Jude Kelly

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Judith Pamela Kelly CBE (born 24 March 1954) is a theatre director and producer from Liverpool, England.[1] She is currently the Artistic Director of the Southbank Centre in London, England, which oversees the Hayward Gallery, the Royal Festival Hall, Queen Elizabeth Hall, the Saison Poetry Library, and the Art Council Collection.[2]

Early life and education[edit]

Jude Kelly graduated with a BA in Drama and Theatre Arts from Birmingham University in 1975.[3]


Kelly founded Solent People's Theatre, a touring company in 1976, and was artistic director of the Battersea Arts Centre from 1980 to 1985. In 1986, she joined the Royal Shakespeare Company. She later became the founding director of the West Yorkshire Playhouse from 1990–2002, where as Artistic Director and then CEO she established it as an acknowledged centre for excellence. As the Artistic Director, she sat on the National Advisory Committee for Culture, Creativity and Education (NACCCE), led by Ken Robinson (educationalist) that wrote the influential All Our Futures report[4] which led to significant government investment in young people's creative and cultural education.

She has directed over 100 productions including the Royal Shakespeare Company, the National Theatre, Chichester Festival Theatre, the English National Opera, the Châtelet in Paris and in the West End.

Jude left the West Yorkshire Playhouse in 2002 to found Metal, artistic laboratory spaces in Liverpool and Southend. Metal provides a platform where creative hunches and ideas can be pursued. It also involves cross-art collaborations and developing strategic projects to affect the built environment, people, communities and philosophies.

Amongst her many successes as a director, Jude’s production of Singin’ in the Rain transferred twice to the Royal National Theatre and was awarded the Laurence Olivier Award for Outstanding Musical Production in 2001. She directed Sir Ian McKellen in The Seagull and The Tempest, Patrick Stewart in Johnson over Jordon and Othello, Dawn French in When We Are Married, and the English National Opera in The Elixir of Love (Southbank Award - Newcomer Opera) and On the Town, which was the ENO’s most successful production to date and was revived in 2007 at the London Coliseum and in 2008 at Théâtre du Châtelet, Carmen Jones, and The Wizard of Oz at the refurbished Royal Festival Hall. More recently, Jude directed Paco Pena’s Flamenco sin Fronteras in 2009 and Quimeras, also by Paco Pena, which had its world premiere at the Edinburgh International Festival in September 2010, and a production of Bernstein’s MASS at the Royal Festival Hall.

In 2010 she co-founded the Women of the World Festival that celebrates the achievements of women and girls as well as looking at the obstacles they face, and which is now an annual international event.[5]

She is currently Artistic Director of the Southbank Centre in London[2] Britain’s largest cultural institution. Southbank Centre consists of the Royal Festival Hall, the Hayward Gallery, Queen Elizabeth Hall (containing the Purcell Room), and the Saison Poetry Library. Southbank Centre also manages the Arts Council Collection and organises the National Touring Exhibition programme in venues throughout the UK.

Recognition and awards[edit]

In 2006, Kelly was named number 8 in "Theatreland's top 100 players" by The Independent newspaper.[6]

Jude has represented Britain within UNESCO on cultural matters, served on the Arts Advisory Committee for Royal Society of Arts, and jointly chaired with Lord Puttnam the Curricula Advisory Committee on Arts and Creativity. She is chair of Metal, a member of the London Cultural Consortium, a member of the Dishaa Advisory Group. She previously sat on the board of Creativity, Culture & Education (CCE) when it ran the government's flagship creative learning programme, Creative Partnerships, funded by the government for £40m per year by the education and cultural departments, working in 1 in 5 schools in England, with over 1 million young people over 10 years.[7] She is Chair of the Trustees for World Book Night, and was on the Cultural Olympiad Board which was responsible for the ongoing framework for delivering the creative, cultural and educational aspects of London’s Olympic and Paralympic Games in 2012. Despite her involvement in these significant investments by the UK government in the last ten years, she recently claimed that no action had been taken by the state relating to young people's cultural education since the 1999 NACCCE report[8] or the Henley Review in 2012.[9][10]

She is visiting Professor at Kingston University, Leeds University and a Shanghai Performing Arts School and holds several honorary degrees from national and international universities.

In February 2013 she was assessed as one of the 100 most powerful women in the United Kingdom by Woman's Hour on BBC Radio 4.[11]

Already Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE), she was appointed Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) in the 2015 New Year Honours for services to the arts.[12][13]