(Matthew Eames – Senior Programmer/Producer)
Today marks what would have been the start of The Lowry’s landmark, biennial artistic event – the WEEK 53 festival. Sadly, due to the pandemic and lockdown, we are no longer able to share our amazing programme with the world but we would like to take a moment to both quietly mourn and loudly celebrate a selection of the performances, exhibitions and events that would have taken place over the next 10 days.
This is chapter one of a three part rundown on a selection of the WEEK 53 projects alongside some existing and some unseen teasers and trailers.
First some numbers (everyone likes numbers!) that gives a flavour of WEEK 53:
10 new commissions
150 performers and participants
Artists from 7 countries (Brazil, Italy, Belgium, Libya, Guyana, Canada, Australia)
So sad – my heart breaks…
But it’s okay. Whilst this moment is lost, there will be more to come. We very much hope to bring many of these projects back to The Lowry in better times, hopefully sooner rather than later. We may not have WEEK 53 but we will still have brilliant artists and brilliant artworks to share with our audiences in Salford and beyond.
To get us in the mood let’s kick off with our WEEK 53 launch trailer. This was filmed on Tuesday 28 Jan in London when the world, or our world at least, was a different place.
It may or may not be interesting to you to know that we as a creative team decide on a theme right at the beginning to use as a curatorial guide throughout the commissioning and programming process. For 2020 we decided on the theme of POWER – with Brexit, #MeToo and Trump in our rearview mirror and their responses and repercussions ahead of us it felt like a ripe starting point and an urgent focus for artistic exploration.
Anyway to the artworks…
Readers of our blog will know that Steve Cowton, our Head of Theatre Operations, is our resident circus expert and early on in the festival commissioning discussions, he insisted we must animate the outside of our building with some aerial work. We have done all sorts in all sort of spaces across the building for WEEK 53 in the past but this was new territory. He quickly identified the company Scarabeus Aerial Theatre and we commissioned them to create POWERFLEX – a vertical journey suspended on the exterior of The Lowry (including the tower) where the performers would explore finding power within themselves.
This previously unseen footage was taken during a development period in February and gives a taste of what Scarabeus were working towards. It’s beautiful and given all that has happened since, quite touching. I would like to thank Shortform who filmed it, Daniela from Scarabeus and the amazing artists who appear –
If you want to find out more about Scarabeus their website is http://www.scarabeus.co.uk/
Staying with circus, the first night of the festival would have seen us begin a new 3-year relationship with Extraordinary Bodies – the amazing partnership between Diverse City and Cirque Bijou. This beginning has been put back to Spring 2021 but let’s enjoy this new trailer for What Am I Worth? Where 7 extraordinary bodies explore what we must to do prove ourselves in a world where there is not enough to go round.
Now to Visual Arts. Michael Simpson, Director of Visual Arts. For WEEK 53 2020, with Power as a guiding thread through the programme, he knew immediately who he wanted, the British Guyanese sculptor Hew Locke. If you aren’t aware Hew’s work is largely preoccupied with colonial and post-colonial power and its symbols so this made perfect sense.
Again, here is a previously unseen film with Hew. Thanks again to Shortform and Hew himself.
The good news is we are pretty hopeful that we will be able to welcome Hew and his work back to The Lowry at some point. Fingers crossed for now but in the meantime if you want to find out more about Hew and his work his website is http://www.hewlocke.net/
One of the most amazing things about The Lowry and especially WEEK 53 is its cross-art, multi-art, multi-disciplinary – call it what you will – status. When I joined The Lowry in 2012 as a theatre bod I knew relatively little about dance, even less about circus and absolutely nothing about digital arts. Working at The Lowry has given me such exposure to different artforms and different ways of working and I have learnt so much from my colleagues. What I especially love about WEEK 53 is our ability to bring this scope, this possibility, this diversity to all our spaces within a 10 day period.
Lucy Dusgate, our Associate Digital Programmer, had identified a couple of brilliant projects for the festival.
We were very excited this year to be working with artist Nye Thompson on a piece called /artefact. Nye regularly work with data and software to make sculptural installations and for this artwork, Nye has used mapping data to lay claim to an area of Mars and erected a border around her territory. The viewers were to be taken on a filmic journey circling the borders, from time to time being given a glimpse of what might lie in. We were building a special pod for the artwork in our Pier Eight bar and looking forward to what promised to be a calm, hypnotic experience in a surprising environment. Amazing eh?
