Jude Kelly becomes South Bank Centre artistic director

Jeremy Austin

Jude Kelly, former artistic director of West Yorkshire Playhouse, has been appointed artistic director of the South Bank Centre.

One of the most respected figures in the UK arts scene, Kelly will continue in her role as chair of the arts, education and culture committee for the 2012 London Olympics, and her many freelance roles following her installation in the new post in September. She will work alongside chief executive Michael Lynch at the riverside complex, and will be responsible for creating an artistic vision for the Queen Elizabeth Hall, the Purcell Room, the Hayward Gallery and the Royal Festival Hall, when it reopens in 2007.

Although she has previously worked almost exclusively in theatre, Kelly said: “I have been asked to come here as an artist, with an artistic vision and to have artistic conversations. I think I am here to champion all artforms, which I have always done, and to champion new audiences for all artforms.

“The Hayward and the RFH… have fantastic programming, from Meltdown to great classical work, to great exhibitions – all of it. They are the great pearls for all the staff here. We really want to demonstrate this is a world festival site.”

Lynch said that his brief had been to find someone with a strong artistic, rather than administrative, side to their career, and who could create the sort of programme that he, along with the board, believes befits the reopening of the RFH after its multi-million pound refit.

“I think the role is bigger than any of the individual artforms,” said Lynch. “We are the only place that does all the things that happen here – the connections between them and the education programme. I was looking for someone with great creative flair and connections to the artistic community.”

Kelly founded the Solent People’s Theatre in 1976 and made her name as artistic director of BAC in the eighties. After working at the Royal Shakespeare Company she became the first artistic director of West Yorkshire Playhouse. Currently creating a series of artistic spaces under the Metal project, this year she has directed On the Town at the English National Opera and The Importance of Being Earnest at the Barbican.

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