Southbank Centre appoints new Chief Executive Elaine Bedell

Elaine Bedell, former Director of Entertainment and Comedy at ITV and Controller of Entertainment at the BBC, has been appointed Chief Executive of Southbank Centre.

Elaine Bedell

Elaine will be the first woman Chief Executive of Europe’s largest arts centre in its 66 year history and will take up the post in May, succeeding Alan Bishop who announced his retirement from the role in November.

In her roles at ITV and the BBC, Elaine has commissioned and produced some of the UK’s most popular entertainment and comedy titles. She became a BBC producer at the age of 23, making talk shows and documentaries for Radio 4, and eventually, a wide range of entertainment shows for television. Having set up her own production company, Watchmaker, which she later sold to the Chrysalis Group, becoming Managing Director of the newly merged company, Elaine then set up the commercial arm of the Royal Shakespeare Company, before returning to the BBC.

Elaine has most recently been Director of Entertainment and Comedy at ITV where, over the past seven years, she commissioned and managed some of the most successful programmes on television.

Elaine was Executive Chair of the Edinburgh International TV Festival for four years and was appointed a Trustee for the V&A Museum by the Prime Minister last year.

Elaine’s appointment, alongside Susan Gilchrist as Chair and Jude Kelly as Artistic Director, means that Southbank Centre is unique among the UK’s leading cultural institutions in having an all female leadership team.

Susan Gilchrist, Chair, Southbank Centre Board of Governors, said: “I am delighted to announce the appointment of Elaine Bedell as Chief Executive of Southbank Centre. She brings strong commercial acumen and significant experience of the arts and entertainment landscape at the most senior levels. We are excited by the energy, skill and entrepreneurial spirit she will deliver in the role.

“On behalf of the Board I would like to thank Alan Bishop for his fantastic contribution over the past eight years, and wish him all the best for the future.”

Elaine Bedell, Chief Executive, said: “I've had a long and very happy association with the South Bank - from attending the Ernest Read concerts at the Royal Festival Hall as a schoolchild, to working just along the river at ITV for the last seven years and regularly enjoying the Southbank Centre's performances and events, restaurants, and shops. I'm therefore absolutely delighted to be joining Jude Kelly and the team at such an exciting time with the re-opening of the Hayward Gallery, the Queen Elizabeth Hall and the Purcell Room on the horizon in 2018. I look forward to bringing my experience of combining public service with commercial enterprise to help shape the future of this internationally respected cultural institution.”

Jude Kelly CBE, Artistic Director, Southbank Centre, said: “I've had a fantastic eight years with Alan Bishop and I'd like to join Susan in thanking him and wishing him the very best for the future. I'm delighted to welcome Elaine and really look forward to working alongside her. No other arts centre produces a greater variety of work than Southbank Centre and Elaine's unique experience will bring a different perspective to our entrepreneurial management, efficiency and ambition, broadening and expanding our terrific team here.”

Darren Henley, Chief Executive of Arts Council England, said: “Elaine Bedell is a great signing for the Southbank Centre. She arrives at a really exciting time, with the re-opening of the refurbished Hayward Gallery and Queen Elizabeth Hall next year. She takes over from Alan Bishop, who has been an exceptional Chief Executive over the last eight years, enabling it to go from strength to strength and we wish him all the very best for his retirement.”

For further press information and images please contact:
Kate Redway, Head of Communications, 0207 921 0687
Chris Denton, Director of Marketing and Communications, 0207 921 0901


Recruitment process

Elaine Bedell has been appointed following the role having been advertised in the national press and a worldwide search process conducted by Odgers Berndtson. The selection process was conducted by Southbank Centre’s Nominations Committee led by Chair, Susan Gilchrist.

About Southbank Centre

Southbank Centre is the UK’s largest arts centre, occupying a 17­ acre site that sits in the midst of London’s most vibrant cultural quarter on the South Bank of the Thames. The site has an extraordinary creative and architectural history stretching back to the 1951 Festival of Britain. Southbank Centre is home to the Royal Festival Hall, Queen Elizabeth Hall, Purcell Room and Hayward Gallery as well as The Poetry Library and the Arts Council Collection. Southbank Centre is carrying out vital restoration work on the Hayward Gallery, Queen Elizabeth Hall and Purcell Room to make the buildings fit for future generations to enjoy, more information can be found here:

Elaine Bedell – summary biography

  • A 25 year-long successful career in the creative industries, including very senior management roles at the BBC, the RSC and ITV.
  • High-level experience at the sharp end of the commercial sector, having been part of ITV’s senior leadership team for the last seven years, as well as having set up and eventually sold, a profitable independent television production company.
  • Experience of public service having been appointed a Trustee of the V&A Museum by the Government in 2015.
  • Executive positions at the BBC, as well as a Commercial Director Board level role at the Royal Shakespeare Company.
  • Proven track record in commissioning popular innovative programming (from BBC Four to ITV1) aimed at wide and diverse audiences.
  • Five years as Executive Chair of the Edinburgh International Television Festival, a registered charity, running both the Executive Committee and The Council and responsible for all due diligence, governance, sponsorship and fund-raising.
  • Over ten years experience successfully managing and working co-operatively with major artistic and creative personalities in the worlds of television, theatre and music.
  • Accomplished public speaker, writer, well-connected in all media.

Let the Light In

In September 2015, our iconic Brutalist arts venues Queen Elizabeth Hall, Purcell Room and Hayward Gallery closed their doors for two years so we could give them the essential refurbishment they deserve. Renowned for their architectural significance, the buildings are most importantly recognised for the exceptional performances and exhibitions that have happened in them since they first opened nearly 50 years ago. The £25 million refurbishment project has been funded by Arts Council England, Heritage Lottery Fund and through the generous support of Southbank Centre friends. We launched the Let The Light In campaign to raise £3.9 million and have just £1 million left to raise so we can transform these buildings for the reopening in 2018 and for future generations to enjoy. For more information, visit: