Today marks the beginning of something presidential. Former artistic director of Centre Stage Theatre, Kwame Kwei-Armah takes the baton from David Lan to lead the Young Vic Theatre into the next phase of its artistic legacy.
This new and exciting appointment will have a lasting impression. The many aspiring, culturally diverse UK leaders will witness, for the first time, a celebrated and much-loved black playwright-director steps into the executive position at one the UK’s leading establishments right in the heart of London.
No longer will culturally diverse leaders struggle to name a black British-Caribbean artistic leader who runs a major theatre in London’s theatre district.
The move from Baltimore in the US back to London reaffirms the progress that is starting to happen in the UK to acknowledge culturally diverse UK-grown talent and leaders.
And this appointment plays a significant role in redressing the balance of diverse representation in theatre leadership and beyond.
We can hope that in the near future, culturally diverse leaders applying for senior positions will not have to travel to the US to be seen as potential leaders of mainstream organisations in the UK.
The appointment of Kwame presents an opportunity for mainstream theatre boards to be inspired to think more broadly when considering applicants for their top roles.
This appointment is a definite step in the right direction. However, I would also encourage boards to ask themselves at what stage they believe a person is deemed fit to be appointed artistic director. Let’s us not forget where David Lan, Rufus Norris and Kerry Michael, to name a few, were at at the time of their appointment.
Recently, Kwame led a conversation on internationalism for our Artistic Directors of the Future members, as part of our job application and interview skills event at the Southbank Centre.
He described himself and the participants in the room as ‘international’ explaining that he intuitively draws from his black, British, African, Caribbean and diasporic experiences.
I have no doubt that the artistic programme Kwame will produce at the Young Vic Theatre will reflect ‘internationalism’ in all its glory, diversity, ugliness, beauty, richness and innovation.
Like many, I am excited beyond words and look forward to be taken on a journey filled with bold discoveries, worldly debates and ground-breaking art.