King's Head Theatre's Artistic Director Steps Down After a Decade

21 July 2020


Adam Spreadbury-Maher, Artistic Director of the King’s Head Theatre, Islington will step down from his post this September after a decade of service. 

In his role as Artistic Director, the Australian-born former opera singer introduced the first agreement with Equity for actors and stage managers to be paid a legal wage on the Fringe in 2011 and has been a vocal spokesperson for ethical employment. During his tenure, he has put on over 1,000 performances and as co-founder of OperaUpClose, introduced new audiences to the art form. Adam is a queer theatre-maker who has also long championed new work and revivals by and about the LGBTQIA+ community, for which the King's Head Theatre serves as an important hub.

Whilst recruitment takes place for a new Artistic Director, programming will be overseen by King's Head Theatre Trustee, Heather Ruck (former Programme Director, Assembly Festival) working alongside the staff team, led by Fiona English (Executive Director).

Adam Spreadbury-Maher says: “It has been an enormous privilege and honour to lead the theatre for 10 years, following in the footsteps of the legendary Dan Crawford. I leave the King’s Head Theatre - now in its 50th anniversary year - on the brink of great change, and while the challenges of COVID-19 cannot be underestimated, the theatre’s move to a custom-built venue is still set to go ahead, bringing exciting new opportunities and the prospect of economic security. The world needs the King’s Head Theatre now more than ever. I will follow the much beloved theatre from a distance, led by its dynamic Executive Director, Fiona English, and the new Artistic Director as I explore new challenges across Europe. I would like to thank the audiences, artists, staff and our wonderful Board of Trustees from the past decade. I’ve had the ride of a lifetime”.

Fiona English, who joined as King's Head Theatre's first Executive Director in 2017, commented: “Working alongside Adam for the last three years has been a real joy and I’m so grateful for everything he has done to secure the future of the King’s Head Theatre during his time. Now, as we look forward to our next chapter, I am excited for the future of our venue in Islington Square, supported thanks to grants from the Mayor of London Sadiq Khan's Good Growth Fund, Foyle Foundation and many individuals. I look forward to working with a new Artistic Director to push the maverick spirit of the King’s Head Theatre further than ever before".

James Seabright, chair of King's Head Theatre Board of Trustees, added: “I have greatly admired Adam’s decade at the helm of the King’s Head Theatre from my vantage point as patron and producer, and since 2016 as chair of the Board of Trustees. Whilst all of us on the charity’s Board and staff are sad to see him go, we all owe him a debt of gratitude for leaving the theatre in a strong artistic and financial position following many years of developing excellent shows and ever-growing audience numbers, including for shows that have taken the King’s Head name all around the world and brought valuable resources back to its Upper Street home. I look forward to working with the Board to recruit the theatre’s third Artistic Director and then to working with them on finalising the charity’s plans to move to Islington Square”.

During the COVID-19 crisis, the King's Head Theatre, like most live venues, has had to fundraise to stay afloat. They have successfully raised £135,000 in a crowdfunding campaign fronted by actor/writers Mark Gatiss and Ian Hallard. This includes a £35,000 grant from Arts Council England, yet the majority of funds have come from over 950 loyal theatregoers: a testament to the relationship between the theatre and its community.

The King's Head Theatre in Islington has provided a stepping-stone for many of Britain’s most influential contemporary artists, feeding talent into the West End and beyond, with alumni including Joanna Lumley, Katie Mitchell, Tom Stoppard, Hugh Grant, Dawn French, Steven Berkoff and Alan Rickman.

Adam Spreadbury-Maher’s achievements at the King's Head Theatre

King's Head Theatre productions which transferred to the West End directed or produced by Adam include Puccini’s Tosca (2013 – directed by Adam), Tennessee WilliamsVieux Carre (2013 - directed by Robert Chevara), Puccini’s La Bohème (2016 -directed by Adam), Kevin Elyot’s Coming Clean (2019 and return season in 2020 – directed by Adam), Tommy Murphy’s Strangers in Between (2018 after two seasons at King's Head Theatre - directed by Adam). Over 1,300 performances have been staged to date of the adaptation of Irvine Welsh’s Trainspotting which Adam directed with Greg Esplin, including a six-month run Off Broadway, across Australia, four London seasons, six Edinburgh seasons and a continuing UK tour.

In 2015, Adam revitalised and extended the award-winning Trainee Resident Director Scheme from a three to a 12-month programme and led the creative team gender policy, committing to gender balance in all production teams in 2018. He founded the new King's Head Theatre charity in 2015 and was the Artistic Director when the theatre founded the nearby Hope Theatre in 2013. He is the co-founder of OperaUpClose and made it the resident company at the King's Head Theatre in 2010. 

In 2011, he produced Robin Norton-Hale’s version of La Bohème which won the Olivier Award for Best New Opera [and then a nomination for directing his own new production in 2016]. In 2019, the King's Head Theatre won Best Pub Theatre at the inaugural London Pub Theatre Awards. Adam also created King's Head Theatre's new opera form Opera Undone with 2020 productions of Puccini’s La Bohème and Tosca at Trafalgar Studios.

For more information see: https://www.kingsheadtheatre.com/

For press enquiries contact tpr media  Sophie Toumazis at [email protected] or Rasha Ali-Sheikh at [email protected] or call +44(0)208 347 7020/+44(0)7974 428858

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