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


Well, I’ve come full circle: I remember the day I came for my interview with the then CEO Stephen and, 18 years later, Julia is now in the process of selecting my replacement. 18 years? How’s that?

The Lowry opened in 2000! Well, that interview was in 1998 at West Pavilion, not far down the quayside on Pier 9 in the shadow of the Victoria building. When I arrived, I was greeted with the news that the interview would last just 10 minutes as there were so many shortlisted applicants and only one day on which to meet them all. Goodness knows how I persuaded him that I was right for the PA job that so many others wanted – actually I do remember saying “this is my job!” halfway through the interview, cheeky or what! But that evening I received the good news and I started working for The Lowry team on 28th April 1998, exactly two years to the day before the doors opened to the public.


A tiny group of staff, with a handful of personnel seconded from Salford City Council to provide set-up support, we had our own little car park at West Pavilion and a roof top terrace where we could watch the hole in the ground on Pier 8 morph into the magnificent building we have today.


Some of my favourite moments were mentioned in my last blog in 2014, but a highlight has to be the official opening by HM The Queen. The photo below just about proves I was there, hidden behind a smiling Felicity Goodey, then chairman of the trustees.

HM Queen

I’ll definitely miss the working environment; I’ve always been keen on dance, theatre and visual arts so it’s good to be involved “in the wings” as it were. Not many of my friends outside the Lowry can say part of their working day includes hearing a backstage announcement like “would all the munchkins please report to the stage”! And not many can say they’ve had their own artwork displayed on the gallery wall.


No point in going over all the awards The Lowry and its teams have received since 2000, there would be too many of course. Suffice it to say that it’s the people who work here, and those closely associated with it, that make this place what it is and what it’s achieved.


In fact I’ll miss the people most, I’ve had such personal support over the years from friends and colleagues who were there for me. I’ve made friends from the early years that I still have today. Together we’ve been through a lot: mostly good times but, it has to be said, occasionally not so good, when other friends have been lost to us.


Thanks to many of you I was able to raise money for charity when I did the four-day trek along the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu (with Sarah Haworth), and two years later my tandem skydive. I’ve loved singing with the pop-up choir at Christmas and stretching with the yoga girls on the early shift!


I hope no-one will begrudge my thanking the trustees and executive directors for their support, especially Julia who has been more than a great boss, we’ve become friends too. I’ll be back whenever I can.