Kully Thiarai
Kully Thiarai, who has just been named creative director and CEO of Leeds 2023. Credit Dan Green.
Ground-breaking and highly respected theatre director Kully Thiarai will return to Leeds to oversee a major cultural investment programme culminating in a spectacular one year cultural festival for the city in 2023, it was revealed today.

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 an 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.

Speaking about her impending return to Leeds, 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.

Over the past few months, Ruth has begun assembling a team, contacting prospective trustees and board members for Leeds 2023 and leading the search for a CEO and creative director.

Ruth said: “I’m absolutely delighted that Kully will be joining us on this journey and it’s a testament to just how exciting the Leeds 2023 project is that we’ve been able to attract someone with such a prestigious track record in creating ground-breaking 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.”

Kully will continue to work at NTW and will officially join Leeds 2023 towards the end of the year.

Leeds 2023 will be led by the Leeds Culture Trust, an independent charity that will be the main delivery body for Leeds 2023.

The festival itself in 2023 will shine an unprecedented light on cultural life in Leeds as well as bringing the best global arts to the city and providing a catalyst for attracting visitors, jobs, new skills and economic growth.

For more details, please visit: www.leeds2023.co.uk