Kully Thiarai

Kully Thiarai is creative director and CEO of Leeds 2023. Having worked with prestigious arts institutions across the UK, she is renowned for her bold work exploring themes of diversity and community.

Kully has spent her 30+ year career changing systems and structures in the arts world that are barriers to inclusion including pioneering the ways that theatres involve young people and taking performances to spaces that could be more easily accessible by the public.


Before taking up her position at Leeds 2023, Kully was Artistic Director and Chief Executive of National Theatre Wales.

“It was always going to have to be something special to entice me away from National Theatre Wales. To lead the cultural year for Leeds 2023 is that special something – a once in a lifetime opportunity to return to my roots and play my part in inspiring a whole new generation of artists and audiences.’’

The Leeds 2023 team

Kully is a strategic and dynamic thinker with nearly 30 years experience of working in the performing arts leading, developing and delivering high quality projects and programmes across a diverse range of organisations including Red Ladder Theatre Company, Contact Theatre, Leicester Haymarket Theatre, Theatre Writing Partnership, Cast in Doncaster. 

She is a board member at Manchester International Festival (MIF), The Art Foundation and Slung Low. She is also an Honorary Fellow of Central School of Speech and Drama and a fellow of the RSA. 

Kully is a highly creative individual with demonstrable experience of developing innovative visions and new organisational models, as well as dual ability to work artistically at the coalface and in strategic, executive positions. She is experienced in creating learning environments and bespoke models to nurture and harness talent, community participation and engagement in the creative industries.

In 2020, Kully won the inaugural Cultural Icon category of the Northern Asian Power List.