In memoriam: Janek Alexander (1958-2020)

We are very sad to learn that Janek Alexander, distinguished theatre programmer and later artistic director of Chapter Arts Centre, Cardiff UK, passed away on April 16th.

Janek was a long time IETM member, board member and an important contributor to our network´s development and that of our sector.

Janek is remembered for being generous and positive, by IETM members, someone who always bore the interests of artists at heart, seeker and encourager of new talent. Someone who treasured the informal spirit of IETM and contributed towards it in the best of ways. And, last but not least,  someone fun to hang out with.

We send Janek’s family, friends and colleagues our most sincere condolences. 

On behalf of IETM,

Ása Richardsdóttir, Secretary General

Janek Alexander passed away, April 16th in a Cardiff hospital, from Parkinson disease — that was diagnosed 18 years ago — combined with Covid-19. In such strange times when friends and colleagues cannot attend a funeral and celebrate lives and careers with loved ones, at least we find the beginning of solace in the prospect of a tribute at Chapter Arts once this is all over. 

“It’s alright,” Janek usually said when you asked him what he thought of a show. The comment was of course mumbled, as the Brits do so well, in a deep voice. Janek had a rare laugh that sounded exactly like “ha, ha, ha!” Even before he got ill, Janek’s gait was idiosyncratic, and powerful, it somehow paralleled his way of thinking and operating: determined, straightforward, with a goal and a vision. Janek Alexander had no skill in small talk nor compromise, he was outspoken, yet low-key and dead-pan. He had a vicious sense of humour and a distinctive notion of what he liked and did not like, and most importantly why, and was able to explain it. Nothing sentimental. Politics was more like it. Somewhere between Brecht, Foucault and Debord. He did not drink, he did not smoke, he was not interested in good food, but pastries, aaaah, yes, pastries. And they were his first access to new places he was discovering.

When we got to know him in 1984 he was program director of Chapter Arts Center in Cardiff, Wales. He chose to stay at Chapter for his whole career, became its director and only left his position in 2011 due to his health. As a director in the post-Thatcher era, he reinvented Chapter and led it through a successful refurbishment program with great determination and detail and was one of the first in Europe that succeeded in building more audiences and relating to the Cardiff community at large. When completed in 2009, with 800.000 visitors each year, doubling the pre-refurbishment total, he created one of the best if not the best arts centre in Europe. A critical member of IETM, he attended most meetings between ’84 and ’91, going first to the nearest pastry shop, with an uncanny sense of direction to every show and showcase he could attend – after all he was an adept of “mind maps.” He had great admiration for Ritsaert ten Cate, founder and director of Mickery, Amsterdam and possibly Mik Flood, his first director at Chapter: both models may have influenced Janek’s choice to dedicate his life to the arts, and not be an artist, since Janek had a life as a performer, director and composer before Chapter. Maybe they helped Janek realise that his talent and skills and passion might do more for the world than his voice as a lone artist. Oh, and yes, he liked to travel to remote and/or little-known destinations with his partner and soulmate Maxine Brown, who took care of him till the end. 

In losing Janek, we are losing a producer thoroughly committed to artists, a passionate extensively educated professional – from popular culture to Greek philosophers –, a kind and loyal friend, an artist deep down. 

Michel Bezem, former general director of Mickery, Amsterdam 
Denise Luccioni, former program director of the Bastille, Paris 

April 22, 2020