Alan Ayckbourn: Becoming Artistic Director Of The Library Theatre

Fact: Alan Ayckbourn became the Artistic Director of the Stephen Joseph Theatre (then The Library Theatre) in 1972.

History: The year Alan Ayckbourn took on the role of Artistic Director of the Stephen Joseph Theatre is probably the single most mis-quoted fact about his life and career. It is variously stated as anywhere between 1969 and 1972 in publications about the playwright. Yet as far as the records (and Alan Ayckbourn) are concerned, he became the permanent Artistic Director of the theatre in 1972.

Stephen Joseph died in 1967 leaving a vacuum at The Library Theatre, Scarborough. In 1966, The Library Theatre had presented an amateur season but by the time it was realised it was fiscally viable for the theatre to continue professionally in 1967, Stephen was too ill to continue as what was then known as the Director Of Productions. This led to a period when Scarborough Theatre Trust would appoint the Director Of Productions on an annual basis, generally at the Annual General Meeting held each December. This led to the appointment of Rodney Wood as Director Of Productions in 1967 and 1968. In 1969 and 1970, Alan Ayckbourn was asked to be Director Of Productions but there was absolutely no indication it was a permanent job and at each AGM, the minutes record the decision was put to a vote. During both these years, Alan was still working full-time at the BBC in Leeds as a radio drama producer.

In 1971, Caroline Smith became the Director Of Productions at The Library Theatre. Alan had left the BBC during the summer of 1970, but spent much of the early part of the year in the USA for the American premiere of
How The Other Half Loves and played little part in the Library Theatre's summer season, aside from directing his new play Time And Time Again.

Alan was then asked to become the Director Of Productions for the 1972 season. This decision was carried unanimously by the Scarborough Theatre Trust on 15 January 1972 at the AGM. On 12 November 1972, at a meeting of the Trust it was proposed Alan Ayckbourn become Artistic Director of the theatre, which was again unanimously carried. This was the final time the Trust took a vote on the position and from this point the role can be considered to have become permanent.

Alan was also still Artistic Director during his sabbatical at the National Theatre. From 1986 - 1988, Alan remained Artistic Director alongside Robin Herford, who was responsible for the day-to-day running of the theatre. Alan Ayckbourn was Artistic Director of the theatre from 1972 to 31 March 2009, when he stepped down from the role and was succeeded by Chris Monks.

Note: A second frequently mis-reported fact regarding Alan Ayckbourn's tenure as Artistic Director should be addressed. Whilst the role of Artistic Director always had a wage attached to it, at no point between 1972 and 2009 did Alan Ayckbourn ever draw a wage from the Stephen Joseph Theatre as Artistic Director, with the money re-invested into the theatre for productions.

Copyright: Simon Murgatroyd