Just weeks after Berwick Kaler gave his final bow, his panto co-director and creative lynchpin of the York Theatre Royal has announced he is to go as well.

Damian Cruden is stepping down as artistic director of the theatre for 22 years. His final production will be co-directing the summer show Swallows and Amazons.


He is to take on the role of artistic director of the Shakespeare Rose Theatre project in York and Blenheim, and is looking forward to spending more time with his family.

Damian said it felt like the right time to go, saying:

  • I am proud of our achievements over the years, had we only managed to keep the theatre open that in itself would have been a miracle.

    However we have done so much more and we did it as a team. The team has grown over the years and I hope now that it includes the thousands of local people who get involved in creative projects and events.

    It is this work that I am most proud of. Our Youth Theatre and the community plays are the backbone of our organisation. They bring resilience to the cultural community in York which money cannot buy.

Damian said the company is in a strong position “with great possibilities for a fantastically innovative future”.

Staggering achievements

Damian Cruden (right) with James Cundall (centre) and chef Brian Turner at the opening of Shakespeare’s Rose Theatre last year. Photograph: Anthony Robling
Theatre executive director Tom Bird said: “Damian’s achievements at York Theatre Royal are staggering and unprecedented.

“He has created the most wonderful work with the York community for over 20 years, both in the theatre and around the city and the world. We wish him all the best for his future with Shakespeare’s Rose and beyond.”


He added:

  • Planning for this year’s pantomime has been under way for some months and Damian’s departure in no way affects York Theatre Royal’s plans to deliver a wonderful Christmas show this year.

    We look forward to announcing our exciting pantomime offer in the coming weeks.

    Damian’s unstinting commitment to pantomime for the past 22 years has been critical in ensuring the health and survival of YTR and we thank him for that.