Nye has kindly created a prototype trailer – never seen before – to share with you right now. Thanks Nye.
Again, we are very hopeful /artefact will be seen at The Lowry at some point soon.
WEEK 53 also gives us a platform to bring artists from around the world to The Lowry, sharing UK premieres of amazing works with the people of Salford. It’s what The Lowry was built to do after all.
Our other signature digital performance was Field by Canadian Artist Martin Messier. I’m not going to say anything about this – this trailer says it all.
I can hardly believe, having been working towards this for so long, that I am not going to see that in our Studio. And this is where it hurts. Honestly, I don’t know when we will have the opportunity to bring something so unique to The Lowry again. Outside of a festival, it is really tough to do. And post-Covid 19, it will be even tougher I think.
I am ending Chapter 2 on a downer but it’s okay, it’s just part of the story… I’m sure there will be a happy ending.
Now to dance. Not literally. WEEK 53 always has a strong and ambitious dance programme, thanks entirely to the vision of our wonderful Associate Dance Programmer Eckhard Thiemann. This year I think we would have surpassed ourselves. In the Quays Theatre we were to host the Brazilian choreographer Alice Ripoll’s production of CRIA and the Italian choreographer Pietro Marullo’s WRECK which would have been performed by 8 amazing professional dancers recruited from the North West. Both UK Premieres.
In the spirit of WEEK 53 we also wanted to work alongside an organisation who would break down a few barriers, takeover some found spaces in the building and engage different people in our community. We were working with the amazing Ivan Blackstock and Crxss Platfxrm to curate a series of live events asking how contemporary street culture is creating new power dynamics, culminating in a couple of late night gigs in our Loading Bay. So cool. To give you a taste for what might have been Crxss Platfxrm have sent us clips of some of the artists who would have taken part.
Please meet HMD, M.I.C, Emanuelle and Patience J. I urge to dive in and start following them.
HMD – Reading and Leeds Festival 2019
M.I.C – CRXSS PLATFXRM
Thanks to all of you – I hope we see you at The Lowry soon. We will be working with Crxss Platfxrm during the lockdown to platform some amazing digital artworks and street artists. So stay tuned to #lovelowry to hear more.
The final artist I wanted to highlight is a particularly personal one to me. It’s a project that I identified early on and an artist who I believe is really special. Le Gateau Chocolat is certainly well known and much admired across the many realms they works in – drag, cabaret, opera, musicals, Shakespeare as well as his own critically acclaimed solo work. But I think he is on the verge of being a real superstar and this project – Pandora – could well get him there. Before the world changed, this show was due to premiere in our Quays Theatre, with Le Gateau accompanied by the brilliant Manchester Camerata before heading to Bristol Old Vic as part of Mayfest and Brighton Dome as part of Brighton Festival. There were some other quite amazing gigs in the pipeline – but hey… they will come…
So here is Le Gateau Chocolat – to tell you all about it.
Thank you Le Gateau and to Lauren, Tracy and the whole team at Something to Aim For for being such great partners. The good news is we are pretty hopeful Pandora will be back at The Lowry in 2021 to begin its path to world domination. See I told you there was a happy ending!
Seriously, before I finish, I wanted to say that unproducing a festival or anything like it is difficult, messy and clearly does not result in much happiness for anyone. Thank you again to all the artists, producers and companies I have been working with for being so supportive in this process. I hope you too have felt supported and that we, The Lowry, have done our best to make this terrible situation less painful for you than it could be.
Lastly I wanted to namecheck all the artists and companies that were to be part of WEEK 53. I could have talked for ages about all of you but that is not possible in a blog like this. I hope you understand. So here they are in all their glory:
WEEK 53 2020 starring…
Le Gateau Chocolat
Alice Ripoll/Cia Suave
Scarabeus Aerial Theatre
Skylight Circus Arts
The Lowry Centre for Advanced Training in Dance
The Lowry Young Theatre Makers
What a line-up!
Thank you all for being part of the best festival that never was! WEEK 53 2020!
Keep safe and well everybody.