Neil Butler, artistic director

 31 July 2012

Neil Butler set up Brighton's famous, and sadly now closed, Zap Club. The former drama teacher specialises in running outdoor festivals and events.

"Learn about every part of the job, and then only continue if you feel passionate about it."


Originally Guildford, now Brighton.

What job do you do?

I run UZ Events in Glasgow. As part of my job, I'm the artistic director of several festivals and events.

What previous jobs have you done?

I trained to be a drama teacher. I started running festivals whilst at college. I played in lots of performance and music groups whilst teaching.

I gave up teaching to set up and run the Zap Club and perform and direct shows.

What events have you done?

I have curated programmes at the ICA and directed shows for the South Bank. I was invited to Glasgow to create festivals and events to prepare the city for being European City of Culture in 1990.

"Only continue if you feel passionate about it."

I have become a specialist in closing down cities to create venues, and was event director of Glasgow’s Millennium Hogmanay.

I am MD (managing director) of UZ Events which has played an active part in the rise of Glasgow’s internationally renowned art scene.

UZ produces the Glasgow Art Fair and produced Glasgow International, Glasgow’s first curated commissioning festival of contemporary visual art, until 2006.

I am the British representative of IN SITU, a pan-European network who fund the commissioning of major cross-border arts projects, and the chairman of the Hikkaduwa Area Relief Fund , a Sri Lanka-based post-tsunami charity (nothing to do with theatre, but very important).

I was responsible for brokering and directing the first multi-faith peace concert in Sri Lanka in January 2007, at a time of increasing hostility and violence.

What do you do at work?

I run the company and I’m artistic director of Glasgow’s Merchant City Festival and Big in Falkirk which is Scotland’s National Street Arts Festival.

I am also the Director of the Chandrasevana Centre (for artists in residence) in Sri Lanka. I live in Brighton and have offices there and in Sri Lanka, but the main office is in Glasgow. So I travel a lot (often two flights a week or more).

Most days I spend a couple of hours in meetings with colleagues from UZ either by phone or in the office. We’re usually discussing programme ideas or issues on fundraising or delivery of an event.

I often meet with artists I’m working with, and in the evening might go with my family to a show. We travel a lot together to festivals around the UK, on the continent and in Sri Lanka .

What’s the best thing about your job?

The people I work with.

And the worst part of the job?

Cancelling a show. In my kind of work, this is rare and usually to do with extreme weather

How do I get into music?

Learn about every part of the job, and then only continue if you feel passionate about it.

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