Madani Younis named creative director of Southbank Centre | Culture

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Madani Younis, the artistic director of the Bush theatre in west London, has been named as the next creative director of the Southbank Centre, the UK’s largest arts centre.

Younis has spent six years at the Bush, which has repeatedly punched above its weight and is known for nurturing new writing talent.

He will be in charge of the Southbank Centre’s literature, dance, performance and free programmes, working in a new management structure alongside the director of music, Gillian Moore, and the director of the Hayward Gallery, Ralph Rugoff.

His arrival follows the departure of one of the UK’s highest-profile arts leaders, Jude Kelly, who was artistic director for 12 years. The centre stressed that Younis was not replacing Kelly and would be taking a new role.

It is a big career move for Younis, the son of immigrants from Pakistan and Trinidad, and will be welcomed by those who want to see more culturally diverse arts leadership in the UK.

Elaine Bedell, the centre’s chief executive, said she thought Younis would bring “new energy and vision” to the venue. “We want to provide bold, diverse and ambitious artistic programming here and Madani’s arrival signals that we are entering an exciting new era. Together with Ralph Rugoff and Gillian Moore, we now have an unrivalled and outstanding senior artistic team in place.”

Younis said his time at the Bush was among his proudest achievements. “The Bush invested in a vision that celebrated not just the best of theatre but the best of our country’s inherent culture. The result was a more reflective community of artists and a breadth of new audiences that represent the diversity of the city around us.”

The Bush, which first opened above a pub in Shepherds Bush in 1972, has an established reputation for finding and nurturing new writing talent. It has been a launchpad for notable artistic careers, including that of Dominic Dromgoole, who went on to Shakespeare’s Globe, and Josie Rourke, who moved to the Donmar Warehouse and has directed a film about Mary Queen of Scots that is generating awards-season buzz.

The theatre relocated in 2011 and underwent a £4.3m capital redevelopment programme under Younis’s leadership, reopening in 2017.

In the last big Arts Council England (ACE) funding round the Bush was one of only a handful of London venues that had their funding increased.

Sir Nicholas Serota, the chair of ACE, welcomed Younis’s appointment. “I have no doubt that he will bring an energy and vision which will seek to both embrace old audiences and reach out to new ones,” he said. “Madani has built up a strong reputation for innovation and experimentation at the Bush, and we look forward with excitement to seeing how this will bring benefits to the Southbank Centre programme.”

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