Overarching drive - Jackie Wylie new artistic director of the Arches
Jackie Wylie is now the youngest serving artistic director of a major Scottish venue. As Kirstin Innes discovers, the Arches couldn't be in safer hands
It’s been less than a week since Jackie Wylie was appointed artistic director of the Arches (bringing the grand total of women in that position in Scottish theatre up to three), but the 28-year-old has already jumped in with both feet.
‘I’m excited. Totally thrilled! I feel ready for this. There are ideas exploding in my head just now, and I want to get started on them.’
Wylie’s youth and relative inexperience make her a controversial choice to fill the huge, battered bovver boots left by the Arches founder Andy Arnold when he resigned the position earlier this year. But she’s already more than proved herself in her three years as the venue’s arts programmer, commissioning highly acclaimed new works, enabling collaborations between emergent Scottish theatre-makers and high-profile international artists and capitalising on the venue’s position as a hub for emergent Scottish creativity. She’s also got the spirit of the place very much at heart: Wylie was a protégé of Arnold’s, putting on student productions there before she began working for the company in 2004. She understands not only Arnold’s original vision, but how to adapt it to contemporary audiences.
‘The Arches is unique in its ability to bring people’s creativity to the fore. That’s something Andy entrenched within the building, and something he taught me: the importance of putting people in a position where they’re able to be creative. And it comes from having faith and trust in their decision making, both the artists and the staff. The Arches is obviously also a night club and a gig venue – it’s a lot of things – but, uniquely, everyone who works there is united behind this project of having an arts venue where the clubbing sustains and funds the art.’
That said, she has no intention of resting on the venue’s laurels. ‘We provide an alternative to homogenised culture. I want people to come in and see the productions we bring here, and say “I want to be part of that”. I don’t think there’s another venue in Scotland that does that. But we can never be complacent. We can talk all we like about delivering groundbreaking work, but what’s important, I think, is being the organisation that interrogates what “risk-taking” actually means.’
Those looking to get an idea of where the new artistic director has come from would be advised to check out the upcoming Scratch Night. Wylie set up Scratch in 2005 as a forum for emergent and established artists to try out ten-minute new ideas in front of a relaxed (often anarchic) audience. This month’s programme features Drew Friedman and Stephanie Viola of hugely influential New York company The Riot Group, whose co-production with Scottish writer/director Alan McKendrick, Finished With Engines, originally commissioned by Wylie, will form part of the Traverse Theatre’s Fringe season.
‘My main focus is on subverting expectations,’ says Wylie ‘And that can take all these different theatrical forms, as long as our constant aim is to do something that hasn’t happened before and leave theatre renewed in its relevance to audiences.’
Scratch Night, Arches, Glasgow, Tue 22 Jul.