Artistic Director and Chief Executive of the National Youth Theatre, Paul Roseby, has today become an Officer of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire and receives the prestigious Queen’s award in recognition of his efforts and achievements at the National Youth Theatre.
Paul Roseby has been Artistic Director of the world’s leading youth arts charity, the National Youth Theatre of Great Britain, for 15 years and CEO for five of those years. Over this period he has facilitated over 150,000 creative educational opportunities for young people and raised or generated over £33 million of charitable income to support young British talent. He has produced over 200 productions showcasing Britain’s best young talent and commissioned over 170 new plays or adaptations, predominantly by emerging young writers including James Graham (This House), Sarah Solemani (Aphrodite Fry) and Louise Brealey (Pope Joan). Actors who have worked with Roseby and gone on to international success include Sarah Solemani, Zawe Ashton, Rafe Spall, Susan Wokoma, Daisy Lewis, Sope Dirisu, Joe Cole, Karla Crome, Yolanda Kettle and many more. In less than five years since becoming CEO, he has also achieved record box office receipts and successfully fought to establish financial sustainability for the charity, which historically has struggled with funding, increasing its earned income by over 100% and building a significant reserve to support future development.
As Artistic Director and Chief Executive of the National Youth Theatre, Roseby has championed the diversity and complexity of Britain’s youth in all its forms, working tirelessly to provide access to creative opportunities for young people from social, cultural and economic backgrounds underrepresented in the arts and wider creative industries. Norfolk born, as someone who didn’t go to university but instead pursued a highly successful career as a broadcaster straight from college, Roseby has championed alternative routes into the creative industries for those facing financial or cultural barriers preventing them entering higher education.
New initiatives launched during Roseby’s tenure include the NYT REP Company in 2012 to provide a free alternative route into the industry for those who couldn’t afford expensive formal acting training. Over 90 young actors have benefited from this free alternative to formal training and a West End platform over the past six years which collectively would have cost them over £800,000 to train for a year each at drama school. Over 95% of young people who have benefited from this free initiative have gone on to work professionally in the creative industries.
Over 175 young people have also graduated from Playing Up, NYT’s free targeted programme aimed at young people at risk who are not in education, employment or training and often recently out of the criminal justice or care systems or struggling with addiction, homelessness or mental health issues. The NYT has also significantly grown its Bursary Fund during this time, awarding over £2million worth of support to more than 1,500 young people who wouldn’t have been able to engage in these creative opportunities without financial support.
Roseby has been particularly successful in nurturing young actors of colour, as well as pioneering gender diversity in the arts sector and championing LGBTQ+ representation. More than a quarter of actors who have been in the REP company over the past six years are actors of colour and more than 50% of young people who have been on the Playing Up course are actors of colour. Bucking an industry-wide trend that has seen women underrepresented, over 50% of graduates from the NYT REP have been female, and the organisation has also commissioned a female majority of writers and a 50/50 split of male and female directors. Female writers commissioned by Roseby include Rebecca Lenkiewicz, Sarah Solemani, Stella Duffy, Tanika Gupta, Zawe Ashton, Jamila Gavin, Louise Brealey, Molly Davies, Nessah Muthy and Sophie Ellerby. The NYT has also opened up opportunities to more young people by drastically expanding its work outside of London, quadrupling the number of audition venues it tours to each year, to reach further around the country than any other drama school or youth arts organisation.
Paul Roseby said: ‘“I am very honoured to receive this recognition and would like to dedicate it to the inspiring young talent at the National Youth Theatre, to our generous funders and to all those who continue to volunteer their time and expertise alongside our dedicated staff and associate artists. I grew up in a village in Norfolk and when my English teacher introduced me to the National Youth Theatre it transformed my world, introducing me to people and opportunities that have shaped my life and varied career. I will continue to passionately campaign for more drama in schools and the need for National Arts Days to be celebrated on a par with sports days to help prevent the arts increasingly being treated as a second-class option. No matter how small a town or distant a location they are from or what they can or cannot afford, every teenager must get the chance to find their voice, find their tribe and have their world transformed.”
He has also pioneered a ground-breaking international cultural exchange programme and championed mass-ensemble outdoor arts, which led to the NYT being commissioned to produce the first fully theatrical immersive Olympic and Paralympic Team Welcome Ceremonies at London 2012, which he directed. He also secured the opportunity for the company to perform at the 2008 Beijing Olympic Handover, singing the National Anthem to an audience of over 1.5 billion, and the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games. Roseby has also pioneered free performances in unusual and community settings from a disused warehouse in the Isle of Sheppey to Thomas Heatherwick’s Seed Cathedral at the Shanghai Expo in 2010. Roseby’s passion for cultural exchange was instrumental in launching ground-breaking theatre education workshops in Saudi Arabia and Beijing, involving local young people and NYT members.
Critically acclaimed plays that Roseby has conceived and commissioned include James Graham’s Tory Boyz tackling homophobia in Westminster, Evan Placey’s Consensual exploring issues around the age of consent and sex education, Tania Gupta’s White Boy about knife crime in London and Our Days of Rage, written by nine emerging writers. His directing credits also include Story of our Youth - a Diamond Anniversary Gala, Generation Sext for Sky Arts, Relish by James Graham, When Romeo Met Juliet for BBC2, Silence by Moira Buffini and Tom Stoppard’s abridgement of Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice at the Royal Opera House and the National Centre for Performing Arts in Beijing, where NYT became the first British Theatre company to perform at the theatre.
“Paul Roseby has made such leaps forward in getting the National Youth Theatre producing in regional venues, and making auditions possible for people across the UK. The first person to ever pay to commission me to write a play was Paul Roseby of the National Youth Theatre. I’m now very lucky to be earning a living doing something I love.”
James Graham, Writer