Ian Brown (pictured) will succeed Jude Kelly as artistic director and chief executive of Leeds' West Yorkshire Playhouse (WYP), recently voted by Whatsonstage.com theatregoers' to be the UK's most important regional producing theatre. He takes over this autumn when Kelly will leave after 12 years in the job.

Brown's first production in his new role will be directing Christopher Eccleston who makes his stage Shakespeare debut as Hamlet, running from 25 October to 30 November 2002. Brown also has plans to direct Tom Courtenay in the actor's new one-man show about Phillip Larkin, Pretending to Be Me (or Him).

From 1988 to 1996, Brown was artistic director of Edinburgh's acclaimed Traverse Theatre where his productions included world premieres of Trainspotting, Brad Fraser's Unidentified Human Remains and Moscow Stations starring Tom Courtenay. Elsewhere his productions have included the Olivier Award-winning Goodnight Children Everywhere (RSC), Fool for Love and Steaming (Piccadilly).

Since spring 2001, Brown has been an associate director at WYP, where his productions have included The Comedy of Errors, JB Priestley's Eden End, Arthur Miller's Broken Glass and the current production of Alan Bennett's The Lady in the Van.

Commenting on Brown's appointment to the directorship, WYP chairman Bernard Atha said: "Ian has been chosen from a long short-list of some of the very best talent in the country. He has an outstanding record as a Director, great experience of running a theatre and an exciting vision for the Playhouse. We want the theatre to retain its local, regional, national and international reputation. We also want the theatre to act as a life enhancing experience for people of all backgrounds."

Brown himself added: "I am looking forward to building on the success and energy created under Jude Kelly's leadership. I want West Yorkshire Playhouse to engender new work, bring about exciting collaborations with theatre artists, attract the best actors, writers and directors as well as fostering new talent in every area, so that the Playhouse can provide a stimulating programme which will reflect the energy and diversity of Leeds and its surrounding areas as well as remaining a major theatrical force in UK theatre."

Jude Kelly announced in December 2001 that she would be leaving WYP this autumn. Last year, she was a frontrunner in the race for the artistic directorship of the National Theatre, which eventually went to Nicholas Hytner. Her name was also mentioned in connection with vacancies at London's Hampstead, Almeida and Donmar Warehouse theatres, all of which have now been filled.

At the time of her resignation announcement, Kelly said she planned to spend more time in London, where her son is now studying. One of her first post-WYP projects will be overseeing "Metal", a studio for artistic research, currently in development in West Hampstead, north London. She has also said that, despite her Leeds departure, she intended to maintain an "ongoing relationship" with WYP.

- by Terri Paddock