Creative Team Takeover: Artist Development

Creative Team Takeover: Claire Symonds

For more than ten years, The Lowry has helped new and exciting companies and performance makers to build long term careers in the arts. We call this ‘artist development’ and it’s my job to lead this at The Lowry.

When you work in artist development, you spend a lot of time talking and thinking about the future. It is very normal to start working with an artist or company well before their show is ready to go in front of an audience, often a couple of years before that. More often than not we’ll start working with someone before they’ve even started making their show. We talk about what they want to make, and what making that show will mean for the work they’ll be making in five years’ time. We ask them what they want their future to look like and then we help them work out how to make it happen.

Right now none of us know what the future is going to look like but working in artist development means you have to be willing to start something without knowing exactly how it will end. It means being open to exploring new ways of doing things. More than anything, it means having faith in the future.

One of the artists I’m really looking forward to working with again in the future is Fran Hyde, a circus artist who is making a show called Tank and Me through Developed With The Lowry. The show is a duet between her and Tank, a 25-litre water tank that she is attached to by her hair. Tank and Me is full of magic, humour and a surprising amount of heart.

Fran Hyde: Tank and Me:

Speaking of heart, this song from musical theatre company SpitLip’s show Operation Mincemeat is five and a half minutes of pure emotion. We have been working with SpitLip and their sister company Kill The Beast for many years thorough our Associate Artist programme and we can’t wait to see this show again. Operation Mincemeat is a new musical about a real life, completely ridiculous WW2 spy mission. Just before this song the British spies have been trying to write a love letter that will help convince Hitler to fall for their ruse but they can’t seem to get it right until the stern office spinster, Hester (played here by the fantastic Jak Malone), steps in.

SpitLip: Dear Bill:

We’re also looking forward to hosting Finn Anderson as a Resident Composer through the Cameron Macintosh Resident Composer scheme. Finn will be working between The Lowry and Hope Mill Theatre for six months, during which time he’ll be exploring ideas for a new musical. We love the way he writes and we’ve been enjoying his live sessions every Sunday evening at 6pm over on Instagram (@finnanderson, if you’re looking). This song is a particular favourite of mine.

Finn Anderson: Hitchcock:

Until then, I’ll be doing a lot of work with other artist development specialists and producers from other organisations to think about how we can best support independent artists and freelance creatives during this time. Independent artists and freelancers are some of the most vulnerable people in our industry at the moment and the industry can’t survive with their creativity, their skills and the work they make. The Lowry is working with fourteen other arts organisations and venues across Greater Manchester on a new project called GM Artist Hub so that artists in our local community have somewhere to go for advice, support or to talk through creative ideas they are developing during lockdown. You can find out more about it here:

I’ll also be spending time talking to artists and organisations around the country to think how we can do artist development better when we reopen our doors. This is a really exciting conversation and one we started back in February with a day-long symposium for fifty organisations doing this work around the country. If you want to get a sense of those conversations you can check out some presentations from The Lowry’s Artist Development Toolkit Day here:

Finally, when I turn away from the day job, the thing I’m most excited about is a show I’ve been desperate to see for years. On July 3 I’ll be tuning into Disney+ to watch the premiere of the filmed Broadway performance of Hamilton along with millions of other fans around the world. Who knows, maybe one day in the future The Lowry will play a part in supporting the next Lin-Manuel Miranda.