Gordon first came to Liverpool in 1995 to begin his drama studies with LJMU. Inspired by his older brother, the first person in his family to attend university, Gordon followed suit with a new-found confidence, a passion for wanting to study drama and a love of Liverpool Football Club enticing him to the city as a student.
It was during his student years that he first visited Unity Theatre, a local Arts venue with its roots dating back to the national theatre movement of the 1930s that combined theatre and politics to produce audaciously radical and experimental performances.
Gordon was enthralled by what he saw. Now more than 25 years on, after graduating from LJMU in 1998 and undertaking roles in both the subsidised and commercial theatre sectors both in London and in the Northwest, he is now at the helm of the venue he first came across in his student days. At Unity he is proud to continue to support the careers of many drama students through offering advice to employing recent graduates.
“Each year I meet with LJMU undergraduate drama students. A number of recent graduates also work at Unity. I’d always advise students to both make the most of the new experiences of university and to keep an eye on the future by getting involved with local theatres.”
– Gordon Millar
Speaking to The Stage in 2018 when he took over as Artistic Director and CEO at Unity Theatre, Gordon said: “I think it was the sense of this theatre being different to other theatres, in that it felt as alive in the foyer spaces as it did on the stage.”
Now, Unity has developed into a thriving combined Arts venue, and a hub for Merseyside-based creatives. With an emphasis on investing in and supporting incredible local work, Unity has been able to provide opportunity and guidance to an ever-growing number of artists and companies. Unity’s activity now extends far beyond the world of traditional theatre and programming, with a vibrant exhibition space, music events, film screenings, creative workshops and dedicated talent development programme.
Most recently, Unity has played a key role as a collaborator in EuroFest, a cultural celebration of the Eurovision Song Contest 2023 being hosted in Liverpool on behalf of Ukraine.
“We were thrilled to be part of the official Eurovision plans. At Unity, our ethos is to present performances that explore current societal matters, so it was vitally important that our contribution to Eurovision was to present a series of productions by Ukrainians based in the UK during the conflict,” says Gordon.
Reflecting on his time at the helm of Unity so far, from the challenges that the global COVID-19 pandemic had on the theatre to today’s economic challenges, Gordon added: “Unity weathered the storm of the pandemic well, with a remarkable team and supportive audience. The aftermath, including cost of living crisis, has had an unprecedented impact on local artists forging and maintaining a career in the Arts. Unity is at the forefront of leading support for local creatives to access free opportunities to learn, perform and engage with one another.”
And LJMU not only helped to propel Gordon into a career he loves, but it was here that he also met his wonderful wife as a fellow student. “What stands out for me are the people I met as a result of my studies, the international students I met but most of all, it’s where I met the love of my life.”