LAURA James’ earliest memories of the theatre she now directs date from early childhood.

She danced from the age of four as a member of the Sullivan School of Dance.

“I have early memories of coming to the theatre, being backstage. I used to get very nervous as a child, so I remember being in the car with my mum and her trying to calm me down.

“I remember getting to the stage door and feeling terrified, and then, as soon as I got into the building, into my dressing room with my friends, I was absolutely fine.

“There was the journey that takes you from the dressing room down through the green room to the side-of-stage, and then you’ve got the anticipation. You’re waiting there to go on to the stage, knowing that your mum and your dad and your family are watching. You’re kind of looking out into darkness as you go out on stage and do your performance.

“There’s obviously a real buzz from that.

“I have vivid memories of being taken underneath the theatre to then come front-of-house, where my parents would have been, probably during the interval, to then watch the second half.

“When I joined here, working, in 2008, it was very strange. It smelt the same to me as it had done when I was a child, performing here.

“It was a full circle for me, really.”

Laura no longer dances, but is an actor and member of local company TS Theatre productions. She has acted on the Wyvern stage, and might well do again, her busy schedule permitting.

Laura grew up in Swindon, studied for a drama and theatre degree in London and trained as a teacher before realising that working in theatre – the Wyvern Theatre – was the only thing she wanted to do.

“I was lucky enough that the timing was such that they had a vacancy for a part-time admin and accounts assistant.

“I joined the team here eleven years ago in accounts and administration. Quite soon after that there were some hours that opened up in the ticket office, so I was able to become full-time, in two different roles.”

Other roles followed, including marketing and senior management, before Laura was appointed to the top job.

“I’ve enjoyed every minute of it. Each day is different; you get to work on so many campaigns with so many shows going on at the Wyvern and the Arts Centre. I’ve had a brilliant team with me.

“I’ve not wanted to leave the Wyvern at any time during this time. It’s just such a fantastic place to work.

“The team of people make it, basically, and I think it’s a unique thing with theatre – most people who work here, work here because they are genuinely passionate about what they do or passionate about theatre in general.”

Laura has fond memories of many performers over the years, but among the fondest of all are working with Keith Chegwin, who famously starred in three successive Wyvern pantos at the beginning of the decade.

“We were all huge fans of him at the theatre. He was an absolute pleasure to work with.

“I worked with him a lot. We had car journeys where we were going to press events.

“We did press launches – we did one at Roves Farm when we had Jack and the Beanstalk, and we had Daisy the pantomime cow who met one of the farm’s real cows.

“We had them next to each other in this big photoshoot with the pantomime cast and Keith Chegwin in the middle. It was all very surreal. Keith absolutely loved things like that. He was so genuine and generous with his time.”

Laura’s plans for the Wyvern and Arts Centre?

“It’s not my style to come in and suddenly make huge changes, and why would I when at the moment we are so well run? Both venues are so well run and our programme works.

“My aim and the aim of the whole team here is to very much keep the venues running as they are, and to keep them up to date with what’s going on in Swindon as much as we can.

“I feel very lucky to be in this position, and I also feel very lucky that I’m stepping into it with an absolutely incredible team around me.”