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Leadership for the Byre

Michael Downes
The University of St Andrews has today announced the appointment of a new Artistic Director and a General Manager to lead the development of Fife’s Byre Theatre.

Michael Downes, the University of St Andrews’ Director of Music, has been appointed to the role of Artistic Director. This three-year appointment will see Downes lead the establishment of an imaginative new model of programming for the Byre; bringing together the best professional, community and student drama as well as strengthening the theatre’s offering in areas of performance including film, dance, opera and music.

Downes brings with him strong strategic relationships with the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, the Scottish Chamber Orchestra, and Scottish Opera; which he will use to bring a rich diversity of programming to the wider community. Downes also has a strong track-record in terms of developing the University’s artistic outreach programme and of leading musical activities which bring together the University and the local community: under his direction the town-gown St Andrews Chorus has become Scotland’s largest choral society. His commitment to community engagement will help ensure that the Byre rekindles links with local residents of all ages.

Stephen Sinclair, former Operations Manager of the Byre Theatre, will take up post as interim General Manager and will take overall responsibility for the smooth and efficient day to day running of the theatre and its productions. Sinclair brings over 20 years of theatre industry experience across theatre, dance, music, festivals, film, and national touring.

Together these appointments represent a sustainable leadership structure and galvanise the interests of town and gown.

Both Downes and Sinclair have strong bonds across student societies, University staff, local amateur dramatic groups, and the wider population of St Andrews and Fife which they will draw on in ensuring the right balance between University and community usage.

Michael Downes said:

“I feel hugely privileged to have been asked to lead the beginning of this exciting new phase in the Byre’s history. I feel that the University and the town of St Andrews now have a unique opportunity to turn this wonderful theatre into a nationally significant centre for the arts. The affection which so many people hold for the Byre, not just in St Andrews but across Scotland, has become increasingly obvious to me in recent months and I look forward to working with audiences and performers alike to restore it to a central position in the life of the community. “

Stephen Sinclair said:

“I’m delighted to be working alongside Michael to support the development of the new programme. We will be working to bring a vibrant and diverse programme of activity to St Andrews and the wider community. We look forward to welcoming new companies as well as old favourites back to the theatre, and to bringing one of Scotland’s much-loved venues back to full-strength.”

Now that these appointments have been made the focus will be on setting up the systems and resources required to support the development of the theatre programme and a schedule for use.

The aim is to open the doors of a fully operational Byre Theatre later in the Autumn; beginning a programme of work to increase participation and attendances in drama, music, opera, film and the visual arts, including in-house productions, touring productions and hires to local community groups.

The first performance has already been secured with Bard of the Botanics and director Gordon Barr due to produce Jack and the Beanstalk this Christmas. The production will run for over 50 performances between late November and New Year, and its cast will include many local schoolchildren.

However, it is expected to take some time for the Byre to return to full-frequency operation, given the lead times and planning required for many of the productions it hopes to stage.

Keep up to date at: www.byretheatre.com

ENDS

NOTE TO EDITORS:

Issued by the University of St Andrews Press Office, contactable on 01334 462530 or proffice@st-andrews.ac.uk.

Photos available on request from the Press Office.

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