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Theatre Royal Stratford East today announces that Kerry Michael will step down as Artistic Director after twelve years in post. He will leave at the end of 2017 and will announce his future plans in due course.


Kerry Michael said today, “One of the most rewarding aspects of this job is supporting the next wave of artists and staff, so it’s important I give someone else the opportunity to have one of the best jobs in British Theatre. We, as a company, are in a healthy, ambitious place, so now feels the right time to step aside. It’s been a total privilege to lead this theatre for over twelve years and play a part in its history and vision. I believe, at a time when as a nation we are being fed fear and suspicion in a bid to divide and rule, TRSE now more than ever, needs to invest in and celebrate its complex and vibrant community, and seek out those new stories and storytellers many of whom unfortunately continue to be ignored by the mainstream arts sector and media. My successor will inherit a committed and engaged board lead by the formidable Margaret Hodge, who has been joy to work with, a talented and hardworking workforce, and one of the most young and diverse audiences in the country. I’m going to very much enjoy watching this important theatre that I love soar higher and higher in the years to come.”


Margaret Hodge MP Chair of the Board said: “Kerry's contribution to the Theatre Royal Stratford East has been simply wonderful. He has relentlessly put into practice the values that underpin this unique theatre by prioritising and pursuing diversity and opportunity at every level. He leaves us with a genuinely diverse and young audience, and a great record in nurturing and developing the creative talents of young people in East London. He has consistently demonstrated a radical and brave determination to stage work that challenges many boundaries and delivers strong messages. He has built a committed, talented and diverse staff, and a beautifully renovated theatre with a strong tradition and huge opportunities that will enable us to fulfill a leading national role. We are all immensely grateful for everything that Kerry has done and achieved. We will all miss him but I am sure he will continue to make a vital contribution to the theatre world in a new role.”


Neil Darlison, Director, Theatre of Arts Council England commented, “Kerry Michael has been a central figure in British theatre for nearly two decades. He has recently overseen the refurbishment to the Stratford Theatre Royal’s magnificent main auditorium, and built a truly welcoming and lively community space where audiences have enjoyed many, many great plays and musicals. He leaves a legacy worthy of the theatre’s founder, and we look forward with anticipation to Kerry’s next endeavours, to the future of Stratford East and to what his successor brings.”


Robin Wales, Mayor of Newham , added “Under Kerry Michael’s leadership the Theatre Royal Stratford East has played an important part in supporting our community and engendering pride and cohesion during an exciting time of regeneration for our borough. Kerry’s outstanding programmes and creative spirit have augmented Stratford’s existing cultural offer to make it a destination to be enjoyed by local people, visitors to the area, and by young people especially through the theatre’s. support of Newham Council’s Every Child a Theatre-goer initiative. We wish Kerry success in the future and look forward to continuing to work with the theatre to ensure it remains a high quality offer which is hard to beat anywhere in London.”


Theatre Royal Stratford East will soon start the search for a new Artistic Director.



  • Kerry 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.

  • Kerry Michael has been Artistic Director of Theatre Royal Stratford East for 12 years. Personal directing credits are numerous during his time at TRSE, but include: world premieres of new plays including The Battle Of Green Lanes and The Great Extension, both by Cosh Omar, looking at home grown extremism soon after 9/11; John Adams’ opera I Was Looking at The Ceiling and Then I Saw The Sky (produced by Barbican Centre UK); and Musicals including Takeaway, the UK’s first British Chinese Musical of this scale, Ray Davies’ Come Dancing, and The Harder They Come, which transferred to the Barbican, West End, Miami and Toronto. Tanika Gupta’s Love N Stuff and in April 2017 a new national tour of The Who’s Tommy with a cast of 22 Disabled and Non-Disabled Actor and Actor/Musos, as the second Ace’s Ramps on The Moon initiative.

  • Kerry Michael leads the producing arm of the theatre, spotting new talent and themes to explore. Highlights include Piped Piper a hip hop dance drama, an Olivier Award winner in 2012, and new work by Bonnie Greer, Rikki Beadle Blair, Roy Williams, Tanika Gupta, Cora Bissett and David Gregg.

  • TRSE co-produces with partners large and small including, the National Theatre, the National Theatre of Scotland, the National Theatre of Wales, The Barbican, Saddler’s Wells, The Young Vic and Graeae Theatre Company - the UK’s leading disabled-led theatre company.

  • The theatre has also worked with a number of partners to deliver outdoor and site specific work including You Me Bum Bum Train, Back to Back’s Small Metal Object and One Step at a Time Like This’ En Route.

  • IFEA 2012 International Festivals of Emerging Artists - An international gathering of emerging artists, forty eight in total aged 18 - 24 from eighteen countries around the world, were invited by TRSE to come together for a three week laboratory where they collaborated, made new work and debated the world arts ecology. This was delivered in partnership with sixteen UK art organisations.

  • Nigeria 30 - As part of Nigeria House in the Olympic summer, TRSE negotiated and awarded 30 grants of £5,000 each to British born Nigerian artists to develop new work over a three year period, with symposiums, labs and one to one mentoring.

