One of the theatre's main funders, Newcastle City Council, had begun consultations to deal with a proposed 100% cut in its arts budget. This came after two rounds of cuts by Arts Council England, Northern Stage's other chief funder, in the midst of cuts from the Government.
Several months on, and Newcastle City Council has upped its contribution to Northern Stage by 50%, and, if the theatre's Edinburgh programme of some 18 shows that form the theatre's ambitious Northern Stage at St Stephen's is anything to go by, as with many artists reimagining creative possibilities during lean times, the theatre is in the midst of an artistic revolution.
"There is an awful lot here that reminds me of Scotland after the millennium," Campbell says of Newcastle and the north-east of England's theatre scene. "The scene was really waking up to themselves then, and artists were realising it was not about being parochial, but was about being excellent and ambitious, and that they could produce work that was world class.
"Newcastle and the north-east could be about to hit a critical mass like that in a very similar way. There is a whole range of really interesting artists who are on the cusp of breaking through or who could easily go on to the next level, and there is a huge level of ambition here."
Campbell's appointment at Northern Stage sees the 35-year-old Edinburgh-born director come full circle in his career. His first professional job was at Northern Stage, where he assisted on various productions. It was as associate director at the Traverse, Edinburgh, where he really started to come into his own on acclaimed productions, including Alan Wilkins' Carthage Must Be Destroyed and Morna Pearson's astonishing debut play, Distracted. Both works won awards.
It was while at the Traverse that Campbell began to explore different ways of working via the cross-disciplinary programme, Cubed. After leaving the Traverse, he directed several Scottish plays in Bath before co-founding Greyscale, a collective of actors, writers, directors and designers, including fellow director Selma Dimitrijevic, actor Sandy Grierson and internationally renowned Leo Warner and Mark Grimmer's video design company, 59 Productions.
It was with Greyscale that Campbell and his fellow travellers developed a way of working that seemed to tap into the anarchic spirit of fringe theatre's loose-knit alternative and anarchic roots, while reinventing it for the 21st century on a par with a new generation of boundary-hopping theatre-makers.
Greyscale were, and remain, a part of Northern Stage's forward-thinking development programme, and, while the responsibilities of running a building are different, some of Greyscale's spirit is clearly evident in Northern Stage at St Stephen's. Artists involved include Daniel Bye with his latest solo piece, The Paper Birds and Third Angel, all of whom will be taking radical looks at the world in radical ways.
"There is an interesting line running through the whole programme that is about dissent," Campbell observes, "and what it means to dissent. It's all relevant, timely stuff.
The centrepiece of Northern Stage's Edinburgh programme is The Bloody Great Border Ballad Project. This will be a late night show in which artists from Scotland, England and elsewhere will imagine the next 95 years following the imagined (or not) dissolution of the 1707 Act Of Union via an ever growing ballad that will add a new verse each night.
"One of the things it came out of," says Campbell, "is that, coming from Scotland and working in Newcastle, I was on the inside and the outside of this wonderful community of northern artists, who were starting to realise they were a community. I thought it was weird no Scottish artists existed as part of this community, even though they were asking the same sort of questions.
"Much of the reason for that was to do with this weird artificial line that was largely to do with the different funding streams in England and Scotland. So we said, 'Let's talk about independence, and let's start to imagine what a ballad for independence might be like'.
Each balladeer takes responsibility for the next five years, so by the end you have 95 years of imagined future history."
Balladeers signed up include Cora Bissett and Kieran Hurley from Scotland, and, from England, Chris Thorpe, Lucy Ellinson, Daniel Bye and Alex Kelly.
"I am really interested in what a folk tale us in that context and it is going to be something somewhere between a gig, a ceilidh and a political meeting. It is the most ambitious thing I've ever done," Campbell says with relish, "but it also has the least amount of rehearsal time I have ever had, but there should, I hope, be something very immediate about it because of that. It's big voices, big ideas and big politics with no sense of irony, talking about things that matter. I hope the ghosts of Joan Littlewood, John McGrath and Ken Campbell look down on it from above and approve of every moment. "
Northern Stage at St Stephen's, St Stephen Street, until August 25