Shepherd, Grose and Murphy leave Kneehigh

Published: 17 March 2021
Reporter: David Chadderton

Mike Shepherd talking to BTG from the Barns in August 2020

After forty years, Kneehigh founder Mike Shepherd is to step down as Artistic Director, as are Deputy Artistic Director Carl Grose and artist and writer Anna Maria Murphy.

Shepherd, who founded the company in 1980, said, "for over 40 years, Kneehigh has been more than a job, more than a company and more than a vocation. Kneehigh has been my life’s work and, in turn, the story of my life. I have danced, sang, laughed and raged. I have run on the clifftops and travelled the world from Stenalees to Shanghai (and most places between and some beyond!).

"I have led and I have followed as Kneehigh journeyed through different chapters; always riding the changes that life brings with generosity. And I have always embraced change, understanding that it is the life blood of art. Of all the things that have been created, the strongest are the friendships that have been forged and it is these that are the most precious. Roots have grown so deep that nothing will change or shake them. This is the end of this glorious book, but not the end of the wonderful adventures and friendships that are to come and will spring up anew. Thank you to all the Kneehigh family. Onwards! With a glint in my eye and a spring in my step…"

Chair of the Board Hedda Archbold said, "with this vibrant company, Mike has ensured a truly impressive legacy. The UK’s theatre is peppered with artistic talents who developed their craft alongside Mike at the Barns. We wish him the very best for his future.”

Grose, who wrote many Kneehigh productions, left at the end of January. He said, "since attending my first production at Truro City Hall as a wide-eyed thirteen-year-old, I have loved this extraordinary and unique theatre company. I still can’t believe I ended up getting a job with them 27 years ago. For me, as for so many of us, Kneehigh has been a huge part of my life. I have had the honour of working with the most inspiring people. I have had the opportunity to tell stories to audiences all over the world. What a privilege it’s been. But all good things come to an end. I have decided I want to commit more time to my writing. To the friends made, to the audiences played, and most importantly, to my Kneehigh family, thank you. It’s been the ride of my life.”

Murphy has worked on many Kneehigh projects from the early days of the company, including the two-year Coastal Communities project that will conclude at the end of May with a project to be announced shortly. She said, "after what I think is almost thirty-five years of being involved in Kneehigh, it’s time for me to leave and on to adventures new. It has been a glorious ride, of which I am very proud to have been a part of. The friendships and collaborations will hopefully endure. Here’s to a new chapter.”

The company's statement concluded by saying that they are are still working out what is possible to produce and perform in 2021 (Shepherd shared the plans they intended for this year with the BTG podcast in August 2020).