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Kwame Kwei-Armah steps down as Artistic Director of the Young Vic

By youngviclondon 8 Feb 2024

Kwame Kwei-Armah in a green double  breasted, corduroy suit.


Kwame Kwei-Armah has announced he’ll be stepping down as Artistic Director of the Young Vic.  
Kwame has said: “It's been the honour of a lifetime to lead the Young Vic and I have been served magnificently by the team at the Arts Council, the Board and all of my colleagues. I step down knowing that our team and artists are representative of London and that we have continued the theatre's incredible contribution to this industry and our community. 
“The three pillars that have guided my tenure have been innovation, access and community, and I’m proud of all that we have achieved. But it is a bittersweet moment. The painful reality is I am leaving a subsidised sector where 13 years of standstill funding is taking its toll. For decades the theatre industry has fuelled the UK’s world-renowned creative industries, providing vital pathways for artists to flourish, going from subsidised theatre, into the West End, and into TV and film. But without investment we could lose this pipeline of talent within a generation. I’m hopeful that this can and must change but it needs sincere government intervention. 
“I want to thank our audiences and supporters who have continued their Young Vic journey with us and many who have joined us for the first time. I invite you to join me as I’m rocking out at the Young Vic with shows that mean the world to me and sum up what a building like this can do.”
As Kwame announces his final season, we look back at his time at the Young Vic and its impact.  
Kwame joined the Young Vic as Artistic Director in February 2018 following seven years at Baltimore Centre Stage in the same role. As the first African-Caribbean director to lead a major British theatre, Kwame has led the Young Vic with the belief that theatre should be available to everyone. Within his first year, he established YV Unpacked through Taking Part to bring productions to audiences who may find it difficult to access theatre, created free discussions and events to catalyse debates through YV:ID and started £5 preview tickets for Main House shows.  
During his tenure, he has produced 40 productions across the theatre’s spaces and in the community including 30 productions in the Main House, where more than half of all writers and directors were women. Black and Global Majority artists directed over half and wrote 48% of all Main House shows. Under Kwame’s leadership, three critically acclaimed productions have transferred to the West End (Death of a Salesman, Best of Enemies and Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Oklahoma!), along with two Broadway transfers (The Collaboration and Death of a Salesman), plus a feature film adaptation of The Collaboration is due for release. In 2021, Kwame launched Best Seat In Your House, an innovative streaming experience, taking Young Vic shows to audiences across 86 countries. 
His experience as a multi-disciplinary artist influenced the Young Vic’s projects and productions, including Bronx Gothic (2019), which combined dance, drama and visual art installation and AI (2021), a unique collaboration utilising GPT-3 OpenAI technology to create the script for a new play. This formed the basis of the re-imagined Creators Program, formerly Directors Program, launched in 2022 to celebrate multi- and anti-disciplinary artists and re-imaging future practice. Taking Part also reached new corners across London and internationally, from New York to Australia, with unique community shows and partnerships, along with its radical innovation in schools, championing the value that artists and creative teaching bring to classrooms.  
Young Vic productions have been recognised with numerous awards and nominations every year during Kwame’s tenure and most recently in 2023 alone received an Olivier Award, a Critics Circle Award, two Tony Award nominations and more.    
“It has been one of the great pleasures of my professional life to work closely with the phenomenon that is Kwame Kwei-Armah,” said Glenn Earle, Chair of the Board. 
“Kwame is an exceptional artist and inspirational leader. He has brought his energy, creativity, artistic brilliance, generosity of spirit and sense of social responsibility to the role of Artistic Director of the Young Vic over the last six years. Leading and inspiring an incredible team, he has built on the extraordinary achievements of those artistic directors who have come before him to make the Young Vic the groundbreaking, representative and world leading theatre it is today. 
“Kwame has led the Young Vic during one of the most challenging periods for the theatre sector in living memory and has done so with great skill, courage and clarity of vision. He has ensured excellence on our stages and positive impact well beyond The Cut. Under Kwame’s leadership, multiple Young Vic productions have transferred to the West End and Broadway, Best Seat in Your House has been streamed to over 85 countries and industry awards have regularly come our way.  
“At the same time, Kwame has demonstrated a clear and consistent commitment to community - both to theatre more broadly and to the people of Lambeth and Southwark - and has ensured that we have continued to invest in and expand the reach both of our artist-based Creators Program and our local community-oriented Taking Part. 

“On behalf of the Board, I thank Kwame for all he has done for the Young Vic and wish him all the very best for the next steps of his artistic and creative career when he leaves us later this year. In the meantime, I am confident that Kwame’s final season will be absolutely unmissable. 
"We will soon start looking for someone who shares our values to lead the Young Vic into our next exciting phase of globally significant theatre-making with a clarity of vision and purpose and unbridled creativity and joy." 

Kwame’s final season includes Passing Strange, a post-modern Black rock musical directed by Liesl Tommy with book and lyrics by Stew, and music by Stew Stewart and Heidi Rodewald; Kwame directing his final production, A Face in the Crowd, a political metaphor for our times, with music by Elvis Costello and book by Sarah Ruhl; and Lillian Hellman’s The Little Foxes with Olivier Award-winning director Lyndsey Turner making a classic play speak to the here and now.