Ground-breaking playwright, actor and broadcaster Kwame Kwei-Armah is the new Chancellor of University of the Arts London.
Kwame, who became the first black British playwright to have a play performed in the West End with Elmina’s Kitchen in 2005, takes up the honorary post with immediate effect.
His appointment crowns an eight year association with the University which began in 2002 when he studied for an MA in Screenwriting at London College of Communication at the same time as appearing in the BBC drama Casualty. Since then he has remained closely involved with the University, acting as a Governor from 2005 to 2010, and visiting regularly to speak to students, staff and other alumni.
As Chancellor he will be an important ceremonial and ambassadorial figure in the life of the University. He takes over from Lord Stevenson of Coddenham, who retires after completing two successive five year terms. Welcoming the appointment, Sir John Tusa, Chairman of University of the Arts London, said:
“Kwame’s unflagging passion for creative arts education will make him a powerful ambassador for our students, staff and graduates. When he first came to study at the University he was already a working writer and it says a great deal about the kind of person he is that, despite early success, he remained eager to learn, grow and develop further. That hard work to sharpen his talent has made him one the most ambitious and accomplished writers in the UK today, adept at giving audiences nuanced insights into complex issues.
“He offers a timely reminder that the UK’s world-renowned creative and cultural sector has not evolved by chance, but is underpinned by the dynamic art, design and communication education provided by our universities.
“On behalf of everyone at the University, I would like to thank Lord Stevenson for his years of devoted service on behalf of our students and staff. He has been generous with his advice and commitment to the University over the last ten years and we look forward to his continuing friendship and passionate support of the creative and cultural sectors.”
Kwame began his writing career as Writer in Residence at Bristol Old Vic from 1999 to 2001, where he wrote the plays A Bitter Herb, Blues Brother Soul Sister and Big Nose. Elmina’s Kitchen, his first play for the National Theatre, won him the 2003 Evening Standard Award for Most Promising Playwright and an Olivier Award nomination for Best New Play in 2004, while the television version of the play was nominated for a BAFTA. He followed this with the plays Fix Up and Statement of Regret, also at the National Theatre, before moving to the Tricycle to write and direct Let There Be Love and Seize The Day. He led the establishment of the Black Theatre Archive at the National Theatre in 2009 and was artistic director of the 2010 World Festival of Black Arts and Culture in Senegal.
As an actor, he is best known for playing paramedic Finlay Newton in Casualty between 1999 and 2004, which led to his appearance on Comic Relief Does Fame Academy in 2003 and the release of the album Kwame.
He was born in London in 1966 and studied at the Barbara Speake School in Acton.