Name: JAMES GRIEVE
Job Title: ARTISTIC DIRECTOR
Hello! Can you give us a brief overview of your career so far?
I did a bit of acting at school and university but only for fun, I never considered a career in theatre. I was going to be a journalist. In my 3rd Year, I set up nabokov with George and Ric Mountjoy to produce new plays that might persuade my friends that theatre didn’t have to be long, boring and irrelevant. Our first event was a series of short, angry political plays – we bribed people to come by staging them at midnight in a bar with a late license.
After Uni I pursued my journalistic career at various papers and then joined the nascent Justgiving.com as content editor and later marketing manager. We kept nabokov going in our spare time – staging ‘shorts’ nights at The Old Red Lion and taking shows to Edinburgh. Josie Rourke said to me, if you’re serious, you have to be a director full-time. I said sure, how am I supposed to pay my rent? And she made me her assistant, which was amazing – the first time anyone actually gave me a job in theatre. I spent a year as staff director to Howard Davies at The National and then joined Josie at The Bush as Associate Director in 2007.
How did you end up in your current role?
Paines Plough was a company George and I had always admired – we used to go and watch their shows when we were students – so when the job came up in 2009 we went for it. We had run nabokov for 10 years in the image of Paines Plough, and it felt like the right time for nabokov to be re-imagined by a new team and for us to move on to a new challenge. I guess the fact we ran a new writing touring company helped make the case for us at PP.
What are your main responsibilities within Team PP?
With George I have the privilege of developing relationships with the writers we want to work with and choose the plays we produce. We have overall responsibility for the health and growth of the company – from making sure the books balance to articulating the brand and managing our amazing team. We decide strategy, evolve touring models, write the business plan, raise money, work with artistic directors of our partner venues, report to ACE and our Board of Trustees and represent the company publicly. Because of my background in media and digital I take an active role in our marketing strategy. Oh yeah, and I direct plays.
What do you think are the essential skills needed to be a successful Artistic Director?
You have to be interested in both parts of the job. You spend half your time in a rehearsal room and half the time at your desk staring at spreadsheets. It’s vital you get creative fulfilment from both.
Real talk – what’s the least enjoyable part of your job?
Working on a shoestring. We would be so much more productive and creative if we weren’t spending half our time scrabbling down the back of the sofa for loose change. That said, on the flipside, it is hugely gratifying when an organisation like The Andrew Lloyd Webber Foundation or a company like UCG or individuals like Jon and NoraLee Sedmak see value in what we do and offer to invest in our work and our mission.
One piece of advice from you to someone who aspires to be an Artistic Director?
You can do anything. You just can’t do everything. Be singular in your vision and go for it with all you’ve got.
Paines Plough offer work placements in our Admin and Production offices throughout the year. If you’re interested, you can download more information here.