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A closer Look at The Lowry’s Artist Development Programme

A closer Look at The Lowry’s Artist Development Programme

Breaking out as a new emerging artist can be a minefield, particularly in today’s society, where it’s increasingly harder to come up with an original concept, that will set you apart from the rest. Once you’re clear upon your core foundations, where do you go from there? How do you find the money for rehearsal space when there’s no revenue coming in? How do you promote your concepts in an engaging way that will emplore people to watch you? These are some of the questions that the team behind The Lowry’s Artist Development Programme help their mentees to answer.

The Artist Development Programme has been helping creatives under the huge arts genre umbrella for 10 years, and to celebrate it reaching a decade old, the programme has undergone some positive changes. There are 4 unique strands to the bespoke service, which aim to helps artists at any stage of their development – from the nurturing of an idea, right through to building career longevity.


This strand builds the foundations. It’s a drop-in scheme providing workshops, training, advice and opportunities to connect with like minded people.


Upon successful application, selected artists are offered tailored training sessions towards their goals.


Geared towards those who ready have a clear identity and works, they receive a year long mentorship programme to help project and create new pieces.


A long standing relationship between mentor and artist, this strand looks at ways to raise the national and international profile of the artist or company, and how to build a career that is sustainable for the future.

I was kindly invited along to the annual Artist Showcase, and had a chance to see and hear about some wonderful and unique acts, in various different stages of their career, and just how The Lowry has helped them achieve their personal goals. The acts performing were all so varied – musical theatre, drama, comedy, dance, ariel art – it was a thoroughly entertaining day, and a real insight into the workings of getting a simple idea off the ground and onto the stage. I spoke with Claire Symonds, senior producer for Artist Development to dig a bit deeper into what the programme is all about………

DN. Your artist development programme is celebrating it’s 10 year anniversary this year. Why was the programme started?

CS. We initially wanted to make sure we had a stream of premieres, often from locally based companies, so that our programme would stay fresh and exciting to our audiences. We started offering opportunities to artists and companies whose work we loved to make something new for our stage. We then quickly found that the most exciting shows were made when the artist or company was taking a bit of a risk – working in a new way or trying to reach a new audience – and we started thinking about how we might be able to support them in taking those risks, which is where our focus on artist development started.

DN. To honour the programme being a decade old, some changes were made to the structure and tiers. Why were these changes important and what do you hope it will improve/achieve?

CS. We believe in the importance of supporting an artist over and above any single piece of work they might be making. We wanted to make sure we had the right structures in place to help us do that. We now offer four different programmes – Artists Network, where we host drop-in training and networking events for anyone wanting to build their career in the performing arts; Class Of 2019, which brings together a group of local early career practitioners for a year-long course of masterclasses and development opportunities; Developed With, where we offer six artists or companies a 12-month programme of bespoke support as they make a step change in their career, and Associate Artists, where we build long term relationships with companies and artists as they build their profile nationally and internationally. This structure means we can support an artist at a precise moment of need or take them right from their very first steps through to where they are touring their work around the world.

DN. Who has been your biggest success story?

CS. That is a hard question because every project has its own highlights! We’ve supported the creation of some amazing shows, like Theatre Ad Infinitum’s Translunar Paradise which has won awards and five star reviews around the world. But some of the things I see as the biggest successes of the programme are less about a single show and more about the journey the artist or company has been on. For example, we supported Sophie WIllan through Developed With as she made the move from theatre to comedy and watching the audience react to her electric first stand up hour, On Record, is something I’ll remember for a long time.

DN. Who has been the most unique artist?

CS. Every artist brings their own unique challenges but I’ll always remember working with Igor and Moreno, a contemporary dance duo whose last show, Andante, was performed through an impenetrable wall of scented theatrical smoke. That project was exciting because I genuinely didn’t know if it was going to be possible to make their creative ideas a reality. There were bumps along the way, especially one tricky afternoon where I had to evacuate the whole studio complex because smoke was flooding all our rehearsal spaces, but the show itself was fantastic.

DN. What are your hopes for the future with the programme?

CS. I hope we work with artists across an even wider range of artforms and, in doing so, create opportunities for different artists to learn from each other’s approaches. I hope we carry on being open, honest and curious alongside the people we’re supporting, even when that means we have to step out of our comfort zone as an organisation. And I hope we find ways to share what we learn with the industry so other people can benefit from the work we are doing.

All in all the Artist Development Programme is hugely inspiring. Sometimes within the arts, certain areas and aspects can seem elitist and intimidating, discouraging potential artists from ever realising their dreams and aspirations. The Lowry has become ‘the middle man’ to these artists, nurturing their ideas, feeding them with knowledge and confidence and finally giving them a gentle nudge out of the nest and into the big wide world, making their dreams a reality.

Claire and her team are always interested in hearing from new emerging artists or working together with other organisations to help support artists in their career. Any questions on the programme itself or how to become a member can be forwarded to her email

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