WINCHESTER Theatre Royal and Hat Fair has a new chief executive.

Deryck Newland will take over in March 2017 following the departure of Mark Courtice.

Mr Newland is currently artistic director and chief executive of Pavilion Dance South West, one of England’s National Dance Development Organisations.

Between 2007 and 2012 he was director and chief executive of Salisbury Arts Centre.

"I am delighted to have been appointed as chief executive of Live Theatre Winchester Trust,” he said.

“The combination of a special grade II listed theatre with a famous outdoor arts festival is a vibrant cocktail with exciting potential.

“I can't wait to get started in March,” he added. “I am really looking forward to getting to know the team and the beautiful city of Winchester."

His background is in theatre, teaching, arts development and venue management. He declares he is passionate about opening up the arts to as broad a cross section of society as possible.

As an experienced leader of arts organisations, Mr Newland added: “I like to encourage them to work in creative partnerships and to connect artists and makers to communities and audiences.”

Prior to working in arts management, he spent 15 years teaching the performing arts in schools and colleges. “This is why,” he explained, “I am committed to providing creative opportunities for young people and to acting as an advocate for the transformational power of the arts in young people’s lives.”

Theatre Royal Winchester presents over 350 live performances each year including its own pantomime production which this year will be seen by 17,000 people.

The theatre also runs 14 youth theatre groups and organizes workshops for schools. Many community groups and local performing arts companies use the building.

Hat Fair attracts over 60,000 people to Winchester annually for a free outdoor arts festival in the first weekend in July. It also organises other events the rest of the year including Woolly Hat Fair during December, which this year is based on The Twelve Days Of Christmas.