It has been a year since I accepted the post of artistic director of the Bush Theatre, so it feels like a good time to take stock of how far we’ve come.
Fortunately, my experience in other venues meant stepping through those doors wasn’t as much of a shock as I thought it would be. Sitting next to then artistic director Christopher Haydon as associate director at the Gate was phenomenally useful in working out how his brain approached the role. Then moving to the Donmar Warehouse as resident assistant director showed me how a larger team worked operated as a department.
When I joined the Bush, I wanted to build on Madani Younis’ wonderful legacy in staging unheard voices, and telling London and UK stories. And at the same time I wanted to create our own version of that.
This role was always going to be about collaboration. I want to provide leadership, sure, but this is not about presenting my singular vision. I love it when people disagree with me. This is how you make great art.
At the same time as learning about the building, its culture and the community, I was programming my first season. Ideally, I would have had more time, but the process was useful.
‘We are here to learn from the community, the team, the young people – put it all in a big pot and see what comes out.’
Putting the season together was like a jigsaw, and that can be challenging. Everything felt like it had to slot together perfectly with all the right pieces in order to show everything we’re trying to do here.
It feels as though there is a lot of pressure for the first season to be a statement of intent, but now I also think this shouldn’t be seen as representative of the next five years. We will keep changing and pushing the boundaries as we grow as an organisation.
For example, in my interview I pitched a young people’s company and, while it’s a long game, we have started to build it. It involved learning about Shepherd’s Bush more fully, learning from those with the right knowledge and trialling stuff.
New initiatives take time and that is exciting – change doesn’t happen overnight. As a whole team we were thinking: “What is the Bush here for?” The answers we came up with included that we are here to champion writers that people may not know. We are here to tell stories that can’t get on to other stages. We are here to learn from the community, the team, the young people – put it all in a big pot and see what comes out.
We also asked: “Why are we telling this story now? Why does an audience in Shepherd’s Bush, in London, in the UK need to see these stories now, and why are they told in this way?”
But it wasn’t just about the seven shows, it was about the talent development work and the community work – the whole package.
I’m learning every day. This place is home and the Bush is family. I’m so excited by the culture that is building and look forward to the work and people who will be coming here in the years to come.
Lynette Linton is artistic director of the Bush Theatre, London