Who will be the new Artistic Director at York Theatre Royal?

22 years is a very long time. Heck, it’s only a few years off being my entire life!

Yet after 22 steadfast years as Artistic Director of York Theatre Royal, Damian Cruden is stepping down. But where’s he off, and why? He’s going to be the Artistic Director of the Shakespeare Rose Theatre, a fantastic and particularly exciting project in York and Blenheim. I first became aware of the Shakespeare Rose Theatre last year, and have tremendous respect for the project and how it is bringing Shakespeare to the masses. I’m sure Damian Cruden has an awful lot to bring to the table, and I predict a huge uplift in the number of people seeing Shakespeare in the coming years.

Damian’s reasons for leaving are also personal, as he looks forward to spending more time with his family. It must be an incredibly demanding task to be the Artistic Director of such a prestigious theatre, with a great amount of responsibility on his shoulders.

Damian said: “I am sad to be leaving so many dear friends and colleagues, it is like a family in so many ways and there is never a good time to leave. 

“I am proud of our achievements over the years, had we only managed to keep the theatre open that in itself would have been a miracle, however we have done so much more and we did it as a team. The team has grown over the years and I hope now that it includes the thousands of local people who get involved in creative projects and events. It is this work that I am most proud of. Our Youth Theatre and the community plays are the backbone of our organisation. They bring resilience to the cultural community in York which money cannot buy.

“I won’t however be a stranger and look forward to sharing with the York community many hours of fun in our beautiful auditorium which I have loved since I set foot in it for the first time all those years ago. The room is special. It always has been and always will. We are a lucky city to have such a fantastic space.

“I feel content that the company is in a strong position with great possibilities for a fantastically innovative future. I wish the company every success in its continuing unfolding story that is York Theatre Royal. I’m looking forward to my final production, Swallows and Amazons, which is appropriately our summer family offering, a part of our programme of which I am incredibly proud.”

I’m also really looking forward to seeing Swallows and Amazons, made all the more poignant for being Damian’s last production.

Damian has developed so many key aspects of York Theatre Royal, including establishing the Youth Theatre and opening the Studio theatre. Turning the theatre into the round for a season and programming community plays have all been part of his amazing achievements. Let’s also look back on the several long term partnerships and residencies formed within Damian’s time as Artistic Director, such as Pilot Theatre Company and tutti frutti.

Many, many theatres have benefitted greatly from Damian’s innovation and creativity – national tours have been undertaken, and York Theatre Royal show The Railway Children enjoyed a four year London run and even went on to win an Olivier Award.

Tom Bird, Executive Director of York Theatre Royal, said: “Damian’s achievements at York Theatre Royal are staggering and unprecedented. He has created the most wonderful work with the York community for over twenty years, both in the theatre and around the city and the world. We wish him all the best for his future with Shakespeare’s Rose and beyond.”

“Planning for this year’s pantomime has been under way for some months and Damian’s departure in no way affects York Theatre Royal’s plans to deliver a wonderful Christmas show this year. We look forward to announcing our exciting pantomime offer in the coming weeks.” 

I hope to see York Theatre Royal continue from strength to strength, long after Damian’s departure. But I have to say I am also particularly pleased to hear about Damian’s new adventure and will be certainly paying the Shakespeare Rose Theatre a visit this year.

Earlier this year it was announced Conrad Nelson would be stepping down from his role at Northern Broadsides… could the two role moves simply be coincidence? It’ll definitely be interesting to see who will take on the Artistic Director role at York Theatre Royal. I’ll be keeping my eye out!

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