Belfast Telegraph

Lyric artistic director to leave

The man who oversaw the multimillion-pound transformation of Belfast's Lyric Theatre is to step down after five years.

Richard Croxford will bow out as artistic director in December but says he will return to the south Belfast venue as a freelance artist.

"It's always sad to come to the end of a contract when you have enjoyed your time so thoroughly. I have had five intense and wonderful years at the Lyric and am honoured to have been a small part of the Lyric's new incarnation," he said.

"I look forward hugely to returning as a freelance artist and wish the theatre the greatest of success for the future."

Mr Croxford, who has been one of the Lyric's longest-serving artistic directors, took up the appointment in 2008 when the new theatre was under construction at Stranmillis on the banks of the River Lagan.

It reopened in April 2011 at a cost of £18 million, of which £6 million came from private donations, with a production of Arthur Miller's The Crucible.

Originally from Liverpool and having lived in Northern Ireland for many years, Mr Croxford will leave the theatre after directing the children's Christmas show, Cinderella.

His creative leadership and imaginative programming has been recognised both nationally and internationally with highlights such as The Man Jesus with Simon Callow and The Painkiller, which broke box office records, starring Sir Kenneth Branagh and Rob Brydon.

He was also responsible for programming Brendan At The Chelsea, directed by and starring Adrian Dunbar, which opens in New York next week as part of the Lyric's first transatlantic tour in a generation.

Sid McDowell, the Lyric's vice-chairman, said: "Richard has made a huge contribution to the life of the Lyric over the past five years. He was the right man in the right place at the right time, and we wish him well as he starts this new chapter in his career.

"His time as Lyric artistic director has been a distinguished one and we hope he will return to work at the theatre as a visiting director in the years ahead."

Mr Croxford has also been at the forefront of the Lyric's writer-in-residence scheme as well as outreach education programmes working with young people from diverse communities across Belfast.

Noirin McKinney, dir ector of arts development at the Arts Council of Northern Ireland, said his programming always surprised audiences.

"Richard delivered an exceptional programme at the Lyric, consistently surprising and enthralling audiences. The many local actors and theatre practitioners whose careers have benefited as a result of his time at the Lyric will no doubt want to join us in wishing Richard continued success as he moves on," she said.

The recruitment process to find a new theatrical leader has already started. In a statement, a spokeswoman said the Lyric is seeking to appoint an executive producer as overall creative leader of the organisation.

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