Scottish Youth Theatre began life in Edinburgh on 6 December 1976 and held its inaugural Summer Festival in 1977. The first production was ‘Oh What a Lovely Peace’ performed at Moray House Theatre in Edinburgh, written by Hector MacMillan and directed by Denise Coffey. 

Gareth Wardell was the first Artistic Director and back then, the company’s aim was: 

“To provide an opportunity for the youth of Scotland to pursue theatrical excellence by participating in a national youth theatre of a high standard and reputation, and to develop the creative, linguistic and social skills of young people through the craft of theatre.”  

It is testament to the purpose and impact of youth theatre practice that this first statement of purpose still resonates with youth theatre in Scotland today.

The company has had a range of working models through its history, always looking to provide theatre-based opportunities to children and young people in Scotland, adapting to the growth and development of youth theatre across the country. 

Subsequent Artistic Directors include Robin Peoples and Mary McCluskey held the role for 26 years from 1992 – 2018. With a change in structure Mahri Reilly took on the artistic lead as Creative Director from 2018 – 2022, succeeded by our current Creative Director, Rikki Payne. 

Some highlights: 


    • The annual Summer Festival took place in many different locations and engaged with thousands of young people over the years, where they learned new skills, performed high quality shows and made friends for life 
    • 2006 Performances of Geordie as part of Tartan Week, New York 
    • 2013 and 2014 Now’s the Hour an exploration of young people’s hopes, fears and ambitions for themselves and their country in the lead up to the Scottish Independence Referendum in 2014 
    • 2016 performance of Edwin Morgan’s poem Open the Doors at the State Opening of the Scottish Parliament 
    • 6 December 2016 – launch of the Scottish Youth Theatre National Ensemble at our 40th birthday celebrations, with the inaugural National Ensemble performing Dye in the Goldfish Bowl in July 2017 
    • 2020-2022 – with the onset and duration of the Covid-19 pandemic, the company responded quickly, supporting young artists and producing a wide range of digital work made by them, highly pertinent to the experiences of living through the pandemic 

Scottish Youth Theatre has occupied various homes in its history, including the Old Athenaeum in Buchanan Street, Glasgow and the Old Sheriff Court on Brunswick Street, Glasgow as part of the redevelopment of that building, opening in 2005. In 2023, the company moved on from the Old Sheriff Court and the staff team fully embraced a distributed working model, delivering in-person projects in different parts of Scotland.