#LOVELOWRY guest curator: The letter room – now’s the time for new, different & exciting voices

Hi. We’re The Letter Room, a theatre company from Newcastle. We use Actor-Musicians and the energy of a night out to tell stories that are urgent and relevant to the lives of people today.

We are thrilled to be The Lowry’s latest Associate Artists, and to be adding our name to an impressive list of previous associates.

We first began working with The Lowry in 2015, after being ‘Developed With…’ artists for our show ‘Five Feet in Front’. The year before, Matt Eames, now The Lowry’s senior theatres programmer and producer, came to see our first show, Bonenkai, at the Edinburgh Fringe.

It was in a very damp, sweaty Underbelly venue – which makes us shudder in a post-COVID world. It was also on at 11.30pm at night – the only slot we could programmed in. Needless to say, that time of night produces a variety of audiences – from die-hard theatre buffs to those who, let’s be honest, almost certainly stumbled into the room inadvertently.

Photo credit: Topher McGrillis

From that experience, we learnt very quickly about the importance of creating a good night out. Music became our way of telling stories, and it allowed us to be fun, energetic and get people tapping their feet.

We owe Matt, Claire and The Lowry so much for their support in our early years as a company. The Lowry search high and low to find new artists – even if that search takes them into a sweaty dungeon at 11.30pm on a Tuesday. Now that’s dedication.

And even now, they have listened to what we need and have been responsive in what they can offer. For us that’s been time and space to plan the next few years for the company.

They also champion and showcase new work, even when their doors are closed. For example, we are part of an unbelievable line up of new musical theatre artists for The Lowry’s FREE Rewrites X Signal event on Friday, 12 March at 8pm.

We love the work of Finn Anderson and Leo & Hyde and we can’t wait to see everyone else. It also includes a glimpse of The Marathon Project – our side-hustle/mega-online musical collaboration with 20 artists across the country – our lockdown has been significantly improved by work with Spitlip, Burnt Lemon and Sheep Soup!

It’s reassuring when you see a venue take its responsibility for Artist Development seriously. Venues and established organisations have been the primary beneficiaries of the Governments Culture Recovery Fund – which is right for a number of reasons. But it has left a large group of freelance creatives, who are often responsible for creating and producing the work, in a precarious position. And venues need to be ensuring that this money, however insufficient it may be, trickles down all the way to the artists.

No, not trickles. Flows.

We were on a Zoom workshop with the director Katie Mitchell, who is endlessly brilliant, organised by the Young Vic’s Directors Program.

Katie spoke about the fact that in Germany, the government have actually increased the arts and culture funding for 2021. We were astounded. Culture minister Monika Grütters said: “We invest in Germany’s cultural infrastructure and thus direct our gaze towards the future.”

Directing our gaze towards the future seems crucial right now. It feels like the arts sector is currently in ‘survival mode’, understandably. But considering there are so many ‘unknowns’ in the future of theatre, surely developing a generation of artists is a safe bet?

Five Feet in Front by The Letter Room Theatre company Photo Credit: Richard Davenport. richard@rwdavenport.co.uk.

Find out more about The Letter Room below:

Website: https://www.theletterroomtheatre.co.uk
Twitter: @TheLetterRoom
Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UColY9t4biMJvMIYDIoC3kDw
Instagram: @TheLetterRoomTheatre
Facebook: /wearetheletterroom

PS From The Lowry: Come back to #LoveLowry next week for a special #LoveLowry blog post featuring a brand new song from The Letter Room and a whole host of other new work created by artists in our Artist Development Programme.

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