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After 22 years Damian Cruden is stepping down as Artistic Director of York Theatre Royal. His final production will be co-directing the summer show Swallows and Amazons.
He is leaving for various reasons both personal and professional. He is to take on the role of Artistic Director of the Shakespeare Rose Theatre project in York and Blenheim and is looking forward to spending more time with his family, something that has been lacking in years past.
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. However, it now feels the right moment for the company and myself, to part ways.
“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.”
In his time at York much has changed for the theatre. Asides from working on many productions Damian has been proud to develop with the company the following projects: highlighting the importance of young people in the company’s work; the Youth Theatre was established; the Studio theatre opened; two ensemble seasons played; the theatre turned into the round for a season; the much emulated TakeOver project established; a programme of community plays developed such as The Mystery Plays 2012; working out of the building in found spaces such as the National Railway Museum; international partnerships/touring in Germany, Canada and Japan established; a wide variety of co-producing partnerships developed; the long term partnerships/residencies with Pilot Theatre Company and tutti frutti; national tours undertaken of productions such as Brideshead Revisited, Brassed Off and To Kill a Mockingbird; a four year London run of The Railway Children, winning an Olivier Award; the major refurbishment of the building. All done whilst public investment in the arts has been in decline.
Damian is also very proud to have established senior management’s Christmas dinner for all the staff - his sprouts are legendary!
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.
“Damian’s unstinting commitment to pantomime for the past 22 years has been critical in ensuring the health and survival of York Theatre Royal and we thank him for that.”