Attending its media launch, I was lucky enough to catch up with some of the artists and programming team behind the Lowry’s Week 53 festival.
Here are 53 reasons to check it out-
- This unique festival runs from the 28th April to 8th May 2016
- It will performed in a variety of spaces around The Lowry and in Salford – including areas usually not open to the public and even a self-storage unit.
- It boasts to be ‘a festival of innovative, provocative, national and international work’; a celebration of creativity.
- The Lowry has commissioned work across a range of artistic disciplines, including contemporary dance, theatre, visual arts and music. These will be presented across interactive installations, exhibitions and performances.
- A free festival pass can be signed up to from the festivals website, giving access to priority booking and exclusive discounts.
- Work will be presented by 200 international artists.
- The festival encompasses 63 performance spaces and exhibitions.
- Julia Fawcett OBE, chief executive at the Lowry, proudly informs us it is the 16th Birthday of the ever growing venue, a stone throw from the beautiful Salford Docks and home to the BBC, MediaCityUK.
- Growing up in Salford, Fawcett prides herself on the sense of community at the Lowry. The festival, which she ensures will be an annual occurrence, looks at the idea of Locus and specifically themes of identity and place.
- The Lowry is currently home to three theatres and a gallery, for Week 53 a new space between the two main theatres called The Dock has been developed.
- They have free tote bags and badges.
- The iconic Tenniel Alice illustration is the festivals emblem – calling upon the compulsively curious. The eye-catching yellow posters fill the Lowry’s auditorium and even cover the bollards.
- Whilst the work is undeniably experimental and boundary pushing, meeting the artists behind the work, there is a true sense of passion and belief in each. The theme of identity is evidently so personal to the artists, it is hard not to feel invested in the work.
Last Resort (Two Magpies Theatre Company)
- Last Resort is set in a futuristic holiday resort in Guantanamo Bay – the irony being there already is one.
- After his masters in International Security and terrorism, Director Tom Barnes set up Two Magpies Theatre Company with the aim of creating site-responsive devised performances.
- Barnes describes the performance as a multi-sensory piece which deals with the grey area of public and private intelligence and questions how we deal with the threat of terror both nationally and globally.
- As we come to the end of President Obama’s turn with no result after his promised closure of Guantanamo Bay, for me this piece feels the most relevant and topical.
- Co-creator Eve Parmiter, hoping the show makes spaces for these questions, asks “People suspected of terrorist attacks – deemed too dangerous to release; what do we do and what do we let happen?”
- She also promises gentle audience involvement.
- For me what is most fascinating is the openness of the company to ask questions and their eagerness to reach new audiences.
- Last Resort is being performed for two nights in a completely new space at the Lowry.
- Artist and Theatre Designer David Sheering has been in charge of reimagining the scene dock which lies between the lyric and the quays theatre – for those who know the Lowry this is an unmissable opportunity to see work in a completely new environment.
- Sheering describes the space as a hybrid which will be constantly transforming through the festival.
- Having worked on its design for the past 6 months, he affectionately describes it as a space of discovery, connection, observation and dialogue.
100% Salford (Rimini Protocol)
- With a cast of 100 Salfordians, the creative team have worked tirelessly for four months to ensure each performer represents 1% of the local population.
- In what director Una McKevitt describes as a moving census, audience members can experience the beliefs and values of a very real Salford.
- The show has previously been created in Berlin, Amsterdam, Brussels, Brazil amongst many others.
- She describes the production as an interactive, warm and human show.
30 Days of the Smiths
- “Smith. Life is a beautiful and complex gift”
- A collaboration between Scottish poet Jackie Kay and sound artist Oberman Knocks, the two have created an hour soundscape featuring poetry and music (including – of course – that of The Smiths).
- It is based on Kay’s interviews with local people from the ages of 4-80 all with the surname Smith.
- Speaking to The Lowry’s digital programmer Lucy Dusgate she speaks passionately about the contemporary approach of all the artists involved in the festival and the excitement of the very unlikely collaboration between Kay and Knocks.
- She struggles to pick a favourite of the stories uncovered in the process, but picks out the touching story of a mother and son with a very strong bond despite a distance to their name (coming from her ex-husband and his father).
- Having been lucky enough to be taken on a tour of the exhibition by artist Katie Paterson, it is hard not to marvel at her commitment to her work. Syzygy (the alignment of celestial bodies) displays the work, including two new commissions for the festival, of Paterson.
- Full of an undying fascination for her identity and ‘home’ in a much wider sense, she is also the first artist to have had their work sent into space.
- The first commission, Totality, which has been described as a discotheque of the sublime, is a discoball made up of 10,000 images of solar eclipses (even including drawings from as far as 1778). The attention to detail of the piece creates beautiful and mesmerising patterns.
- The second commission, Ara, uses 101 lightbulbs to mirror the brightness of stars in the constellation of the same name. It isn’t till Paterson explains this required her team to map a further 10,000 stars, that the true complexity of the seemingly simple piece is illuminated.
- Other works in the exhibition which I personally enjoyed are Earth-Moon-Earth (a grand piano which plays a fragmented yet chilling Moonlight Sonata which has been reflected from the Moon’s surface), Timepieces (9 clocks which show the time on the different planets of the solar system) and The Dying Star Letters (literally a series of letter – of which she admits to writing hundreds of a week, in mourning of newly found dead stars).
- Speaking to her afterwards about the poignancy of the work she creates, she identifies the importance of understanding the process and ambition behind her work.
- “Everytime we look out to space, we’re actually looking back in time.”
An Anatomie in Four Quarters
- It is your first chance to see Clod Ensemble ahead of their 5 year partnership with the Lowry.
- An Anatomie in Four Quarters is a promenade piece – in which the audience journey from the very back of the upper circle to the stage itself.
- The company consists of 15 international performers as well as 20 locally based musicians and dancers.
- Each of the four pieces moves through a period in history
- An audience of maximum 200 explore the 1,700 seat theatre in each performance
- Offering a very eclectic perspective, it reimagines the audience-performer relationship.
- Producer Angela McSherry describes making the piece as a triple joy: Being part of its ideal festival, the faith of the Lowry to offer its largest theatre and the Wellcome trust supporting excellence award.
- Speaking before the performance to Artistic Director Paul Clark, he delights in the gift of being able to break the rules they would usually use to make a piece.
- Having watched its opening night, I found the piece to be a genuinely different and exciting dance performance – the use of dancers, lighting and sound to completely fill the stage and auditorium is an extremely original and at times quite a challenging experience.
- it’s undoubtedly an immersive and individual experience. At one point I sat less than a metre away from an incredible female singer lying on a medical table in the centre of the stalls.
- As we took our seats, the woman next to me commented “I wouldn’t pay for these seats – just too far aren’t they?” – She was definitely in for a surprise.
- Other pieces which I didn’t manage to speak to but are definitely of interest are Dante or Die’s Handle With Care (a journey of a woman through her life in self storage) and Akram Khan’s Chotto Desh (a dance theatre production for children).
- Reflecting at the end of the day the significance of the festivals name, we identify that it offers spare time to think about things you wouldn’t otherwise stop to consider; an extra week in your year. Certainly this new festival from the Lowry is one to stop and consider.