THE artistic director and joint chief executive of Colchester’s Mercury Theatre is leaving after six years.

Daniel Buckroyd has taken a new job as artistic director and chief executive of the Exeter Northcott Theatre.

His tenure at the Mercury Theatre has seen overall audiences increase by 20 per cent and its innovative Creative Learning and Talent programme involving more young people, community groups and emerging artists than ever before.

Mr Buckroyd has also played a leading role in planning the Mercury’s current redevelopment.

The extended and refurbished building is due to open in 2020.

Mr Buckroyd said: “I’m immensely proud of the work that we’ve produced and presented over the last six years, both here at the Mercury and on tour around the UK, and I’m grateful for the support of the theatre’s board and funders, the creativity and dedication of the Mercury’s amazing staff team and the imagination and talent of the many hundreds of artists who’ve joined us on the adventure.

“The redevelopment of the theatre signals an exciting moment of renewal for the Mercury and the town.

“With the project now on a strong footing and about to move into its next phase, this is the right time to create space for a fresh artistic vision from 2020, building on the successes of the past few years.

“The people of Colchester built the Mercury nearly 50 years ago and continue to treasure their theatre, so it’s been a privilege for me to contribute to the cultural and creative life of the town and to receive such support from our loyal audiences.”

Mr Buckroyd established Made in Colchester in 2013, programming 51 in-house productions since then and directing 20.

He has written four record-breaking Mercury pantos, and directed the hugely popular UK tour of Spamalot, which also visited South Korea where it won an award for Best International Musical.

Since 2013, in Colchester and on tour, more than 500,000 tickets have been purchased for Made in Colchester productions. In 2017 the Mercury was shortlisted for Regional Theatre of the Year by The Stage newspaper.

Mr Buckroyd will continue as artistic director of the Mercury Theatre until August.

The theatre is fully programmed until the summer of 2019, and he will continue to write this year’s Mercury pantomime, Jack and the Beanstalk.

The Mercury Theatre Board will now begin work to determine a timetable for recruitment of a new artistic director.

In the interim, the Mercury and the major capital project will continue to be led by Executive Director Steve Mannix.

Mr Mannix will be joined by Tracey Childs, who will step up to the role of Interim Executive Producer and Joint Chief Executive during this period.