University stages double act with West Yorkshire Playhouse

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A new theatre partnership between the University of Leeds and West Yorkshire Playhouse is putting learning centre stage.

The University’s School of Performance and Cultural Industries (PCI) will work closely with the Playhouse on a series of joint theatre projects focused on developing new and emerging talent.

One of the first initiatives sees the partners link the Playhouse’s new writing schemes with the University’s Masters course, Writing for Performance and Publication, aimed at encouraging new playwrights.

The University and the Playhouse have now signed a memorandum of understanding to develop further projects with regional, national and international impact over the next three years.

Dr Alice O’Grady, Head of the School of PCI, said: “This is a significant step forward in building a more solid relationship with West Yorkshire Playhouse.

“The link will not only benefit current staff and students but will extend into the future as Leeds establishes itself as a city committed to the development of new writing for the theatre.”

Robin Hawkes, Executive Director at West Yorkshire Playhouse, said: "The partnership between the Playhouse and the University has huge potential. We are delighted to be formalising the long-standing relationship between the School of PCI and the Playhouse's talent development work on new writing."

The new partnership was sparked by talks between James Brining, Playhouse Artistic Director and award-winning playwright and screenwriter Garry Lyons, who is programme leader for the University's Writing for Performance and Publication MA.

Mr Lyons’ adaptation of The Secret Garden was a box office hit at the Playhouse in 2009-10.

They were keen to see the two organisations build a more solid working relationship, following numerous joint activities and projects over many years.

Their dialogue was spurred on by the success earlier this year of Boi Boi is Dead, a play developed by Leeds playwright Zodwa Nyoni while she was a postgraduate student on the Writing for Performance and Publication course, which premiered at the Playhouse to great acclaim. The play was shortlisted for the prestigious Susan Smith Blackburn Prize, the foremost international award for female dramatists. 

The talks were also encouraged by the development of the University’s forthcoming cultural institute, which from next year will provide the point of contact for arts and culture collaborations between academics and the cultural sector. 

Professor Frank Finlay, Culture theme leader at the University, is heading up plans for its cultural institute. He said: “This formal partnership with  West Yorkshire Playhouse will build on what is already a strong relationship and complements the University’s existing collaborations with a wide range of organisations – from Opera North and The Hepworth Wakefield to Marks & Spencer, Procter & Gamble and the Met Office.”

Further information

For further information and interviews, please contact University of Leeds Press Officer Gareth Dant on 0113 3433996 or

For more information about the West Yorkshire Playhouse, visit