The 5 Minute Chat with: Sarah Punshon.

This week’s 5 Minute Chat is with the new Artistic Director of Dukes in Lancaster, Sarah Punshon.

SDHow are you feeling moving from freelancing role to permanent home running a building?

SP: Excited. Scared.

SDWhat are you most excited by?

SP: Being able to think longer term. Developing relationships with local artists and audiences. Being able to offer opportunities to some wonderful artists whose work I admire. Collaborating with the brilliant team at the Dukes. Getting to direct a Christmas show again. Getting to direct the Dukes’ outdoor Park show, I’ve wanted to do that for years! Being part of a team, building a home in a new city. The huge amount I’m about to learn. (Probably by making lots of mistakes)

SD: Any fears? 

SP: Those mistakes I mentioned…. The very tricky financial climate all regional theatres – all local councils – are operating in now.  Plus of course being the other side of the Pennines will feel very odd, after so many years in Yorkshire. I was house-hunting last month and noticed I was genuinely weirded-out by seeing red roses instead of white ones in various logos and coats of arms!

SD: What do you think you might miss from freelancing?

SP: Total freedom to invent a project and go out and find the right spaces and partners and audiences to make it happen. To an extent I’ll still be doing that, but within a particular set of parameters.

SD: Can you spot a career trajectory?  How did you get to this point?

SP: No such thing as a career in theatre! I got here by doing a lot of sensible things (endless emails to artistic directors, trekking round the country to see shows and have meetings, applying for opportunities, fundraising for my own projects, etc) – plus an awful lot of curve balls (for instance, taking a year away from directing altogether in order to curate a programme of events at the Natural History Museum).

SDHave you always wanted to run a building?

SP: Yes. Well, I say always. When I was 13 I was going to be a doctor, when I was 16 I was going to be a palaeontologist… But yes.

SD: Any advice for others on wanting to run buildings?

SP: Do the things you love. Create and maintain a lot of relationships with people cleverer, more talented and more inventive than you. When you buy a theatre ticket, think about what else you could have spent that money on. Ask the person next to you why they came. Discover the artistic directors whose curation and artist development skills you admire, and talk to them as often as you can. Apply for jobs even if you feel there are better candidates than you. And remember: no-one knows all the answers. Directing and artistic directing are ridiculous jobs and there isn’t a “right” way to do them. Find your way.