Backstage at The Lowry: Sue McEwen – PA to Chief Executive

I’ve always loved dance – whether watching or doing it.  I’ve always been interested in art and enjoy wandering around galleries at home and abroad.  So imagine my delight when I was offered the position of PA to the Chief Executive of The Lowry. 

It was 1998 and The Lowry was just a hole in the ground when I joined a very small project team based along the quay at West Pavilion.  I remember one day walking over with a group of people to the building site, where I donned a Bovis hard hat and hi-viz vest and practised a tap dance in steel-capped boots on the Lyric stage in front of a seat-less auditorium.  Exactly two years later, long after the seats had been installed, The Lowry opened its doors to the public.  We had to hit the ground running and it wasn’t without its challenges but, after all the hard work, the late nights and the hype, we gradually got into our stride and the original small team grew rapidly into the numbers we have today.

HM The Queen performed the official opening in October 2000 and I was lucky enough to be presented to her by the then Chairman.  Since then there have been many more exciting moments – I loved watching performances like Ghost Dances by Rambert in 2000, Sleight of Hand by NDT2 in 2007 and Black Watch in 2008.  Watching Carlos Acosta perform L’après-midi d’un faune, part of the Manchester International Festival in 2009, reminded me of seeing Rudolph Nureyev – albeit past his best – dancing the same piece in the mid-1980s at Manchester’s Palace Theatre.  Bookings such as Britain’s Got Talent and the weigh-in for heavyweights David Haye and Audley Harrison in 2010 add to the range of diverse activities that go on here.

My job is administrative: arranging meetings, briefings and travel, taking minutes etc and generally trying to make life easier for the CEO so that she can concentrate on the “bigger picture”.  I’m usually the first point of contact for those wishing to speak to her and I also liaise with the Trustees.  My first secretarial position was at the BBC and it’s interesting that the Corporation has now come to settle across the water from The Lowry.  This is a stunning building and I count myself lucky to work in such a creative environment.  There’s lots going on … and lots to look forward to!

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