Kully Thiarai new Artistic Director of National Theatre Wales

06 Jan 2016

Kully Thiarai

The current Director of Cast, Doncaster will step down from her post in May 2016 to join National Theatre Wales as its new Director and Chief Executive.

Kully Thiarai, the founding Artistic Director of Doncaster’s Cast, has today been named as the new Artistic Director and Chief Executive of National Theatre Wales, Wales's English-language national theatre, following John McGrath’s departure to run the Manchester International Festival.

Kully has been credited with both putting Doncaster firmly on the UK’s cultural map and giving the town’s artistic appetite an astonishing transformation since the £22million venue Cast was opened in 2013, drawing over 200,000 people through its doors since opening.

Under Kully's leadership Cast has become a distinctive name in the arts both regionally and nationally.  Before the venue's opening, Doncaster came seventh from bottom in a national survey measuring people's engagement with the arts.  The flagship development - in a town characterised by a low 'arts appetite' - has proven that with the right mix of high quality work and a genuine connection to people and place, even the most unlikely of candidates can become cultural hotspots.

In her time as Director Kully has made a number of achievements; directing new work for the venue, including a sell out run Barry Hines' Kes - with special permission to adapt this South Yorkshire story for a Doncaster audience; creating a new brand of pantomime for the town with three productions being seen by almost 60,000 people in total; and directing Ezra Khan and Inder Goldfinger in United Colours of FrustrAsian which toured nationally (a co-production with Black Country Touring, Oldham Coliseum and Southbank Centre).

Kully has managed to ensure high profile companies are a mainstay of Cast's artistic programme - from the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra performing free concerts for 1,200 school children, to Northern Ballet premiering their new work in the space; including a highlight in this year's calendar with the world premiere of the new ballet Jane Eyre (19-21 May).  Sadler's Wells' Breakin' Convention featured in the venue's opening season and is set to return this year, Frantic Assembly have performed another sell out run with Othello, whilst a partnership with Yorkshire's leading chamber music promoters Music In The Round sees a regular series of classical music enjoyed by diverse audiences.

The venue has worked with Roundhouse, London to deliver contemporary circus and engage with LGBTQ performers and young people; has hosted work from leading producing houses across the region including Hull Truck, Theatre Royal Wakefield and John Godber Company, and further afield from Derby Theatres, Oldham Coliseum and in collaboration with Dance Touring Partnership has seen international companies take to the stage including Wim Vandekeybus, Nobulus and Boy Blue.

In a programme of outdoor work seen by thousands, the venue's opening engaged Yorkshire artists in a huge spectacle celebrating the power the arts can have in transforming people and place: A Cast Of Thousands.  Jeremy Deller's Sacrilege and Compagnie Artonik's The Colour Of Time (France) also created new opportunities to enjoy art in open spaces.

Before her time at Cast, Kully already had an impressive background leading some of the UK’s best-loved theatre venues and producing companies, including Contact Theatre in Manchester, Leicester Haymarket Theatre, Theatre Writing Partnership Nottingham, and Red Ladder Theatre Company, Leeds.

Her directing credits for productions staged in Wales, across the UK and internationally over almost 30 years span a range of work from the large-scale outdoor shows to intimate theatre performances, with a demonstrable emphasis on new writing, genuine diversity both on and off-stage, truly inclusive audience development and meaningful community engagement.

Kully is much in demand as an international keynote speaker on the arts (e.g. at No Boundaries in 2014 & 2015, supported by ACE & British Council), a consultant (inc. to the Secretary of State and the DCMS, on Supporting Excellence in the Arts), a tutor (e.g. for Hong Kong University’s Advanced Cultural Leadership Programme 2015) and board member (inc. of the Manchester International Festival).

Kully said: “I am thrilled to be joining National Theatre Wales. I have been hugely inspired by the range and diversity of work that has taken place over the last five years under John McGrath’s leadership. A wonderful artistic mapping of Wales and its people; extraordinary work that is daring, provocative and joyous, found in surprising places across the country.

She adds: "I have enjoyed three and a half extraordinary years in Doncaster setting up and launching Cast.  It has been a privilege to be the founding Director of a brand new performance venue in the town, and I want to extend my thanks to all those who have joined in on that journey as collaborators, audience members and supporters.  I do believe that the foundations are well laid. Cast has successfully challenged many of the naysayers and shown that live performance along with a strong artistic vision is both welcomed by audiences and necessary for Doncaster and its future ambitions."

Andy Carver, Chair of the Board of Trustees, Cast said: "Kully being offered such a hugely prestigious national role is testimony to the fantastic success, and great reputation she has achieved for Cast in just two and a half years. She will be greatly missed, but the Board of Cast now look forward to appointing a successor who will build on these strong foundations and cement Cast’s role as a great cultural venue at the heart of Doncaster’s community."

Phil George, Chair of NTW’s Board, said: “I’m delighted to welcome Kully to the leadership of NTW. She has a deep connection with the values and ambitions of the company and brings terrific experience from her times as Artistic Director at major theatres in Leicester and Manchester and from the creation of Cast, Doncaster as a dynamic and socially-significant performance venue. She has superb cooperative skills and will forge strong relationships with artists and writers in Wales and internationally. There are exciting times ahead as we build on John McGrath’s legacy of a bold, innovative company with deep community engagement and a strong, international profile.”

Outgoing Artistic Director John McGrath said: “I am utterly delighted that Kully Thiarai has been appointed the new Artistic Director of National Theatre Wales. An inspiring leader with a proven commitment to extraordinary international theatre, and to deep engagement with the widest range of communities, she is a perfect choice for this fantastic job.”


ENDS

Notes for Editors:

A high-res colour publicity image of Kully Thiarai is available on request.

Cast opened in September 2013 and since then has welcomed over 200,000 audience members through its doors. Cast is a distinctive name within the arts regionally and nationally offering a world of artistic, creative and cultural exchange for everyone to experience.  It features a 620 seat main theatre space, a second flexible performance space for up to 200 seated or 400 standing, dance and drama studios, rooms for learning, rehearsing and meetings and a café bar that enjoys wonderful views onto Doncaster’s Sir Nigel Gresley Square.  The venue is a world-class, dynamic, cultural hub tied to the communities of Doncaster and the region. The wide-ranging programme of events and activities builds upon the success of Doncaster’s cultural scene with a national and international perspective. Cast is funded by Arts Council England and Doncaster Metropolitan Borough Council. castindoncaster.com

National Theatre Wales has been making English-language productions in locations all over Wales, the UK, internationally and online since March 2010. It operates from a small base in Cardiff’s city centre, but works all over the country and beyond, using Wales’ rich and diverse landscape, its towns, cities and villages, its incredible stories and rich talent as its inspiration. The Welsh Government and the Arts Council of Wales are supporting National Theatre Wales. nationaltheatrewales.org

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