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Kully Thiarai announces departure from National Theatre Wales

Kully Thiarai, artistic director of National Theatre Wales. Photo: Dan Green
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Kully Thiarai has announced she is stepping down as artistic director of National Theatre Wales after three years in the job.

She will leave the company at the end of this year to oversee Leeds 2023, a year-long celebration of culture inspired by the city’s collapsed bid to become European Capital of Culture in 2023.

The move will see Thiarai return to Yorkshire – she previously ran arts centre Cast in Doncaster, before being appointed to lead NTW in 2016.

She said: “My theatre career started in Leeds when Red Ladder Theatre Company invited me to come and work for them in the late 1980s. 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 new generation of artists and audiences.”

The latter part of her tenure at the Cardiff-based NTW has been characterised by a controversy over its output, which was criticised last year for not nurturing enough Welsh talent and focusing too heavily on international collaborations.

Thiarai will end her time at NTW as the company prepares to celebrate its 10th anniversary in 2020, for which Thiarai has already announced some of the work including a large-scale work by theatremaker Hannah McPake.

Nicholas Davies: Kully Thiarai is leaving NTW just as relations with Welsh artists are improving

NTW chair Clive Jones said she had led the company “with great style, elan and commitment”.

“We will be very sorry to lose her,” he added.

Thiarai will become creative director of Leeds 2023 early next year.

Plans for the event originated after UK bids to become European Capital of Culture were deemed ineligible because the UK will not be part of the EU in 2023.

Ruth Pitt, chair of Leeds 2023, said: “I’m delighted that Kully will be joining us on this journey and it’s testament to how exciting the Leeds 2023 project is that we’ve been able to attract someone with such a prestigious track record in creating groundbreaking work.

“There is a growing sense of momentum around Leeds 2023 and with Kully on board I’m confident we can look forward to seeing an artistic programme that encapsulates the passion and vibrancy of Leeds and its many communities.”

NTW said the search for her successor was already underway.

Kully Thiarai: ‘National Theatre Wales debate must extend to wider Welsh arts sector’

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