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Arts News PRESS RELEASE, 23 April 2018.  (C) KIM MORGAN PR                                                           

Kerry Kyriacos Michael

receives FREEDOM OF


Nicholas Kenyon, Managing Director and Louise Jeffreys, Artistic Director, The Barbican says: ‘We are delighted that Kerry Michael has been awarded the Freedom of the City of London in acknowledgment of his ground-breaking work to promote diversity in the arts. The Barbican had many collaborations with Theatre Royal Stratford East during Kerry’s time as artistic director there, including the transfers to the Barbican of his production of The Harder They Come, and Boy Blue Entertainment’s Pied Piper which won an Olivier Award. He has tirelessly supported new work and emerging artists, and this Freedom recognises his positive influence on the arts sector.


The Freedom of the City of London is believed to have begun in 1237; today people are nominated for the Freedom because it offers a link with the historic City of London and its ancient traditions. Most of the practical reasons for obtaining the Freedom of the City have disappeared. It nevertheless remains as a unique part of London’s history. Prior to 1996, the Freedom was only open to British or Commonwealth Citizens, now it has been extended globally. The City of London is keen to maintain the Freedom as a living tradition. The Freedom is open to all who are genuinely interested and invited or born to it. The City Freemen are a very broad cross-section of the population.


Murray Craig, Clerk of the Chamberlain’s Court, welcomed Michael and his guests and conducted the ceremony which included Michael making his declaration to The Queen. 

This was followed by a toast by Mr. Craig as he highlighted Kerry Kyriacos Michael’s great achievements at Theatre Royal Stratford East and his commitment to inclusive and innovative theatre. 


Murray Craig recounted stories of past recipients from the Arts and Entertainment industry that he had met - including Michael Caine, Sir Peter Hall, Morgan Freeman and J K Rowling. Those witnessing the ceremony included actor Murray Melvin, actress Toni Palmer, entertainer Peter Straker, former Artistic Director of Theatre Royal Stratford East, Philip Hedley, television producer Moira Ross, Playwright Tanika Gupta and Director Pooja Ghai.


Kerry Kyriacos Michael says: ‘As a second-generation Cypriot whose parents migrated to the UK in the 60’s as part of Britain’s Empire I was proud to receive the Freedom of the City of London. I was also honoured to be nominated by Sir Nick Kenyon, in recognition of the brilliant collaborative work between Theatre Royal Stratford East and Barbican Centre. What was achieved at Stratford East during my tenure took the skills and talents of many people and I want to thank everyone who I worked with.’


Guests then went onto Hawksmoor Guildhall for more celebrations and refreshments.


Kerry Michael was Artistic Director and Chief Executive of Theatre Royal Stratford East from September 2004 to September 2017.  For 13 years, he forged the Theatre’s commitment to develop new work and provide a platform for voices under-represented. 


Kerry’s theatre directing credits include: Cosh Omar’s The Battle of Green Lanes, John Adams’ opera, I Was Looking At The Ceiling And Then I Saw The Sky (co-produced with Barbican), The Harder They Come, (transferred to the West End and subsequently to Canada and the USA), Ray Davies’ Come Dancing (Winner What’s On Stage Best New Musical), and a new production of The Who’s Tommy - (Winner UK Theatre Awards Best Touring Production 16/17). Under Kerry’s leadership, Theatre Royal Stratford East was nominated for an Olivier Award in 2007 for ‘a powerful season of provocative work that reaches new audiences.’ Pied Piper also won an Olivier Award that year and Kerry’s production of Cinderella was nominated. Other nominations include You Me B*m B*m Train, Roadkill, Oh What A Lovely War and The Government Inspector. In March 2018 Kerry won Artistic Director of the Year at the OFF WEST END Awards.



Former Artistic Director of Theatre Royal Stratford East, Kerry Kyriacos Michael received The Freedom of the City of London at Guildhall on Friday 20 April. Kerry was nominated for his contribution to the arts and for his collaboration with the Barbican, by Sir Nicholas Kenyon, Managing Director of The Barbican Centre. The Freedom is offered to individuals by the City of London Corporation to celebrate a significant achievement and to pay tribute to their outstanding contribution to London or public life.

PRESS INFORMATION:  Photo credit Sharron Wallace. From left to right: Murray Craig, Clerk of the Chamberlain’s Court; Dr Peter Kane, Chamberlain of London; Kerry Michael;(Alderman) Vincent Keaveny; Ernest Brocklehurst, Beadle to the Chamberlain’s Court.

For further images, interviews and further press information please contact Kim Morgan on 07939 591 403




  • The medieval term 'freeman' meant someone who enjoyed privileges such as the right to earn money and own land. Town dwellers who were protected by the charter of their town or city were often free – hence the term 'freedom' of the City. From the Middle Ages and the Victorian era, the Freedom was the right to trade, enabling members of a Guild or Livery to carry out their trade or craft in the Square Mile. 


  • Kerry Kyriacos Michael is a second-generation Greek Cypriot, the son of economic migrants. He was born in south London near the Old Kent Road and lived on the Heygate Estate until 11 years old, when the family moved to Palmers Green in North London. Greek is his mother tongue.
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