors for a range of corporate and private equity clients.

Jon is currently Chairman of the Northern Ireland Technical Committee, a sub-committee of the Institute of Chartered Accountants in Ireland, and is also a Governor of Methodist College Belfast. Jon joined the Board of Trustees of the Grand Opera House in January 2010.

Gordon Irwin

Gordon Irwin OBE is a former Chief Executive and Board Member of Belfast Harbour Commissioners, and former Chairman of Norse Merchant Ferries Limited, the largest ferry company on the Irish Sea. A Management Accountant, Gordon has served on a number of boards including Laganside Corporation, the Northern Ireland Fishery Harbour Authority (NIFHA) and the Odyssey Trust Company Limited.

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