Jude Kelly

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Jude Kelly

Judith ("Jude") 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, which oversees the Hayward Gallery, the Royal Festival Hall, Queen Elizabeth Hall, the Saison Poetry Library, and the Arts Council Collection.[2]

Early life and education[edit]

Kelly's love of theatre dates back to her childhood in Liverpool, where she would put on plays in her backyard with the neighbours' children. 'I've always had a passion for telling a story,' she says.[citation needed] At Quarry Bank School, she was taught by John Lennon's old headmaster, Bill Pobjoy, who encouraged his pupils to be creative.[citation needed] Already determined to become a director, she chose to study drama at Birmingham, one of a small handful of single honours degree courses available at the time. Jude 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 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, that in 1999 wrote the 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 London's West End.

Jude left the West Yorkshire Playhouse in 2002 to found Metal, providing artistic laboratory spaces in Liverpool, Peterborough and Southend, funded by Arts Council England and local authorities. Metal provides a platform where creative hunches and ideas can be pursued; it promotes cross-art collaborations and 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. 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 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 central London,[2] Britain’s largest cultural institution. The 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 Exhibitions programme in venues throughout the UK.


In 2015 she signed an open letter which the ONE Campaign had been collecting signatures for; the letter was addressed to Angela Merkel and Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, urging them to focus on women as they serve as the head of the G7 in Germany and the AU in South Africa respectively, which will start to set the priorities in development funding before a main UN summit in September 2015 that will establish new development goals for the generation.[6]

Recognition and awards[edit]

In 2006, Kelly was named number 8 in "Theatreland's top 100 players" by The Independent newspaper.[7]

Jude has represented Britain within UNESCO on cultural matters, served on the Arts Advisory Committee for the 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, and 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 with £40m per year by the education and cultural departments, working in 1 in 5 schools in England, reaching over 1 million young people over 10 years.[8] She is Chair of the Trustees for World Book Night, and was on the Cultural Olympiad Board which was responsible 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 preceding ten years, in 2013 she claimed that no action had been taken by the state relating to young people's cultural education since the 1999 NACCCE report or the Henley Review in 2012.[9][10]

She is visiting Professor at Kingston University, Leeds University and at 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]


  1. ^ "Jude Kelly". London: The Guardian. 2008-07-24. Retrieved 2011-09-28. 
  2. ^ a b "Southbank Centre History | Southbank Centre". Southbank Centre. Retrieved 2011-03-18. 
  3. ^ "Honorary graduates - University of Birmingham". Birmingham.ac.uk. Retrieved 2015-11-05. 
  4. ^ National Advisory Committee on Creative and Cultural Education. "All Our Futures: Creativity, Culture and Education" (PDF). sirkenrobinson.com. Retrieved 16 January 2016. 
  5. ^ "What's WOW all about? Founder Jude Kelly explains". Southbank Centre. Retrieved 2015-11-05. 
  6. ^ Tracy McVeigh. "Poverty is sexist: leading women sign up for global equality | Life and style". The Guardian. Retrieved 2015-05-08. 
  7. ^ "Theatreland's top 100 players - News, Theatre & Dance". London: The Independent. 2006-12-29. Retrieved 2011-09-28. 
  8. ^ "Creative Partnerships Homepage". Creative-partnerships.com. Retrieved 2015-11-05. 
  9. ^ Henley, Darren (2012). "Cultural Education in England" (PDF). Department for Education. Retrieved 16 January 2016. 
  10. ^ Merrifield, Nicola. "Jude Kelly: arts sector must take education into its own hands | News". The Stage. Retrieved 2015-11-05. 
  11. ^ "BBC Radio 4 - Woman's Hour - The Power List 2013". Bbc.co.uk. 1970-01-01. Retrieved 2015-11-05. 
  12. ^ The London Gazette: (Supplement) no. 61092. p. N9. 31 December 2014.
  13. ^ "New Years Honours 2015: Queen's List" (PDF). Retrieved 16 January 2016. 

External links[edit]