Working with The Lowry: Paul Sutcliffe & Jonathan Willson, Silver Patrons

Paul & Jon

Our up close and personal journey with The Lowry started with an invitation to a Patrons Taster event in November 2011. The evening showcased work with young dancers and actors, took us behind the scenes, including standing on the huge stage of the Lyric looking out into the auditorium where we often sit.

Before the event, we were minded to join; so in many ways it was an easy decision to make. The staff we met were warm and approachable, together with what we learned swung it – it was a ‘no brainer’. We were especially impressed by the confidence and ease with which young performers enthused about their experiences.

We knew we were regular theatregoers, however we hadn’t realised just how many shows we attended until we asked why we had been invited. When they checked who had been buying the most tickets, our names popped up. We live close by so can attend lots of shows even on work nights as we can be home within ten minutes of the curtain.

Our first invitation-only event was the private performance by Annie Lennox and viewing the retrospective exhibition of her career, The House of Annie Lennox. That also influenced us just a teeny bit. Since then we have attended many private viewings – the current show of portraits by Jonathan Yeo, photographs by Mary McCartney, and a performance by Alison Goldfrapp, the first Performer as Curator.

We would never have imagined ourselves as patrons. However we have found The Lowry and its staff to be accessible and welcoming – we feel part of The Lowry family. It enriches our experience – for example pre-show talks with actors and directors, dress rehearsals, showcases of new work, private viewings in the galleries, the launch of the major ‘Lowry and the painting of modern life’ exhibition at Tate Britain, conservation workshops and much more. All of these things have come about because of being patrons.

Regardless of the extent to which you become involved, there are tangible benefits. We enjoy a personal service, no fees, discounted tickets for some shows and priority booking. As patrons we are entitled us to discount in the shop, at bars and in the restaurant. We have a quota of tickets that we can use for shows of our choice with access to the Quay Club, free refreshments and programme on those evenings. Our names are displayed in the foyer alongside all the other patrons and corporate sponsors.

It leads to other opportunities. Kill The Beast recently invited us to a private reading at the Soho Theatre in London of the first act of their forthcoming play He Had Hairy Hands. We had enthused about their first production ‘The Boy Who Kicked Pigs’ and they wanted our candid opinion of the new show. We had our portrait taken by a professional photographer in our own home as part of the ‘Centre Stage’ exhibition. This gave one of Jonathan’s colleagues a surprise when she visited the galleries and saw us hanging on the wall.

This is our third year and we have had no hesitation in renewing each time. We look forward to a rich and continuing relationship with The Lowry for many years to come.

Paul Sutcliffe, chef and Jonathan Willson, university lecturer