Week 53 at The Lowry

Week 53 is a brand new festival coming to The Lowry in Salford from 28 April to 8 May 2016. But what is it? And where does it fit into The Lowry’s programming? I talk to Lowry Chief Executive Julia Fawcett.

What was the driving force for setting up the festival?

We’ve always had a very strong strand of commissioning work, not only in theatre but also in visual arts and crossover between genres. At The Lowry, we have so much theatre under one roof – 1,000 performances from 350 companies in the last year. But commissioned work doesn’t have the same sort of profile. We wanted to extend that work, and at the same time open up those areas of the building that our audiences do not normally see.

For example, last year we had choreographer Akram Khan curating the visual arts exhibition One Side to Another, and at the same time performing Desh in the Lyric theatre. This brought audiences into different parts of programming and the building.

The main problem we have is around the cycles of programming. Each strand is in a different cycle. There has always been the opportunity to link work, but we found it difficult to sequence this across the whole organisation.

The solution is to take the whole building off the cycle for a period of just over one week. So Week 53 represents a time and a space apart. It is an opportunity to really play with the building and connect in a way that audiences could enjoy.

A good example is the Scene Dock, the backstage area between the two theatres. We will use The Dock as the hub of the space from 5 to 8 May.   This opens up the centre of building, which is a spectacular area that audiences never normally experience.

Is there a theme to the Week 53 festival?

The theme for this year is place and identity; for example what it means to be European, British and Mancunian, all influenced by the devolution debate. A third of the performances relate to North West identity.

So a centrepiece is 30 Days of the Smiths, which is looking not just at local music, but also identity. We are proud to be collaborating with poet Jackie Kay. People said we wouldn’t get permission to use The Smiths’ music, but we did because the stories and narrative are about people called Smith in the North West. It’s an important story.

What about the future?

Looking forward, Week 53 will now exist every year, but the thematics will change to reflect more closely the issues in the country at the time. In fact we are already planning 2017 and 2018. We will learn a lot through this first experience.

Programme

The Festival will feature 200 international artists, 63 performances and exhibitions, all over 11 days. The full programme is available here.  Key shows include:

30 Days of the Smiths, 5 – 8 May, The Dock

An Anatomie in Four Quarters, 28 – 30 April, ‘a visual poem’ featuring dancers, actors and musicians, a promenade performance within the Lyric Theatre.

Handle With Care, 5 – 8 May, a site-specific journey of one woman and her stuff through a lifetime in self-storage, Worsley location.

Syzygy, from 29 April, an exhibition exploring our place in the universe.

Chotto Desh, by Akram Khan Company, 3 – 4 May, ‘a magical, thrilling and poignant dance theatre production for children and their families to enjoy together’

Theatre lover, amateur director, occasional actor, writer.

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