National Theatre Wales boss quits to go back to Leeds

June 14, 2019 by

Artistic Director of National Theatre Wales Kully Thiarai will leave the company to take up a new role as Creative Director of Leeds 2023.

The move also comes in the wake of unprecedented criticism of the organisation for both casting and commissioning decisions, the small number of productions and minute audiences for some work. This led to an open letter from artists in Wales criticising the organisation and a series of meetings to try to diffuse and resolve the artistic community’s anger and frustration.

The organisation also made headlines in being the only arts organisation in Wales to publicly state it was not accepting an invitation to attend the Wales Theatre Awards. While it told the Awards organisers it was not supporting the open letter criticising the lack of diversity in the awards, the organisation privately told the organisers it could not attend as it was working with a number of the letter’s signatories. The Awards went ahead successfully.

In a prepared statement that makes no mention of the issues that NTWales has faced during her tenure, Clive Jones, Chair of NTW said, “Kully has led NTW with great style, elan and commitment over the last three years and we will be very sorry to lose her. Her qualities as a director were shown with her brilliant production of the Tide Whisperer on the beaches of Tenby last year. She leaves a great legacy with a strong strategic plan in development following extensive consultation and conversation with our diverse range of artists and creative partners along with a celebratory season of work written, created and performed by Welsh artists in 2020, our tenth anniversary year. Meanwhile we welcome Ed Thomas’s overdue return to the stage with his new play On Bear Ridge at the Sherman, Cardiff and the Royal Court in London this autumn. The search is already underway to find Kully’s successor.”

Kully Thiarai said, “I am thrilled to be returning to Yorkshire to take up the post of Creative Director for Leeds 2023. A place that had been home to me for many years prior to coming to Wales. Leeds was in fact the place where my theatre career started when Red Ladder Theatre Company invited me to come and work for them in the late 1980’s. It was always going to have to be something special to entice me away from the extraordinary company that is National Theatre Wales. To lead the cultural year for Leeds 2023 is that special something – a once in a lifetime opportunity to return to my roots and play my part in inspiring a whole new generation of artists and audiences. I want to say a huge thank you to all the brilliant staff, artists, organisations and communities that I have had the privilege to work with whilst at NTW. I’m proud of the work that we have collectively created, from the epic to the intimate, and have every confidence that the next 10 years for the company will be as vibrant and extraordinary as the last.”

She will continue her role as Artistic Director at NTW until the end of the year.

Image Dan Green

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