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Kirstin McLean: Looking forward as new Artistic Director

In the second part of our interview with new Artistic Director Kirstin McLean, we ask her what her first impressions are of the company, what she is most looking forward to and why she thinks AMP will continue to thrive into the future.

What are your first impressions of the organisation and the team? 

I am immediately struck by the collaborative ethos. I can see that everyone puts their heart into the work and goes the extra mile to make sure that folk who engage with AMP feel welcome and supported. I know that Catrin (the outgoing Artistic Director) has helped to foster an atmosphere where people feel free to create and plan in the way that suits them best as an individual, and this has made for a really supportive and understanding team – one where each person’s unique talents are able to shine and the work produced is of such a high quality. I am honoured to be stepping into this brilliant team!

As well as the staff at AMP, we are supported and guided by the board of trustees. I joined the organisation just in time to catch a board meeting and was so impressed by the vast array of expertise and experience. It’s clear that the members truly care about the organisation, its people and its work and it feels good to have that wealth of wisdom.

What aspect of the job do you think will be most exciting and most challenging? 

I’m excited about working with the staff and associate artists and supporting them to support the group members. That’s a relationship I really enjoy. I love watching artists in the room and helping people access their highest talents and abilities within their own practice. There’s always huge learning for me there as well of course!

Like most organisations, AMP has had to work hard throughout the Covid-19 pandemic and has managed to engage and maintain a brilliant programme of work at a distance. It’s thanks to this ongoing engagement that I will be able to support the gradual return to in-person work, which is a journey that Sara, Elena, Mina and Najma have already begun. Truth be told, what I am excited about above all is being in creative spaces, face to face with creative people again! There are several projects that AMP has just waiting to go, having been held in stasis since 2019 and I can’t wait to get started on these and work with the team to see how we can pick them up post-Covid.

The biggest challenge in any arts organisation is keeping a steady flow of funding. The funding landscape in Scotland is such that leaders must always have an eye on what we need for the work we want to make. Although this does feel like a significant challenge, it’s actually one I’m welcoming – there’s nothing like a good funding application for sharpening the focus, aims and objectives of a project!

Where do you think AMP is currently placed in the creative landscape of Scotland and how can an organisation like AMP survive and thrive in the next few years?

AMP has grown to become a leader in the participatory arts in Scotland. It’s a well-known and respected producer of quality artistic experiences, performances and events. For many, I imagine that AMP is synonymous with community, inclusion, diversity, and holistic arts practice, having a good reputation for pushing political boundaries. As an artist myself, I know that AMP is highly regarded as a fair and supportive employer.

I think we will continue to thrive by continuing to prove that we are a vital part of the cultural landscape, for audiences, artists and participants alike. To hold our place as a leading arts organisation working for social justice, we must always be responsive to the changing political scene, watchful and sometimes critical of how our elected representatives navigate crises and injustices.

From that place, we must then make sure that we explore these sometimes-challenging questions through the creation of high quality performance and art. We will do that by always engaging excellent artists who have a passion for the work and who bring out that passion in our group members, in turn creating vibrant and exhilarating experiences for our audiences.

Kirstin can be contacted on

Images: Enya Fortuna/Toonspeak Protest Lab 2021


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