As we approach the 135th birthday of Leicester’s oldest theatre, we spend some time with The Y’s shiny new programmer Naomh Cullen, whose success booking the cult comedy genius Daniel Kitson has us all very excited to see the programme develop. 

“I was given a blank canvas. I was never told to not do anything.” Perhaps both a gift and a curse, but Cullen has taken full advantage. “I was in the office and said “I think I might be able to get Kitson” and someone said “Whose Kitson” and I said “the best comedian in the UK” and they said “Is that not Michael McIntyre?” and I was like “Nooo!” I made strangled noises.”

Despite uncertainty from Cullen’s colleagues the gig was a huge success; very close to a sell out. Kitson’s Christmas show, a fantastically nuanced piece of comedic storytelling, was well received. Kitson, it seemed, was a treat to work with.

“In his newsletter he said “If you’re not full of panto, I’m doing a christmas show.’’ I sent an email being like “oh god me, please, please me!” He responded with “lets talk turkey” and my email subject was ‘Turkey Talk’. He finished all his emails with “good turkey”.”

BUT WHAT NEXT? I hear you all cry. Adam Kay is coming to The Y with his show This is going to hurt (secret diaries of a junior doctor) on the 13th April and coming up this Summer is the marvellously bizarre comedy poet Tim Key on the 22nd June.

Cullen’s keen to expand the programme, and we spend some time discussing podcasts, with which The Y has had some previous success in booking The Guilty Feminist and Athletico Mince. We agree when she states “The Podcast is such an interesting medium at the minute.” and the idea of a venue that has regular live Podcasts is certainly appealing.

Cullen has programmed a plethora of local talent, including The Nose that Nobody Picked on 31st March, the Kermes album launch on 14th April and 14/48  on the 4th May. Whilst their main priorities understandably lie elsewhere, programming and supporting local and emerging talent is something they embrace. It seems like tough balance to strike.

“All the money that the theatre makes goes straight back into the charity. Every cost I make has to be justified against that – but I’m always up for listening to people who have a show.”

The philanthropic nature of The Y is certainly something that attracted Cullen to her role there.

“As an arts centre they do live their ethos…it’s really nice working for a centre where you can see the impact, the more good you do the more you see how it helps people everyday.”

With this healthy balance between theatre and philanthropy, and Cullen’s unique vision we’re confident we’ll see Leicester’s oldest theatre continue to evolve and surprise us.

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