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Artistic director of King’s Head Theatre bid farewell to iconic venue

Adam Spreadbury-Maher oversaw more than 1,000 performances, and helped save the theatre from extinction

24 July, 2020 — By by Sam Ferguson

THE artistic director of the King’s Head Theatre has announced he will step down from the role, writes Sam Ferguson.

Australian-born former opera singer Adam Spreadbury-Maher, who took over the role from the Upper Street theatre pub’s founder Dan Crawford, oversaw more than 1,000 performances, and is credited for bringing equal pay and new operatic audiences to the fringe.

But his biggest test in a decade at the venue was surely the coronavirus crisis, which has seen cash flow fall off a cliff.

With the theatre’s 50th anniversary falling this year, the venue had been looking forward to its move to a new home in the Islington Square development, but even this was thrown into doubt by the crisis.

Needing to raise at least £100,000, Mr Spreadbury-Maher told the Tribune in May: “There is no commercial theatre without the fringe. This is where the talent comes from.”

But, after an appeal launched by actors Mark Gatiss and Ian Hallard, the theatre managed to hit its target, securing its future thanks to donations from 950 theatre-goers, and a £35,000 grant from Arts Council England.

Speaking about his decision to leave in September, Mr Spreadbury-Maher called his time in Islington the “ride of a lifetime”.

“I leave the King’s Head Theatre – now in its 50th anniversary year – on the brink of great change,” he said, “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.”

Mr Spreadbury-Maher is credited with championing new work and revivals by and about the LGBTQIA+ community and founded the King’s Head Theatre charity in 2015.

He said: “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.”

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