Big news today with the announcement that Graeme Phillips, the Unity Theatre’s artistic director has announced his retirement after 33 years.
“A seasoned well-respected member of Liverpool’s artistic community, director, designer and mentor to many local, regional and national theatre companies, he will step aside in July 2015,” they say.
Phillips first came to Liverpool on a supposed temporary basis, and never left. A graduate of the Central School of Speech and Drama, in 1982 he joined The Merseyside Unity Theatre – which later became the Unity – becoming artistic director in the early 1990s. He presided over two capital redevelopments which transformed a leaky-roofed old synagogue on Hope Place into a state-of-the-art small-scale theatre.
He says: “It has been a privilege to have the opportunity to shape an organisation virtually from scratch and to have worked with and brought to the city so many talented individuals, theatre-makers, and companies, who in their turn have inspired and provoked our own home-grown artists.
“Unity’s success has always been an ensemble effort and so I would like to say a big thank you to the current and past staff, board members, friends, funders, and others too numerous to mention, who have encouraged and supported me these past three decades. The current Unity began in the troubled eighties and still stands proud in the present challenging noughties. It is an interesting time to hand over the stewardship into fresh hands. I wish them good luck and trust that they have as exhilarating a ride as I have.”
Phillips’s support of new companies and artists, including the now acclaimed Told By An Idiot, Improbable, Volcano, Tmesis and creatives such as Robert Farquhar, Jeff Young and Terry Titter, balanced alongside an innovative high quality programme of touring and produced work. He has also directed several Unity productions.
Sue Williams, executive director of Unity said: “It’s hard to imagine the unity without Graeme. I’ve worked alongside him for 18 years and his quiet determination has influenced all aspects of the city’s cultural landscape. He’s brought us amazing companies, exciting artists, weird ideas and wonderful moments. Actors, writers, directors, dancers and performers have all found that Graeme’s encouragement has helped them to be more daring, imaginative and ambitious. His leaving really will be the end of an era, but we look forward, with some excitement, to what comes next.”
The Unity’s board will begin searching for Graeme’s search for a successor this summer, with an announcement when an appointment is made.