Career Ladder: Matthew Hale, Head of Visitor Experience (Southbank Centre)

Career Ladder: Matthew Hale, Head of Visitor Experience (Southbank Centre)

Matt Hale Headshot
Date Published: 16 January 2019

Tell us about your early life. What were your goals and dreams?

I was quite a bossy child and would direct my sisters in plays that we would perform for my parents in our living room. At the age of 6 I staged my own interpretation of Cats, which also included selling programmes and interval drinks.

I loved going to see pantos in Birmingham, and as I grew up that evolved into visits to see touring shows, taking part in the school play, and amateur dramatics. My sisters and I were obsessed with Joseph and the Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat.

Teachers told me I was good at writing so I originally wanted to be a journalist, and edited the school newspaper. Then I changed my mind, and dreamt of a career on the stage.

Talk us through your career journey. What were the influential periods, or experiences?

After graduating with a degree in theatre I felt quite adrift and unsure what to do next. I made a good decision and took a job at Disneyland Paris. A great place to learn good workplace ethics, excellent visitor experience, and meet young people from across the world. I eventually became a trainer of the famous Disney characters, and realised that training delivery was a lot like performing. I also loved the positive feeling of seeing people flourish in the training room and go on to be brilliant in their jobs.

I continued in this vein when I moved to London, learning the ropes in customer service, front of house, stage door and box office. I taught people how to sell for the big West End shows, and made the jump south of the river to Southbank Centre.

Southbank has been a huge learning curve for me. I was quite different when I first started out. I’ve learnt how to manage people, lead a large team and be part of an organisation that delivers world class events every day of the year. It’s a very busy job, but I’ve taught myself to be pretty organised and try not to get too frazzled. The excitement comes from always working on something new and unique. I don’t act anymore, but as long as I’m in a building that has live performance, I’m happy.

What are you most proud of in your career so far?

Building a great team at Southbank Centre, who I love working with, and completely trust. They are so brilliant at what they do. Plus finding ways to get people into jobs here, who may have never considered a career in the arts before, then realise they love it - such an honour.

What are you working on at the moment?

We’ve just delivered our Michelle Obama event which was very exciting, and are about to open our Christmas shows. I’m also thinking ahead to the next few years, and working out what visitor experience might look like in 2021.


  • Summer Hill School, West Midlands - 1990-1994
  • King Edward VI Sixth Form College, West Midlands (A-levels) - 1994-96
  • University of Birmingham (BA Drama and Theatre Arts - First Class Honours), 1996-99


  • Southbank Centre

Head of Visitor Experience, 2014 - present

- Duty Manager and Assistant Duty Manager, 2006 - 2014

  • Front of House Supervisor, Vaudeville Theatre, 2003 - 2006
  • Box Office and Trainer, See Tickets, 2004 - 2006
  • Performer and Trainer, Disneyland Paris, 2000 - 2002


Life Lessons

1.      Becoming something when you “grow up” isn’t finite. Careers change direction, and you may grow up to be many different things.

2.       When you’re in charge everyone is looking to you to set the tone. Think carefully about how you’re coming across, each time you go into work.

3.       Let people speak, all the way to the end of their thoughts, without interrupting. And allow silence.

Royal Festival Hall & Hayward Exterior by India Roper Evans
Royal Festival Hall & Hayward Exterior by India Roper Evans
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