The Rose Theatre Kingston has announced that artistic director Stephen Unwin will step down in January next year.

Unwin, who has been with the venue since it launched in 2008, is leaving to pursue other projects. He was CEO until 2012 when he relinquished the role to Robert O'Dowd. 

He said today: "I'm very proud of what has been achieved. Since opening the theatre in January 2008, we've produced 20 widely-acclaimed productions of plays and Christmas shows, with a hugely impressive range of well-known actors and creative talent.

"We've presented a diverse programme of visiting companies and one nighters, and hosted more than 50 high-profile Time to Talks. We've created a remarkable education and participation programme for the local community, while also developing a unique partnership with Kingston University. I'm extremely grateful for all the support and friendship I've received over the years to make my time at this beautiful theatre so stimulating and rewarding."

Chairman Anthony Simonds-Gooding said: "Stephen's time as artistic director of the Rose's life is something for which the theatre will always be grateful: he produced a series of wonderful shows, attracted great actors and directors and established the closest relations with our stakeholders and our audience. Stephen laid the best possible foundations for the Rose's future." 

Peter Hall, who invited Unwin to take the post after stepping down himself before the venue opened, added: "The first five years with any building are, as I well know, very tough and Stephen has done a most remarkable job steering the Rose through in spite of all the difficulties - not least, the ghastly economic climate."

First conceived by local councillors and residents in 1986, the Rose was in active development for six years before it opened, with Hall in place as artistic director and vocal champion for five years. In 2009 it required a £2.7 million bail out, funded jointly by Kingston Council and Kingston University, in order to avoid closure.   

Unwin will work at the Rose until its sixth birthday in January 2014. Following his production (with Liverpool Playhouse) of Peter Nichols' A Day in the Death of Joe Egg, he will direct Ibsen's Ghosts in the autumn, in association with English Touring Theatre, the company he founded 20 years ago.