The Royal Exchange Theatre is delighted to announce that Selina Cartmell has been appointed as its Creative Director. Selina will take up her new role in August 2024 and her first programme will begin in 2026 for the theatre’s 50th anniversary year.

Selina Cartmell is an award-winning theatre-maker, director and producer who grew up in Cumbria. From 2016-2022 she was Artistic Director of the Gate Theatre, Dublin where she re-invigorated the artistic vision and programmed and commissioned seasons of world-class productions with leading Irish and International talent.  She grew new audiences, significantly diversified and championed emerging artists and transformed gender equality. 

Royal Exchange Theatre Chief Executive Steve Freeman said:

I am genuinely excited about Selina’s appointment as Creative Director of the Royal Exchange. She brings with her a wealth of experience, and her inspiring vision excited us during our extensive recruitment process. She demonstrated a deep understanding and respect for the extraordinary artistic legacy of the Royal Exchange Theatre and is clearly passionate about the theatre’s relationship with audiences both existing and new. In her role as Creative Director, alongside her team, I’m confident she will deliver outstanding artistic programmes, with some of the most interesting artists and creative partners. Selina’s arrival at the Exchange will add to Greater Manchester’s vibrant cultural offer and will strengthen the Royal Exchange Theatre’s position as one of the UK’s leading full-time producing theatres ahead of, and beyond, our 50th anniversary.

Selina’s appointment underpins the Royal Exchange’s commitment to developing a world-class theatre programme that is ambitious in ideas, form and scale. It builds on the Exchange’s established roots of investing in artists, communities and growing and diversifying audiences locally, nationally and internationally.   

Selina Cartmell comments:

I am thrilled to be joining the team at the Royal Exchange Theatre at such an important and exciting time. As a teenager, I vividly remember the first time I sat in the theatre’s unique and immersive in-the-round auditorium and experienced the transformative and connective power of its artist-audience relationship.  Its architecture creates a community where everyone belongs, a democratic space where storytelling feels essential, radical and meaningful.  It is a great honour to return home to the North West and to creatively lead this pioneering theatre, continuing the traditions of world-class, visionary and adventurous programming. 

Mindful of the extraordinary founders and artists I follow in the lead-up to 2026 and the theatre’s 50th anniversary celebrations, we will endeavour to embolden our spaces with diverse perspectives, make fresh links with communities and build sustainable and exciting new partnerships of creative exchange.   

My ambition for the Royal Exchange Theatre is for it to be an inclusive home that attracts the best of emerging and established talent to connect and inspire audiences and communities – old and new – and to share these stories with the world.  What we commission and create needs to be visionary, progressive and relevant and reflect the world we live in.  We need to be global in outlook and fiercely independent, distinctive and deeply local in output. I look forward to working with Steve and being part of a very dynamic team to begin this exciting new adventure as we steer the next chapter of this much-loved cultural powerhouse.

Royal Exchange Theatre Trustee and writer afshan d’souza-lodhi added:

As a writer, I am constantly looking to surround myself with people that inspire me and push me to be better. As a trustee of the Royal Exchange Theatre, I am looking for someone who will do the same for the staff, creatives and freelancers who work in this building.  

For this new position of Creative Director, we really wanted someone who could hold important and necessary conversations while simultaneously creating a space for people to bring their whole selves into the building so that beautiful art can emerge. I am beyond excited for Selina’s appointment as the new Creative Director and I cannot wait for her to get started.