Our Ladies of Perpetual Succour. A National Theatre of Scotland and Live Theatre production. Photo: Manuel Harlan
Tell us about your early life. What were your goals and dreams?
When we were younger my eleven cousins and I would stay at my gran and papas where we had to ‘do a wee turn’. This meant putting on a song, a show, a mini pantomime almost. Maybe that was when I caught the theatre bug?
I was lucky to be exposed to brilliant theatre throughout school and university. I’ve always been drawn to the unique feeling of connection to others that happens when you have performers and audience in the same space.
Two of my earliest jobs were definitely a spring board into where I am now and the kind of work I make, but in different ways: The first was at the Cameo Cinema in Edinburgh, where the films they presented spurred me to talk to colleagues about art and politics, identity, and feminism. I like cultural experiences that ask challenging questions about the world we live in. The second was as a Locations Trainee for Scottish Screen. This was very much about being an enabler, bringing people together; whether it be wealthy landowners, folks in rural villages, shipyard workers or nightclub owners. I was the first there and the last to leave each day. It was glamourous and unglamorous at the same time. But, again, it came back to human connection.
I carried on acting but eventually it was clear that I would be better suited off the stage than on it, and that my heart and soul lay in theatre - it allowed me to be closer to the creative process than film did. But it took me a while to let go over being a performer and concentrate purely on being an artistic director.
I received the Alistair Cameron Scholarship the year after I left University, where my best friend and I made our first experimental theatre show. We had the confidence of youth, and learned so much. It was in fact this show that Andy Arnold came to see, who would later interview me for my job at the Arches. I would then go on to encourage other recent graduates to take risks, and be adventurous through my role at The Arches.
Over time I learned that what was more rewarding to me was to make that human connection by supporting other artists to make their boldest choices.
Talk us through your career journey. What were the influential periods, or experiences?
The last few years have been very intense: I became the Artistic Director at the Arches in 2008, which allowed me to work with some of the most exciting performance talent from the UK and across the world, and really promote the vibrancy of Scotland’s grassroots cultural scene. My time at The Arches was brilliant for giving me a sense of the kind of innovative artists and work that I wanted to support. After the Arches closed in 2015 I founded Take Me Somewhere (contemporary performance festival) with a view to building on its legacy, during which I also edited a publication that looked back on Glasgow since it became European Capital Of Culture in 1990 (GRIP magazine). And, now, my new role at National Theatre of Scotland (NTS) has really capped off a whirlwind journey.
What are you most proud of in your career so far?
I am proud to be able to shape the next stage of NTS, during this particular time for Scotland. With theatre being such an inherently discursive and popular art form, and the NTS also being contemporary and modern, it feels like its running in parallel with Scotland’s values: international, progressive, and collaborative.
What are you working on at the moment?
As well as the busy period that is the run-up to the Edinburgh Fringe and Festival, I will be announcing my first programme at the end of the year. This has meant I get the joyful job of getting to meet lots of people and have lots of conversations. Moreover, I will also be continuing to get to know my incredibly talented and knowledgeable team here at NTS. I’m looking forward to them continuing to teach and inspire me with their passion.
- Boroughmuir High School, Edinburgh- 1991-1997
- University of Glasgow- MA Film, Television, & Theatre Studies (Graduated with First Class Honours)- 1997-2001
- Artistic Director, National Theatre of Scotland (2016 – current)
- Co-Director and Founder - Take Me Somewhere (2016-2017)
- Clore Fellowship- 2016-2017
- Artistic Director- The Arches- 2008-2015
- Arts Programmer- The Arches- 2004- 2008
- Scottish Screen- Locations Trainee- 2002- 2004
1. Be generous, whenever possible give away control and credit
2. Remember that saying no to something is saying yes to something else
3. 'It's all allowed' - Adrian Howells
Jackie Wylie, Artistic Director, National Theatre of Scotland. Photo: Christopher Bowen