Backstage at The Lowry: Francesca Waite – Studio Young Persons and Theatres Access Programmer

fran RS colour view-20I work as Studio Young Persons and Theatres Access Programmer in the Theatres Programming Team at The Lowry. The title is quite wordy, but it means that I specialise in programming the Studio productions intended for a young and family audience. Approximately every other Sunday The Studio invites productions for young people from early years upwards from national touring theatre companies to perform twice a day. These performances are usually very popular and often end up selling out, particularly if the title or the company is well known.

I really enjoy finding new companies and productions for the family programme and spend a lot of time watching work across the region, in London, at Edinburgh and other festivals. I recently attended the Assitej festival in Warsaw, Poland, on behalf of The Lowry, where I saw some very interesting work for children from Hungary, Czech Republic, The Netherlands, Slovakia and Poland. I really try to balance the programme over the season by varying the age the show is aimed at; whether the title is well known or not; and varying the art forms from puppetry and music to dance and drama and by inviting local, national and sometimes international companies. The Lowry Children and family shows can be found here.

The second half of my title refers to my responsibility for making productions in all three theatres accessible. The Lowry has several British Sign Language, Audio Described and Captioned interpreted performances per season. More recently we began to programme Relaxed Performances, which are designed to be less formal theatre environments for those with a condition on the autistic spectrum, in order to reduce anxiety levels. We’re always trying to do more, from programming BSL integrated productions and companies with disabled and non-disabled performers, to communicating more widely with our audiences.

The Lowry aims to allow access to the arts for everyone and I enjoy that my role helps to make that happen.