The Hallé Concerts Society (the governing body of the Hallé Orchestra) has announced that Debbie Francis OBE will succeed David McKeith as Chair of its Board.

Debbie’s appointment came into effect at the Society’s Board meeting earlier this month. She becomes only the fourth Chair of the Hallé since its move from The Free Trade Hall to The Bridgewater Hall in 1997.

Debbie Francis’s business career includes a period as Northern Cities Executive for Arcadis UK, as Managing Director of Direct Rail Services and London North Western Route Finance & Commercial Director with Network Rail. She is a Chartered Director and Fellow of the Association of Certified Chartered Accountants and has an undergraduate degree from Liverpool John Moores University (LJMU) and an MBA from the University of Manchester. She is currently studying for a professional doctorate at LJMU.

Debbie runs her own training and consultancy business and is also currently Chair of the Lancashire LEP and Chair of Harwich Haven Authority as well as being a Non-Executive Director of MDC Stockport, Loram UK and Liberty Group and a governor of LJMU.

Debbie is passionate about the North, about levelling up and about improving equity and inclusion across organisations She has personal experience of the difference that engagement in the arts can make to the ambitions and lives of people and hopes to support the Halle in continuing to extend its reach across communities and audiences.

Speaking about her appointment Debbie Francis said:

“This is a passion and not a job for me, so it is an absolute honour to be asked to Chair the Board. I know that I have big shoes to fill as David McKeith has been a force for good throughout his tenure but I look forward to helping the Hallé maintain its reputation and standing as one of the finest orchestras in the world.”

Debbie succeeds David McKeith, who has served as Chair of the Hallé since 2008, during which time the orchestra established its Ancoats home, Hallé St Peter’s.

David McKeith said:

“It has been a privilege, a pleasure and an education to chair the Hallé through the interesting times of the last 14 years. I thank the orchestra, ensembles and staff for their support and look forward to many more fantastic concerts.”

David Butcher, Chief Executive of the Hallé, said:

“First, I must pay tribute to the extraordinary contribution of David McKeith over fourteen years where he has overseen many developments, not least the opening of the Oglesby Centre at Hallé St Peter’s, enabling our ensembles and outreach programmes to expand alongside our artistic and business growth and guiding the Society so astutely through the COVID pandemic. We now have a fantastic platform for future pioneering initiatives and we are fortunate to have found such a distinguished and progressive successor in Debbie Francis – the first female Chair in the Hallé’s long history – and I hugely look forward to working with her in the coming years.”