The University of St Andrews recently appointed Julie Ellen as the new director of the Byre Theatre. Ellen previously served as the Artistic Director and CEO of Macrobert Arts Centre, Stirling, taking up the post in 2015. Prior to her term as CEO, Ellen was a producer for Suspect Culture and Theatre Centre, London, later becoming Artistic Director of the Beacon and founding Creative Director of Playwrights’ Studio, Scotland
In a statement issued by the University on 26 October 2023, Julie said, “I am very excited at being appointed as Director for the Byre Theatre by the University of St Andrews. The team and board have worked incredibly hard to present an amazingly busy and diverse programme to audiences from St Andrews and beyond, and I’m looking forward to working with them to take this much-loved institution to the next stage in its long history.
“This role also presents an opportunity to reconnect with St Andrews, a town like no other, which has a special place in my heart.”
Principal and Vice-Chancellor of the University, Professor Dame Sally Mapstone also issued a statement which said, “The University is looking forward to welcoming Julie Ellen as the new Director of The Byre. Her deep knowledge of the sector, combined with her expertise, energy, and enthusiasm, are significant assets to the theatre, the University, and the town.”
The original Byre Theatre was founded in 1933 by Alexander B Paterson, a local freelance journalist, with the participation of Hope Park Church’s theatre group. Its current location on Abbey Street is the Byre’s third iteration, costing £5.5 million to build and opening in 2001. Following a period of financial difficulty, the theatre went into liquidation in January 2013 before eventually reopening in October 2014 under a joint management agreement between the University of St Andrews, Fife Council, and Creative Scotland. Since then, the Byre Theatre has served as a hub for both amateur and professional productions of the arts. Most recently, it produced the Sands: International Film Festival of St Andrews.
Kally Lloyd-Jones and Jessica Richards have jointly held the post of director since September 2019, and throughout their term have worked hard to reframe the theatre’s mission — connecting people, ideas, and experiences.
While Richards is looking to explore an entirely new field, Lloyd-Jones plans to continue in her artistic endeavours. In a statement, Lloyd-Jones, said, “It was an incredibly difficult decision to leave the Byre but we each felt the need to make change in our lives. I will be returning to my creative work as a director and choreographer and Jess is pursuing a new path, following her passion for the outdoors. We will continue to live in the area and look forward to supporting the Byre in its next exciting chapter.
“We are both very grateful for the time we have had as custodians of the Byre and to all our colleagues at the Byre, across the University of St Andrews and theatre sector and the local community.”
Image: Jim Bain