Backstage at The Lowry: Michael Simpson, Director of Visual Art and Engagement


The Lowry is the most welcoming, stimulating and creative place I have ever worked in. It’s like a box of frogs though – there’s always something happening that keep you on your toes.

My colleagues are bored of me saying this over and over again but what other venue would mount Samuel Beckett’s Not I in an utterly pitch-black theatre; and be mad enough to convince a thousand strangers to have their photograph taken, naked and freezing on the streets of Salford; and be professional enough to make major productions such as War Horse or Curious Incident seem effortless?

For the past five years or so I have been looking after the Galleries and Learning & Engagement teams. Every day brings a new set of challenges, but also new ideas, new initiatives, new people to meet and inspire or to learn from. Some of the young people that the L&E team work with every day have enormous things to contend with in their life, but having the opportunity to see actors, performers, artists, musicians, dancers and all manner of creative people on stage and in the galleries can be incredibly inspiring for them.

One of my proudest moments was when some of the Young Carers we were working with suggested how much they’d like a masterclass from a comedian – and sure enough the L&E team quickly arranged for Jason Manford to give up part of his weekend to let them have a private comedy session. Yes it was fun, but they also learned a little more about aspiration, about self-confidence, about how to communicate …
The Galleries at The Lowry are home to the paintings and drawings of LS Lowry and they are much-loved by many of our audiences, but we’re really ramping up our ambitions for the special exhibition programme – from Akram Khan to Right Here, Right Now. I love thinking of ideas for new exhibitions but the important thing is what will work best for The Lowry and its audiences? How good can we be?

I don’t have a typical working day, but I am more desk-bound than I’d like to be. If I’m not at my desk, I’m in the Tower Café buying a latte. It’s virtually my second home, and certainly my preferred location for a meeting – and there are loads of those.

The things I like most are good ideas – for projects, productions, exhibitions, anything. Seeing someone come up with a good idea and then being part of the team that helps turn that Idea into a Reality is absolutely fantastic. The thing is: at The Lowry, that happens all the time.

Written by Michael Simpson, Director of Visual Art and Engagement at The Lowry