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The new managing director of the South African Ballet Theatre, Trish Downing, brings with her a wealth of experience in the arts industry and corporate communications and marketing.
A NEW managing director has been appointed at the South African Ballet Theatre (SABT). Trish Downing will take over from Fiona Budd on 1 March.


The new managing director at SABT, Trish Downing The new managing director at SABT, Trish DowningCedric Ntumba, the chairman of the company’s board of directors, said: “Outgoing MD Fiona Budd’s dedication, tenacity and grace has seen her successfully steer SABT through some difficult times and, along with her co-director Iain MacDonald and the SABT management team, she has ensured that SABT reached its 10th birthday milestone this year.

“Finding a suitable replacement for her has been a challenge for the SABT board but we are confident that Trish Downing has the experience and passion to make a significant contribution to the SABT.”

Commenting on her departure and Downing’s appointment, Budd said: “I am honoured and proud to have been part of this proudly South African professional ballet company - a company that has flourished and blossomed against all odds and is currently celebrating a milestone 10th birthday – and to be continuing in the capacity of a non-executive board member.

“In particular, I thank my co-director, Iain MacDonald, who has been a constant source of support and inspiration and is both an artist and artistic director of the highest order. I welcome Trish and am delighted to be handing the baton over to such an accomplished and highly respected member of the local arts and business community,” she said.

Downing started out as an actress, playing lead roles on stage and television and in films. She went on to carve a successful career in communications and marketing, with several blue chip companies.

She entered the corporate world as a freelance copywriter for First National Bank (FNB), then known as Barclays, where she went on to head up the group’s external communications. Here, she continued focusing on the arts, by sponsoring arts initiatives such as the FNB Vita Awards for theatre; annual visual arts and arts and crafts competitions and exhibitions; community theatre development laboratories; and the FNB Vita Dance Umbrella.

While at FNB she was also involved with establishing the South African Music Awards, or Samas. From the bank, Downing moved to M-Net as director of corporate communications, where she was involved in the development of the local film and television industries.

From the television company, it was back to the corporate world in the form of general manager of corporate communications and customer care at Absa before heading corporate communications at Old Mutual South Africa.

After a leave of absence, Downing re-entered the full-time work arena by joining Ster-Kinekor Theatres as senior manager for marketing and communications. She saw her new appointment as managing director of the SABT as the perfect marriage of her performing arts and business backgrounds, Downing said.

MacDonald welcomed her to the SABT family: “It is with great sadness that we bid farewell to Fiona who, over the past 10 years, has been fundamental in ensuring the ongoing success of SABT. We welcome Trish Downing and look forward to her joining us as SABT continues to present quality, glamour, escapism and magic to all.”

Downing is also a trustee of the Arts and Culture Trust, holds speech and drama teachers diplomas from Trinity College of Music in London, and is a certified and accredited public relations practitioner.

She is already at the SABT, where she is managing director-elect before officially taking over the reins as managing director on 1 March.

“I have loved my time with the SABT; it is so important to me, but now it is time for me to spread my wings and explore new ventures,” Budd explained. “I will be remaining on the SABT board as a non-executive director; I … will [also] be very involved in on-boarding the new incumbent …”

For more information, visit the South African Ballet Theatre.

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