Leeds 2023 names Creative Director for cultural festival

Leeds 2023
Kully Thiarai, who has just been named creative director and CEO of Leeds 2023. Picture: Dan Green

Theatre director Kully Thiarai is to return to Leeds to oversee a major cultural investment programme culminating in a year-long cultural festival in 2023.

Currently the CEO and artistic director of National Theatre Wales, Kully will become the new CEO and creative director of Leeds 2023, working to bring together a world class programme celebrating the best of cultural life in Leeds.

Having worked with prestigious arts institutions across the UK, Kully is renowned for her bold work exploring themes of diversity and community. Her 30 year career has included stints with Leeds Playhouse and the city’s Transform Festival, becoming artistic director with important Northern companies such as Red Ladder Theatre in Leeds, the Contact Theatre in Manchester and Cast in Doncaster, as well as Leicester Haymarket Theatre and Theatre Writing Partnership in Nottingham.

Kully said: “I’m absolutely thrilled to be joining Leeds 2023 and to be returning to a city that was instrumental in launching my career and is filled with so much incredible passion and immense potential.

“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 can’t wait to explore more of what the city and its communities have to offer and to work together to create a unique, daring and ambitious range of diverse and compelling work for Leeds 2023.”

Before joining NTW in May 2016, Kully was the founding director of Cast, Doncaster’s £22 million performance venue, so she is used to projects of considerable scale.

Earlier this year, media executive and former journalist Ruth Pitt was announced as the new chair of Leeds 2023.