Artist Development: What Next?

We always expected 2020 to be a year of change for The Lowry’s Artist Development Programme.

In 2015 we relaunched our Associate Artist programme. We invited four companies to join the scheme, offering deep and ongoing support as they developed their profile on the national stage. We promised them a home – somewhere they could rely on for advice, support, core funding and opportunities as they learned about the industry and their place within it.

Over the next four years these Associate Artists went on the most extraordinary journeys.

Art with Heart established themselves as one of the most exciting independent arts organisations in Greater Manchester, making socially engaged projects that focus on unheard voices from people with ADHD to the elders in our communities.

Colour The Clouds found new ways of making theatre experiences for families, and particularly the very youngest of audiences. Kill The Beast developed a cult following across the country for their comedy horror theatre shows and spin off podcasts.

And LUNG’s unashamedly political verbatim theatre brought the experiences of Young Carers into theatres, schools and the House of Lords.

In 2019, each of these companies was ready to graduate out of our programme and take their place in the industry on their own terms. So we decided that in 2020 we would close the programme so we would have the space and time to think about how we might want to reshape it for the next five years. In the meantime we’d offer more opportunities through our Developed With and Class Of programmes and explore how we could support artists in the very earliest stages of their careers through our Artist Network scheme.

And then, of course, COVID-19 came, and we realized that we would need to rethink not only our Associate Artist programme but everything else too. We were expecting 2020 to be a year of change, but we could never have anticipated just how significant that change would be.

So where are we now? We are supporting the artists on our ‘Developed With’ and ‘Class Of’ programmes and we’re finding new ways of bringing together partners across the city through the GM Artist Hub project to support independent artists and freelancers across Greater Manchester.

We’re watching conversations unfolding about what value is placed on the arts, and why. We’re seeing freelancers struggling financially and thinking about how we might all achieve a fairer industry. We’re considering how to balance the local and the national. We’re thinking about how to address structural racism and how we can be more inclusive. We are listening, and we are thinking, and we are paying attention.

We don’t have the answers yet. We don’t even have all of the right questions yet. But we’re up for the conversation. If you want to get involved, either as an artist or an organisation thinking about artists, please do get in touch via email.