  • Home Theatre - A growing international initiative which presents 30 one person shows, placing artists in homes across the capital who, over a two week period, create a bespoke new work for the host. Calling the work a ‘gift’, the thirty pieces are performed at the same time on the same night across the capital. Each performance is played in front of family and friends, and filmed for transmission on The second part of the evening involves a meal with the audience where the theatre team curates a conversation to discuss the responses of the show and the wider impact of theatre and the arts. Many of the hosts are non-theatre goers and the thirty homes cover the whole of London. The idea originated in 2012 when Kerry worked in the favelas of Rio de Janeiro with pioneering practitioner Marcus Faustini and his ‘Agency’. The project has grown greatly from those early days and, in partnership, they have delivered Home Theatre in Rio three times, in the UK twice, in Pretoria with the South African State Theatre, and for 2018, are planning to work in Istanbul and Palestine.

  • Open Stage - In response to the ‘Olympic Cultural Festival for everyone’ TRSE instigated one of the largest public engagement programmes seen in the UK where the theatre spent two years developing a mechanism where it would give up complete programming power to its audience for a six month period. Through qualitative and quantitative research it found new ways to talk and listen to its audience, demystifying how programming decisions are made and empowering the audience.

  • Musical Theatre Initiative - For over fifteen years TRSE has been working with established artists and those new, and sometimes hostile, to musical theatre to develop new shows that speak to more diverse audiences. Bringing together storytellers who work with words, beats and music to collaborate and explore narrative and form. This work has led to over 20 world premières and over 150 artists have gone through the programme, helping to shape the conversation around the British Musical and broaden the range of work seen in the UK. Last year 32 new plays and musicals were workshopped, developed and shared at public and invited readings.

  • Young People's Work - During Kerry’s tenure at TRSE, its young people’s work has quickly grown to be recognised as some of the most innovative and inclusive work in this area. With hundreds of young people going through the organisation every year, the work is built on the principle of individual support and empowerment. Currently, there are six Young People collectives: Young Poets, Young Producers, Ambassadors, Critics, an Advisory group and two seats on the TRSE board of Trustees. Past alumni include Matthew Xia, the Associate Artistic Director of Manchester Royal Exchange, and Tony Award winner Cynthia Erivo. Many others now have careers in film, TV and theatre as performers, in other creative roles, as administrators, technicians and producers. TRSE also deliverers extensive work in schools and other formal education establishments for pupils, teachers and tutors. This includes Every Child a Theatre Goer where TRSE, working with local government, enables every child to see a piece of live theatre in every academic year.

  • Angelic Tales - A new writing festival focused on seeking out and supporting new writers from non-traditional theatre backgrounds. Now in its 7th year, the festival has developed over a hundred new play writers, many of whom have forged professional careers with other theatres across the UK.

  • Under him the theatre has been nominated for numerous Olivier Awards and his production of Cinderella was the first pantomime ever nominated in the Award’s history. Other nominations included You Me Bum Bum Train and the remount of Oh What a Lovely War. TRSE have also won Olivier Awards for their hip-hop production of Boy Blue’s Pied Piper and in association with the Barbican, Cora Bissett’s immersive theatre experience Roadkill.

  • In our last audited year 80% of all those employed in roles around the organisation are 34 years and under, and 53% of our staff consider themselves as People of Colour.

  • Launched Gerry’s, a bar, cafe and 80 seat studio theatre to complement the main stage.

  • At the heart of ongoing regeneration plans, in partnership with Newham Council, which include the potential for The Red Crate.

  • Audience: The theatre is located in the largest regeneration area in Europe and the most ethnically diverse borough in the country where over 100 languages are spoken. Newham has a rapidly expanding young population; currently 50% of people are under 30 years old and this proportion is expected to continue growing.

    Despite massive investment in regeneration, Newham’s young people face considerable hardship, with half (52%) of the Borough’s children living in households in poverty (before housing costs), compared to 17% nationally. All tickets are available as concessions and comprised 48% of all those sold last year. The average ticket yield was just £11.49 compared to £24.06 in London more generally.

  • Audience numbers in the last five years TRSE averaged at 74% capacity. This reflects continued success in attracting those not considered traditional arts-goers in an area of London which has the lowest arts engagement in England (29%). 60% of the audience is across East London. 48% of all tickets were concessions including £2.50 tickets to first-time bookers living in Newham for every show. Mosaic profiling shows more than a 35% of the audiences come from the ‘Kaleidoscope Creativity’ category, which is far in excess of the London average of 10%. This group is characterised by low levels of cultural engagement and comprises a mix of ages and cultural backgrounds.

  • Increase in ACE funding for two consecutive funding rounds - TRSE was one of the few organisations across the country to receive an uplift in their NPO funding 2015–18 from Arts Council England and also in 2013 – 2015. In the last settlement, ACE’s grant award report states: “The entire programme at TRSE reflects the Creative Case and the diversity of contemporary England to a very high degree, with diversity, reasonably cited as being the organisation’s main inspiration.” Further to this, “TRSE have a very strong track record for their development and staging of new work (both straight plays and musical theatre) mostly by BAME writers, showcasing the talents of artists of BAME heritage, which successfully appeal to diverse audiences.”



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