1982-97 • The Zap Club

The original Zap Club was in the New Oriental Hotel in Brighton in 1982 after Amanda Scott and I hatched a plot to create a cabaret that mixed art and entertainment. Our first night had Ian Smith as compere, Pat Butler on the box office, Nadge Sayers on the door, Roger Ely on the first bill, Robert Shelton – the Arts Editor of the Argus (the journalist ‘who discovered Dylan’) to review and that was the start… Amanda soon had to withdraw and two years later, after travelling between various venues, we set up the Zap partnership.

The Zap was created with four directors, including myself. Pat Butler ran the administration, kept some kind of sanity to the operation and just about kept our feet on the ground. Dave Reeves was a college friend and performer who had run a successful manufacturing company and understood how to speak to bank managers and run a business. He was later to lead Zap Productions and Zap Art with a series of highly successful street art festivals and events around the UK and France. Angie Livingstone had run a successful restaurant, loved the travelling Zap, introduced the Zap to fashion and how to host night clubs. When Zap Productions was formed to manage the projects that were proliferating outside the club, Robin Morley brought high level production skills to the company.

1988-90 Streetbiz

Streetbiz was a company created by Glasgow City Council to manage outdoor events in the run up to Glasgow 1990 – European City of Culture. Susan Deighan, who went on to become chief operating officer at Glasgow Life, ran the company and I was artistic director and board member. The board included Nikki Millican with whom I had worked as co-director for one edition of the National Review of Live Art, I later joined her board and chaired it for a short while. Nikki’s programming of the NLRA created an immensely exciting and influential festival. The final edition can be found online here.

Neil Wallace, deputy director of 1990, who among many other achievements established Glasgow’s Tramway, initiated Streetbiz and was also on the board. The final board member was Pete Irvine from Regular Music, Scotland’s premier music promoters. Influenced by the Streetbiz programme of international street theatre, Pete established Unique Events with Barry Wright, his partner from Regular Music. Unique went on to create the world famous Edinburgh’s Hogmanay Festival and became partners in UZ Events.

1994-2010 • UZ Events

UZ Events was created at the behest of Bob Palmer, Glasgow’s director of performing arts and venues and Glasgow Council leader, Pat Lally. Bob had led Glasgow’s very successful 1990 Year of Culture. They wanted a Scotland-based company that could create large-scale events. It brought together Pete Irvine and Barry Wright of Unique Events, and Robin Morley and me from the Zap. Robin and I brought our experience in programming and producing outdoor arts, Pete and Barry brought their experience in music programming, promotion and working at scale. It was a potent mix that created some exciting chemistry and the resources to deliver unique large-scale festivals and events that closed down large sections of the city and turned streets into venues.

2010-20 • UZ Arts

UZ Arts was formed as a charity once UZ Events closed. It had a highly committed board with a wide range of expertise. The board was chaired successively by Mervyn Jones (ex-director of BP), Peter Boyden (arts consultant) and Allan Carrick (who had been involved with UZ Events from the beginning as accountant). Other board members were Carol Wright (Stravaigin and the Ubiquitous Chip), Bettina Linstrum (ArtsAgenda, partner in creating the English network of Sura Medura producers) and ex-UZ senior producers Lesley McAteer, Steve Stenning and Jo Mclean. The company secretary was Joyce Manning who had worked with UZ for over twenty years with extraordinary patience and a visceral hatred of European bookkeeping rules.

The UZ team of producers, project managers, back office and production crew were critical to making the projects we dreamt up work. The company attracted major talents and became a powerful incubator of programming and production skills and expertise.

2010 & ongoing: Sura Medura

There is so much to say about Sura Medura International Artist Residency Centre, which grew out of the post-2004 tsunami work of the Hikkaduwa Area Relief Fund and the Chandrasevana Centre. Central to it all has been Chaminda Pandithage whose friendship, commitment, local knowledge and expertise was critical to making those organisations work.

2016-20 • Sura Medura England

This network was set up with independent producer Bettina Linstrum (Arts Agenda) and administered by the Freedom Festival in Hull. Over three years, producers who had been creating some of the most exciting work in England, collaborated to bring 17 artists to Sura Medura on 6-week residencies. They were Mikey Martins (Freedom Festival), Simon Chatterton (101 Creation Centre) Bill Gee and Kate Woods (Activate), Mark Denbigh (Norwich and Norfolk Festival) and Kris Nelson (LIFT).


The Zap was commercial with the programme funded through the box office and the bar. From that point onwards most of my work was presented free to the public and funded through sometimes complex partnerships, usually with a combination of public and private money. Through the ’90s and early ‘noughties, local authorities were increasingly generous in funding outdoor arts with the Zap “Streets of…..” festivals occurring throughout England.

In Glasgow, Bob Palmer and his colleagues in Glasgow City Council actively encouraged and funded independent arts organisations and UZ received generous support from 1994 to 2010 to produce a wide range of events. UZ used the funding to lever more funds from a range of organisations such as the Scottish Arts Council, Event Scotland and sponsors such as Coca-Cola.

The arrival of Event Scotland had a major impact on events throughout Scotland and allowed UZ to work at scale for projects like Home and Iconic Burns. Falkirk Council under Steve Dunlop and then Maureen Campbell and Lesley O’Hare was incredibly supportive and ambitious for the festival and the town helping make Big in Falkirk a significant international festival.

Despite the unfortunate end to Creative Scotland’s relationship with UZ Arts, the organisation with its funding and officer support, particularly that of Jaine Lumsden, had a major part to play in the success of UZ’s programmes.